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Professional Spotlight on Miko Brown

Miko Brown has always had a passion for supporting women and diverse lawyers, and it was a driving force in her life even before she started the Women in Leadership Lecture Series while at Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell. As a diverse attorney who had her three children as she built a book of business and worked to navigate the partnership track, Miko started the series because there was a lack of other women attorneys who could show her, and other women like her, the way. It felt undoable. In fact, Miko almost left private practice in 2012 after the birth of her third child. Now, Miko is building on her passion to help women and diverse associates succeed by launching her newest endeavor, Project Ganesha, which is named after the Hindu god known as the remover of obstacles.

During the COVID-19 pandemic she started a new position with Airbnb and, as did many attorneys, scaled back her non-work-related projects. After three years with Airbnb, where she is Associate General Counsel, Community Trust, and with the world reopening for business, she decided it was time to reengage. In June 2023, a good friend at Gibson Dunn invited Dr. Ricci-Jane Adams, the founder of the Institute for Intuitive Intelligence, to hold a workshop at her house in Los Altos Hills, California. Miko flew out for the workshop, and the group spent two days discussing ways they could improve their own wellbeing and also improve the wellbeing and success of other women. “Face your fear every damn day and embrace it as a friendly ally” was Dr. Adams’s advice that Miko now embraces and tries to share with other women and diverse lawyers.

Miko found that Dr. Adams’s advice and programs were very applicable to the work she was interested in doing to further promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the legal profession. Miko had seen firsthand and heard a lot of discussion that around year four or five many women attorneys leave private practice. Attorneys of color tend to leave even sooner. Miko also noticed that since COVID, there has been an emphasis on mental and physical wellbeing. What Miko hadn’t yet seen was a discussion of the intersection of DEI and mental and physical wellbeing. Miko set off to interview lawyers, law students, and judicial clerks to determine the correlation between personal wellbeing and professional success for women and diverse lawyers in private practice. What she heard consistently was a belief that they had to choose between health and happiness and being a successful partner. Miko felt that this was a false narrative that could and should be corrected. Thus was born Project Ganesha, a program designed to help women and diverse attorneys become law firm partners and leaders while promoting mental and physical wellbeing.

As the plan for Project Ganesha evolved, Miko continued talking with women and diverse associates to see what was driving them out of private practice and what could convince them to stay. She wanted to understand why the number of women and diverse partners hadn’t changed materially since she graduated from law school in 2001, even though so much time and money has been spent on DEI initiatives and programs over the past two decades. She wanted to see why traditional methods had fallen short. Was there an opportunity short of changing the structure of law firms? Miko believes the answer is “yes” and that a key part of the solution is surprisingly simple. First, law firms must prioritize and create space for partners and associates to have regular and meaningful discussions about their happiness and wellbeing. Second, women and diverse associates must develop tools to avoid making fear-based decisions that are needlessly taking them out of private practice and hindering their professional development. She sought to let law firms know that there are little things they can do to move the needle immediately. For example, many women and diverse associates don’t understand that they can develop business in a manner that is accessible and feels fun and authentic to them. As a result, they leave private practice because they’re afraid they won’t be successful at business development and have no interest in trying it out.

As Miko began to develop the concept for Project Ganesha after returning from Los Altos in June, there was a lot of excitement and hope that she could make an impact. Miko started looking for a website designer and a graphic design artist to create a logo. She also met with Nicholas Dyer, a partner at Armstrong Teasdale, who is helping her set up Project Ganesha as a nonprofit on a pro bono basis. She expects to be certified in December as an intuitive leadership coach. Through her discussions with associates, she found that they are making a lot of fear-based decisions that are negatively impacting their career and happiness. She wants to help people identify when they’re making a fear-based decision and how not to let fear keep them from reaching their highest potential. Miko also hopes to build on her personal experience as a diverse woman associate who figured out how to make partner and develop a book of business in a manner that was fulfilling, sustainable, and didn’t feel like work. “There are secrets to success and associates who don’t have access to those insider tips are at a disadvantage. That’s why mentorship is so important.” In-house counsel mentors will teach Project Ganesha participants what in-house counsel are looking for and help lay the foundation for successful client relationships. “Hopefully Project Ganesha associates will learn from their in-house counsel mentors that they can do this. Developing business doesn’t have to be scary.” Miko is excited that many of the in-house leaders she has met throughout her career have agreed to serve as mentors for Project Ganesha.

Miko feels that anybody would benefit from participating in Project Ganesha, which focuses on the fundamentals of attorney growth, relationship building, leadership, and wellbeing. When a prospective firm or individual participant first comes to Project Ganesha, Miko will set up a call or in-person meeting to customize a plan that will best meet their objectives. Participants will receive playbooks that offer simple steps that they can take to increase their chances of success, as well as the success of women and diverse attorneys in their organizations. Project Ganesha will also offer individual coaching and mentoring by in-house counsel.

Ultimately, Miko would like to hold an associate bootcamp and a partner bootcamp at law firms, and then work with select attorneys individually. She will not be ready to launch fully until 2024, though those who are interested in learning more can visit the Project Ganesha website, or contact Miko at Currently, Miko has been talking to firms and spreading the word about Project Ganesha to create interest. She is also continuing to reach out to associates to learn more about their experiences and how Project Ganesha can help them become successful law firm partners and rainmakers.

Miko finds this work especially fulfilling when she sees attorneys she works with succeed and reach their highest potential. She acknowledges that it is difficult for associates to focus on tasks and strategies beyond billable work that they have at the moment. Miko advises that associates need to spend the first five minutes of their day doing business development that is consistent with their “why” in life and that brings them joy. While associates may be under the impression that if they simply keep their head down and do their work, they will be successful, it takes more than strong substantive skills to be a partner. Miko is working on how to get associates to commit that time to business development and integrating it with activities that make them happy.

When asked how she will balance her practice with her new endeavors with Project Ganesha, Miko says it is a matter of killing as many birds with one stone as possible. “Supporting women and diverse lawyers is my ‘why’ that brings me joy and keeps me going on those days when I want to quit.” In the end, she loves this work. She finishes her day job and works on Project Ganesha before and after work and on weekends, but she loves it, and it gives her energy.

Miko is a strong CWBA supporter and says that the CWBA inspires her on a daily basis. The CWBA is “exactly what Project Ganesha is about. Women and our allies coming together to lift each other up.” Miko appreciates that CWBA members come to the profession with an abundance mind set, not a scarcity mind set. CWBA members help each other, instead of viewing one another as competitors. Miko remembers the times when the women of the CWBA helped her and she was empowered to face her fears (like starting a nonprofit!) because she “knew she had this army of strong women behind her.”

Miko’s biggest piece of advice is to avoid fear-based decisions that keep you playing small and from reaching your potential. Fear is the absolute killer for women and diverse lawyers. This is part of the meaning behind the Project Ganesha logo, which depicts the elephant god holding a mouse in one hand. The Hindu deity Ganesha is often accompanied by a mouse in drawings and sculptures. As elephants are traditionally afraid of mice, the message of Ganesha is that “you have to grapple with your fear and befriend it in order to remove the obstacles that keep you from becoming the best version of yourself.”

Outside of the law, Miko loves spending time with her husband, their three children, ages 15, 13, and 11, and their dog.

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