Mentoring isn’t a skill for attorney Rachelle Hart; it’s a state of mind.
“If you love to mentor, it’s just part of who you are. It’s in your makeup and you do it every day when working with others,” said Hart, who spent more than two decades at Foley & Lardner LLP before going in-house at Aurora Health Care Inc. in 2010.
In her time at Foley, she was the first recipient of the firm’s Carl Hitchner Mentor of the Year Award. Hart received the award for guidance she provided to women lawyers at Foley. Not only did she teach them how to succeed in law practice, but in 2000 she became the first woman lawyer in the firm’s history to make partner while working part time and raising children. Simply put, Hart showed them it could be done.
“If I can make the transition easier for someone else in his or her career, I’m happy to do it,” she said. “I continue to be mentored as well. It’s a two-way street. It makes me a better person and improves my performance. I gain insights and perspectives, and it helps bridge the gap between generations in the workplace, contributing to the success of the organizations I work for.”
Hart serviced Aurora as a client since her early days at the firm. As a new mother, she opted to go part time in 1994 and said she didn’t worry over how it would affect her career.
“While I’m goal-oriented, making partner wasn’t top on my list,” she said. “My priority has always been family first. If I made partner, great. If I didn’t, that was OK, too.”
Hart said she’s been fortunate enough to work alongside two colleagues whom she considers pioneers in promoting women. Jim Connelly, who recruited Hart to Foley’s then newly created health law department, was the advocate for her partnership track. Two decades later, Mike Lappin, Aurora’s first general counsel, convinced her to work in-house as he started Aurora’s first legal department. She was appointed general counsel in 2013.
Michael Hart, her husband and a partner with Kohler & Hart SC, Milwaukee, called Hart “the complete package.”
“She’s an accomplished and ground-breaking lawyer, a superb mother and a terrific wife,” he said. “She’s a tireless worker who’s able to get things done because of her approach. She’s bright, a consensus-builder, and people want to do things for her because of her pleasant and approachable demeanor. She’s exceptionally effective because of it.”