Ashley Butler found herself like so many working moms. She was juggling a career as an attorney, but she couldn’t do the typical hours that a law firm demands AND raise a family. So she went out on her own and started an all-female, “anti-law firm” firm with women sensibilities. There is no 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is no “wear a suit” every day. At her law firm, she wants her fellow women staffers to figure it out, get your work done when you can and take care of your family. This has been a successful formula for her firm and her life. Welcome, Ashley!
What made you decide to go into law as a career? Specifically, what kind of law do you practice?
I wish I could say that I had always wanted to be a lawyer, but like so many people who went to law school, I went because I did not know what I wanted to be when I grew up! I was in graduate school with the intention of getting a Ph.D. in psychology and was miserable. I took the LSAT, got a scholarship and thought it was worth a try. I defend hospitals and physicians who have been sued for medical malpractice.
How long have you owned your own business?
McMasters Keith Butler is starting our sixth year.
What made you decide to go out on your own?
The timing was perfect. My partners and I wanted to create the “anti-law firm” environment. We were blessed with a group of amazing clients who committed to go with us if we left our current firms, so we jumped. We said we wanted to build a place that was unlike any place we had ever worked. And I know we succeeded.
What kind of advice would you have given yourself 20 years ago?
Eliminate toxic people gracefully, but firmly. You can have it all, just not all the time. Some days, I am a better mom, some days a better wife, some days a better lawyer. NEVER am I great at all three on any given day. And no matter the popularity of a TV show called Friends, DO NOT CUT YOUR HAIR INTO A “RACHEL.”
You created a women-only law firm. How is your workplace different from a typical law firm?
From the décor forward, we are not your father’s law firm. Unless you are in court or at a professional activity, there is no dress code. There are no set business hours. Everyone is provided mobile devices and a virtual private network to enable them to care for sick children or parents. We have a full kitchen, and we cook and eat lunch together most days. We also have a lounge, complete with children’s activities (board games, video games, etc.), in case school calls for a sick kiddo pickup. And most days, my rescue dog, Rhett Butler, comes to work with me.
How can we get more women back in the workforce?
I think we must overcome the traditional paradigm of a work day. Many women do not want to quit work, but the traditional mold is nearly impossible to fit into today’s lives. Women must be given more flexibility and know their employers trust them to complete work outside of the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. mentality. The ability to work remotely not only increases productivity, but putting that trust in your workforce strengthens bonds.
What is inspiring you right now?
My best friend (and business partner’s) son recently learned that his leukemia recurred, and he needed a bone marrow transplant. The response through Louisville and beyond was truly amazing. Specifically, to see lawyers who spend their days arguing pull together for the health of a child touched my soul. Social media is so often used to hurt others, but it truly was an amazing tool in his quest. I heard from people I haven’t seen in 20 years who committed to register to be a bone marrow donor. Thankfully, he found a match, and I know in my soul that, because of our community’s amazing response, others will, too.
What is the biggest life lesson you have ever learned?
Do not be afraid to fail. TAKE RISKS — I am naturally risk-averse, but taking a risk to start our firm was the scariest, but one of the most fulfilling, things I have ever done.
Who is your mentor?
When I was a brand new lawyer, I snagged a job with the best litigator in the state, Don Darby. He placed so much (maybe too much) trust in me and let me handle major projects and depositions from day one. I was terrified most days, but the experience was invaluable. Today, I rely on my business partners, Karen Keith and Beth McMasters (and really the entire MKB crew), when I need valuable advice, personally or professionally. Of course, I have a brilliant husband who I can go to with any concern, and I never, ever make a big decision without the advice of my dear mom and dad.
What is the best advice you have received in business?
Same as life, take risks, put yourself out there and scare yourself.
If you were not in your current job, what would you secretly love to do?
Country music star, shopping channel host, working with rescue dogs, aesthetician or legal commentator on a news channel.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I grew up in a small map dot town without a stop sign or a four-way stop.
What is your favorite place to go eat?
Where do you like to shop?
Flash sales: Rue La La, Gilt, Ideel, Joss & Main, One Kings Lane, Vaunte, The Real Real
What is a treat or a luxury you do for yourself?
I am a shoe and handbag junkie.
What is your weakness?
A good red wine, a beautiful handbag, dark chocolate with peanut butter, dogs, Wizard of Oz memorabilia, a steal on a pair of designer shoes and anything with fringe.
What is your favorite thing to do in Louisville?
Spend time in my home cooking a meal with my husband, son and dog, and swinging on my front porch swing.
Three things you cannot live without (besides faith, family and friends):
My dog (although he is family), my iPhone and my porch swing
What are you reading right now?
Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell; Wild: From Lost to Found on The Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed, and Parenting Your Powerful Child, by Kevin Leman
What are three of your favorite things right now:
Thank you to Ashley Butler for inspiring us with her all-female anti-law firm. More information on McMasters Keith Butler can be found on their website.
And much gratitude to our wonderful FACES photographer Adele Reding. To see her work, visit her website here.
Want to read about more inspiring women in the community? Click here to check out more FACES.