Protea Financial was founded in 2014 to provide high quality out-sourced accounting at an affordable price. Given Protea’s flexible work environment, the Company especially appealed to accountants who wanted to re-enter the work force after taking time off to start a family. This allowed Protea to attract extremely talented individuals who were overlooked. Over 80% of both Protea’s leadership and accounting teams are women.
We selected the name Protea because is the national flower of South Africa and is a symbol of our connection. The Protea flower has become an ornamental flower because of this striking beauty and is included in arrangements and bouquets as a symbol of courage or daring to be better or a sign of positive transformation.
Protea Conversations focuses on successful woman in business and their achievements. The hope is that these conversations will create a forum to discuss the experiences, opportunities, and challenges women face, and how we can build a more diverse, inclusive, and successful environment for everyone.
This month we have a conversation with Diana Maier. Diana is the founder of Maier Law Group, a boutique employment law firm attempting to work with employers to create a happier workplace. Diana and her firm have a unique niche serving as an impartial and expertly trained workplace investigators, executive coaches and mediators.
Diana has received mediation training from The Center for Understanding In Conflict, and was also trained by, and serves as an empaneled mediator for, The Northern District Court of California. In addition, she mediates privately and as a an empaneled member of the Contra Costa County Superior Court, the San Mateo County Bar Association, the Central District Court of California, and the Riverside Superior Court mediation programs.
Diana enjoys an outstanding reputation in both the legal and non-legal communities as an effective advocate and strategist due to her unique background. Before attending Stanford Law School, Diana worked as a lobbyist and foreign policy adviser on Capitol Hill. There, Diana learned about the legal process at its inception, the legislation drafting stage. As a foreign policy aide to Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA), and as a legislative aide and lobbyist at a policy lobbying organization.
After attending Stanford Law School (‘’98), Diana became a public defender (a true calling) at the Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office. Diana switched to civil practice and employment law in 2003 when she decided she needed something slightly less intense, but equally interesting, for a legal career.
Diana’s passion is helping other lawyers find meaning in their work by practicing mindful lawyering and carrying their deeply held personal values to their professional life. To this end, she, her staff, and an incredible team of volunteer lawyers created the hugely successful Joy in the Law® conferences in September 2016 and September 2018. The Joy in the Law community still meets virtually and from time to time in person.
Listen to Diana speak on Hustle & Flow, The Happy Lawyer Project, and The Wealthy Woman Lawyer podcasts about nurturing joy in the legal profession. Diana was named Solo & Small Firm Attorney of the Month by the California Lawyers Association in September 2021.
When not working Diana likes to exercise (she did the Ironman in 2005), meditate, and enjoy sometimes crazy, sometimes lazy, weekends with her son and daughter and incredibly tolerant husband, Ethan.
Tell us about your journey and how did it happened that you started Maier Law Group (MLG) LLP?
I was working as a public defender right out of law school. When I decided to try civil law, I couldn’t imagine what I could possibly do that was as interesting as criminal defense work. I eventually realized that employment law was a close second. The clients’ stories are interesting and vital, and clients often come to you in crisis, just as indigent criminal defendants do. There’s a chance to make a difference in someone’s life: to provide sound guidance that helps a person navigate a difficult situation in the workplace, whether that person is the employee (the work I did the first few years I practiced employment law) or the employer (the work I do now) with an intractable problem it is not sure how to solve.
Margarita Wear officially became my law partner this year, so we then became MLG LLP (we may change our name completely at some point). She and I and our team focus our practice on preventative advice, workplace investigations, and mediations – areas of law we feel passionately about. We occupy this middle ground between employer and employee: investigating employee complaints; helping opposing parties come to a litigtation-free resolution of their conflict, and educating employers on practices that will keep their employees happy and their environment litigation free. That is such lovely work to do as a lawyer!
What has been the biggest challenge you have experienced in reaching your current success (personally and professionally)?
Be careful what you wish for! I love our work and it’s amazing that MLG has done well, but running a firm can be busy and stressful and there is a lot of juggling to do. Sometimes I just wish we were a little less busy so I could have more down time to spend with the kids or when I’m sick I wish I could just totally check out but that’s hard to do. That said, I’m not (really) complaining: I have great work-life balance compared to most other lawyers I know; I love the people I work with; and I believe in the work we do. There’s a lot to be grateful for.
What are your short-term goals of your career and yourself?
To enjoy my work, to feel accomplished but have enough time to spend on the things that are really important: family; self-care; contributing to the world; and enjoying life.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that has helped you in your success?
My Dad always says, “Pretty good is great.” As someone who has a hard time leaving things at “pretty good” this maxim has helped me remember to leave things at an A- when going for the A+ means compromising quality of life or just making myself or my team crazy for no good reason.
What is the piece of advice that you wished you had gotten when you were starting out?
Just follow your passion. Everything will unfold if you listen to your internal voice telling you what matters to you and take the basic steps to allow what matters to become a reality. Life some how finds that energy we put out in the world and multiplies it if we just get the wheels in motion with positive intention.
What advice you give to others to help them be better leaders?
Do what you truly love and always, always, always appreciate the people who are helping make it happen. They are the keys to your success. That includes your administrative staff; your colleagues; your life partner who is handling things at home to allow you to focus on your work, and many more. Also, always question how you are leading and strive to do better. Ask for lots of feedback from your team, especially critical feedback, and try to put your ego in check to really listen to what they say. No one does it all well. Read books on leadership and find inspiration to be an exceptional leader, not just an OK one.
As a thank you to our interview and Protea’s commitment to more diverse and inclusive leaders, Protea will make a donation to Vital Voices (https://www.vitalvoices.org/). Vital Voices Global Partnership is a global movement that invests in women leaders who are solving the world’s greatest challenges. They are “venture catalysts,” identifying those with a daring vision for change and partnering with them to make that vision a reality. They scale and accelerate impact through long term investments to expand skills, connections, capacity, and visibility. Over the last 22 years, we have built a network of 18,000 change-makers across 182 countries who are collectively daring to reimagine a more equitable world for all.
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