Protea Financial was founded in 2014 to provide high-quality outsourced accounting at an affordable price. Given Protea’s flexible work environment, the Company especially appealed to accountants who wanted to re-enter the workforce after taking time off to start a family. This allowed Protea to attract extremely talented individuals who were previously overlooked. Protea strives to represent people from all backgrounds and provide an environment for them to grow and succeed in a setting that provides the flexibility and acceptance of who they are as people.
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 in 2023 will focus on positive transformation and representation from all backgrounds. We are broadening our Conversations with the hope that these conversations will continue to create a forum to discuss the experiences, opportunities, and challenges leaders face, and how we can build a more diverse, inclusive, and successful environment for everyone.
In December 2023, we spent time with Emily Harrington, Associate Attorney at Maier Law Group.
Emily earned a B.A. in Political Science from U.C. Berkeley and a law degree from Duke University, where she served as Editor in Chief of the Duke Law & Technology Review. Emily started her legal career as a litigation associate at Cooley LLP, where she worked on a wide variety of complex commercial litigation matters and represented clients before regulatory agencies. Emily then changed tracks, taking an in-house job at a non-profit organization. As in-house counsel, Emily advised the agency on employment and compliance matters and oversaw the Human Resources functions of the organization. That experience gave her a unique perspective to draw upon when advising clients.
Today, Emily is an Associate at Maier Law Group, where she advises employers on HR matters, conducts trainings and serves as a neutral factfinder, investigating employee complaints of all kinds. Emily completed the Association of Workplace Investigators (AWI) Training Institute and is an AWI Certificate Holder (AWI-CH). Emily especially enjoys her investigations practice because it allows her to draw on her natural empathy for all sides to a dispute, as well as provide participants with the dignity and respect of feeling heard. Emily also advises employers on all aspects of California and federal employment law, including hiring, termination, worker classifications, equal opportunity, compliance, anti-harassment and discrimination, retaliation, wage and hour, and leaves of absence laws.
Tell us a little more about your decision to study law and how you decided to choose the path of employment law and workplace investigations?
I grew up in a family of teachers and artists. I was the “black sheep” who decided to pursue law, which was a profession viewed somewhat askance by my family (they thought: where is the joy in that?). I was drawn to study law because I loved the idea of being able to advocate for someone who did not have the tools or resources to advocate for themself (I originally thought I would work in public interest law).
My path to employment law was somewhat circuitous: I began my career as a litigation associate at a large (“Big Law”) firm, working on securities litigation and regulatory investigations. I found that the adversarial nature of litigation did not suit my personality or bring me fulfillment. However, the regulatory investigations I conducted at the firm were fascinating: they sparked my curiosity and creativity. After a short period working in-house for a non-profit, I found Maier Law Group (“MLG”), and fell in love with the people and the work that we do. At MLG, we proactively advise employers on how to create healthy and happy workplaces. We also conduct workplace investigations and these harken back to the regulatory investigations I conducted at the Big Law firm. Conducting investigations allows me to lean into my natural curiosity and empathy, listen to all sides of a story, and then deliver findings to the employer that enables them to make sound decisions about the issue at hand. I believe our work helps employers bring meaningful, positive change to their organizations. It’s an amazing feeling to be proud of the work that you do. At MLG, I have finally found a practice that truly sparks joy for me.
What has been the biggest challenge you have experienced in reaching your current success (personally and professionally)?
In my first year of law school, my sister passed away in a tragic accident. Her loss was life-altering for me. My biggest challenge, personally and professionally, has been healing from that grief and learning to stay grateful and present in the current moment. Today, I honor my sister by finding joy in each day, and by focusing on what I am grateful for. This can be a challenge with all of life’s stressors, but I find that when I focus on gratitude, it gives me perspective and helps me push through the challenging moments. Her loss taught me that tomorrow is not a promise, and we just have today.
What are your short-term goals for your career and personal life?
My short-term professional goals are to continue working on being a strong writer, listener, and communicator. I also stive to bring curiosity to my work, and to look at each project as a learning experience. Personally, my short-term goals are to spend more time outside, enjoying the beautiful place in which I live (Marin County), and continuing to spend time with people who fill my cup. I believe that having balance in life, through taking care of our mental, physical, and emotional health is imperative to being successful, both personally and professionally.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that has helped you in your success?
“Progress not perfection.” I believe that when we focus on incremental growth, instead of ever-elusive perfection, we learn and grow from our mistakes, instead of chasing an impossible standard.
What is the piece of advice that you wished you had gotten when you were starting out?
Give yourself grace. Be kind to yourself. I think that as lawyers, many of us have high expectations for ourselves, and when we fall short of our own (or others’) expectations, we tend to beat ourselves up. Earlier in my career, I was consumed by trying to live up to my own and others’ expectations. While I still struggle with this, I have learned to give myself grace. I know that when I give my best effort, that is enough. I am enough.
What advice can you give to others to help them be better leaders?
Learn to be a good listener and to be open-minded. In my personal experience, and in many of my workplace investigations, I find that the best leaders are those who truly listen to the feedback of others and are willing to change their own view. Conversely, not listening to others and being close-minded is a quick path to being an unsuccessful leader and creating an unhappy workplace.
Can you share something interesting about yourself that will provide insight into who you are outside of the professional space?
My life outside of work is very full: I am lucky to work for a firm that makes work-life balance a reality, and not just empty words. Outside of work, I am a devoted dog-mom, daughter, and partner to my fiancé. I am also an aspiring chef and tennis player. All of these things bring great joy to my life outside of work.
As a thank you to our interview and Protea’s commitment to more diverse and inclusive leaders, Protea will donate to Canine Companions (https://canine.org/). Canine Companions is leading the service dog industry so their clients and their dogs can live with greater independence. They provide service dogs to adults, children and veterans with disabilities and facility dogs to professionals working in healthcare, criminal justice and educational settings. Since our founding in 1975, our dogs and all follow-up services are provided at no cost to our clients.
Independence shouldn’t be limited to those who look or live a certain way. Disability reaches all races, classes and backgrounds, and Canine Companions will too. Clients come to Canine Companions because of our reputation, the quality of our dogs, the experience of our training staff and the desire to lead life with greater independence. We are committed to providing services to all qualified clients.
Reach out to The Protea Family for questions, guidance, or just help with the financials of your business. Our experts are here to help!