Hannah Lim-Johnson – Kelly Services
Once upon a time, the “Kelly Girl” was a ubiquitous image—a woman filling in for a day or a week in a company typing pool or another clerical job.
The better part of a century later, Kelly Services has evolved to be a go-to resource for labor in a wide array of industries with assignments that span workstyles and offer great flexibility. But it’s not just about the businesses being served.
Now in her third year as senior vice president and chief legal officer at Kelly, Hannah Lim-Johnson says providing diverse workforce solutions for customers must be matched by encouraging diversity within the company.
“Our noble purpose is we connect people to work in ways that enrich their lives,” Lim-Johnson says. “Everything we do here revolves around and supports that purpose, and I am delighted to help fulfill it where I can.”
Changing labor markets
In 2018, Kelly Services provided 500,000 workers for clients ranging from small and mid-size companies to most of the Fortune 500 businesses.
Lim-Johnson notes Kelly is now transforming into a specialty talent company focusing on national and international market needs in areas such as education, STEM and professional and industrial.
Assignments often run months and years instead of days or weeks, as they did in the early days of the business and employees have access to many benefits and resources including free online training, holiday pay and health care coverage.
In early 2019, Lim-Johnson helped close Kelly’s acquisition of Global Technology Associates LLC and NextGen Global Resources. In addition, she’s supported Kelly’s recent acquisition of Insight, an educational staffing company.
Lim-Johnson says the acquisitions help accelerate Kelly’s pivot to becoming a specialty talent solutions and outcome-based services provider.
“We’re bringing together impressive pools of talented engineers with strong technical, telecom and 5G expertise,” she says, “along with experienced substitute teachers who combine with Kelly’s existing education businesses staffs to serve nearly 4 million preK-12 classrooms every school year.”
With her team of 46 attorneys and legal and security professionals, Lim-Johnson is also working to streamline Kelly’s outside counsel services, including more fixed-fee arrangements. Now more than 90 percent of outside counsel work is done on the fixed-fee basis, and spending for those services has been reduced by 24 percent, she says.
As Lim-Johnson ensures Kelly is well positioned to support its talent and full-time employees, she has also been charged with diversifying and supporting staff since her hiring in 2017.
In summer 2020, that will include collaborating the with national law firm Thompson Hine for a second year through a unique internship.
The program, created with fellow Kelly employee Danette Duron-Willner, gives diverse first-year law students the opportunity to spend one month cycling through Kelly’s legal department while they participate in Thompson Hine’s summer associate program.
“This started with Hannah. She had objectives and priorities when she joined the company, which included diversifying our partner firms so that they mirrored the demographics of our employee population,” Duron-Willner says. “The program is pioneering and a great effort to start.”
For Thompson Hine, the internship program complements its existing summer associate program by providing essential, real-world in-house experience.
“The skills developed during both of these experiences greatly enhance the student’s understanding of how law firms and clients work together to achieve client goals,” says Nirvana Dove, who manages Thompson Hine’s ongoing diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
Kelly and Thompson Hine have a joint selection process and the 2019 interview process resonated with Lim-Johnson.
“I was asked by a prospective intern what Kelly does as an enterprise and what our law department specifically does to foster and encourage diversity and inclusion,” Lim-Johnson says. “It struck me that providing an inclusive and diverse environment is much more at the forefront with the younger generation.”
Her own choices
Although she chose a path away from the medical careers her parents and four of her five siblings have, Lim-Johnson knew she wanted to be an attorney from an early age, following in the steps of an older brother who went to law school and is now a tax litigator in Los Angeles.
“He was the first one to do something different, and it paved the way for me to explore other areas,” she says.
The overall influence of a studious family guided Lim-Johnson, as well. She earned a bachelor’s in English literature from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and then her J.D. from Rutgers Law School, where she was managing editor of the school’s law review.
After graduating Rutgers in 1997, Lim-Johnson joined the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office as a litigator, primarily in labor and employment matters.
That experience, as well as three years spent at a New York City law firm, helped shape how she litigates and develops strategies, she says, and set her on the path to becoming senior litigation counsel for Tyco in 2007.
Coming in-house gave her a more complete view of a company’s health and operations, she says, and at Tyco she participated in two subsidiary spin-offs. As a result of the second one, she was also hired as vice president, chief compliance officer and chief litigation counsel at the home security company ADT in 2012. At ADT, she learned about managing larger teams while integrating litigation and compliance functions.
In 2016, Lim-Johnson left ADT after Apollo’s leveraged buyout of the security company for Public Service Enterprise Group, or PSEG, a power service and generation company in northern New Jersey. But it was not long before Kelly came looking for her during an internal recruitment effort, and she joined the company in 2017.
Along with her efforts to make Kelly more diverse and inclusive, Lim-Johnson joined the board of directors of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association and serves on its executive committee.
Overall, she’s inspired by the Atticus Finch quote in “To Kill a Mockingbird”: “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”
Specifically, she’s clear on how the company needs to progress.
“It’s all about diversity and inclusion,” she says. “We have to make sure Kelly offers that type of environment. It’s much more at the forefront and bringing it about means the world to me.”
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