About Kate McGuinness

Collecting gold stars was Kate’s passion for years. Like many women, her collection of gold stars began in elementary school. As her hoard grew, she won the approval of others and gradually gained contingent confidence.  That is, confidence that arose because others valued her. 

The starry galaxy grew as Kate earned academic scholarships for undergrad and law school. She began her legal practice by working in a major firm—one of the top 50 in the country—upon graduation from law school. These elite profit centers are known as “Big Law.” 

 At that time, the career path for women in Big Law was largely uncharted. Although many firms relegated women to “softer” practice areas such as trusts and estates, Kate chose a corporate practice. In a few years, she was leading teams closing multi-million-dollar transactions.  After she became a partner, the deals got larger and more complicated; millions became billions. After ten years, a Fortune 200 corporation recruited her to serve as its General Counsel. Her tenure was short-lived. She lost her job in a nominal corporate “restructuring” that was limited to her and another female officer of the corporation.  The stars’ sparkle dimmed as Kate lost the job that had been the apex of her career. That loss undermined her conditional confidence.   

However, with time, Kate rebounded. She used a generous severance to spend time with her only child and study creative writing. After years of writing classes at UCLA and innumerable drafts, Kate published her legal thriller Terminal Ambition, A Maggie Mahoney Novel.  Set in Big Law, the book centers on a woman partner’s battle against widespread sexual harassment and discrimination – a conflict that jeopardizes the firm chairman’s goal of becoming United States Attorney General. She also wrote extensively about issues of concern to women such as being the primary breadwinner, succeeding in a male-dominated workplace and deciding when or whether to have children. These essays and others have appeared in publications such as The Guardian, The Huffington Post, Women’s Media Center, Forbes, Above the Law, JD Supra, Fem 2.0, Role/Reboot, Ms. JD, Jezebel and The Girls Guide to Law School. You can find some of her pieces under Articles and more in the Blogs on this site. 

However, more corporate bad news was coming. It resulted in Kate losing her severance, her home and even her horse — a second, deadly blow to her conditional confidence. The company making the payments went bankrupt. Kate stayed solvent but her balance sheet plummeted. The road back from these reversals has been tortuous. 

One of her first steps was training to be an executive coach at the Hudson Institute of Coaching.  Her teachers and colleagues there taught her the value of mindfulness. Once she gained awareness of the thought patterns that eroded the possibility of authentic confidence, she began to change. She learned to subdue her perfectionism and muzzle her inner critic. She nurtured positive behaviors such as courage and resilience that supported authentic confidence. 

Now, Kate is a certified coach and the principal of Empowered Women Coaching.  She offers personalized results-oriented coaching programs for those who are looking to step up to leadership positions, those wanting those wanting to improve their job performance, and those wanting a new job, a new career or a new way to thrive in today’s demanding workplace. Also, she provides pro bono coaching to low-income women through the Women for Change Coaching Community.

Additionally, Kate has served as a Governor of California Women Lawyers and as a member of the Board of Directors of Santa Barbara Women Lawyers. She also sits on the Diversity Committee of the National Association of Women Lawyers. Her volunteer activities include working with at risk preschoolers at Storytellers.  She was one of the founders of Big Sisters Los Angeles. 


McGuinness’s writing has appeared in major publications such as The Guardian, Forbes and The Huffington Post. More than 30,000 copies of Terminal Ambition were sold, and it has appeared on Amazon bestseller lists.

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