Dara Redler grew up in Allentown, Pa., a steel town that fell on hard times documented by the Billy Joel song that starts out, "Well, we're living here in Allentown, and they're closing all the factories down." Early on, she developed parallel interests in business and law, and she left Allentown to pursue both.
First, she went to the University of Pennsylvania's highly regarded Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia. She left Pennsylvania in her junior year for a study abroad program at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. After she returned and graduated, she decided on Duke University School of Law. She was recruited from Duke by Alston & Bird, and moved to Atlanta to go to work in the firm's litigation department.
"The law firm was a great foundation, a great learning opportunity," Redler said. "Alston & Bird provided me all the tools that I use everyday."
Part of what she liked best was working closely with corporate clients. One of them was DuPont. After two years, she was recruited to an in-house job with Worldspan, a global company managing the computer reservation system for the travel industry. At the time, Worldspan was owned jointly by three major airlines: Delta, Northwest and TWA.
"I just really liked the combination of legal work and business work and being able to work hand in hand with the business client," she said.
After eight years at Worldspan, she went to work for The Coca-Cola Co., where she supports the food service and retail divisions. Think about every major restaurant, supermarket and discount store chain, and all the contracts they have with the soft drink giant. That is her work.
She was recognized last week for her extra work -- her volunteer service for the Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta, which presented her with its 2007 Corporate Attorney of the Year Award in recognition of her taking on five matters with four different nonprofit organizations.
"I didn't feel worthy," she said. "I'm very appreciative. But as an attorney, we're obligated to do pro bono work in some capacity. I feel lucky that Coca-Cola not only makes it easy, but is very supportive."
She talked about the award and her work and life in an interview this week.
Benefits of pro bono work: It makes you smile. I just finished a document for one of the organizations I work for. (Inspiring BodyWorks, a nonprofit organization that provides fitness classes to low-income children.) When I sent the document, the head of the organization wrote back, "You are the sunshine of my day." I'm in my office. How could you not smile? You could feel how appreciative she was for that. We don't do that much. It doesn't take that much time. These are skills we have anyway. We're just applying them to these organizations. For them, it's the documentation that they need to get them going. To them, it's a big deal.
Why she likes her job: I feel lucky because I love my job. I love that I have the opportunity to do pro bono work here, that it's encouraged and supported, and still have the family life. I feel very fortunate.
Family: My husband (Daniel Redler) also works for Coca-Cola. He's on the marketing side, so he gives me the marketing perspective. So we're definitely a Coca-Cola family.
Hobbies: Our sons are in tennis, soccer, swimming, karate.
Staying in shape: I work out at work. We have a great gym here. When I have time, I run on my lunch hour. I'm very lucky. We have a really nice gym. And you'd be surprised how many work-related conversations you can have while you're working out.
Work style: Our legal group has a very good working relationship with our business clients. We're proactive as opposed to reactive.
Best advice: I've been told, do what you love, do what makes you happy, and do it well. I try to always do that. When I'm here, I try to give 100 percent. When I volunteer, I give 100 percent. With my family, I give 100 percent. It doesn't work smoothly everyday, but I try. If you spoke to my clients, I would hope they would say I have a positive attitude and give 100 percent.
Title: Senior counsel
Company: The Coca-Cola Co.
Education: B.S., University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business, 1988; J.D., Duke University School of Law, 1991.
Personal: Married with three sons, ages 6, 9 and 11.
Professional: Joined Coca-Cola's legal department six years ago. Previously senior counsel for eight years at Worldspan, a global company managing computer reservations system for the travel industry. Two years in litigation department at Alston & Bird.
Legal Department: Atlanta headquarters, 65 attorneys. Worldwide, 150.
Outside counsel: In Atlanta, Coca-Cola uses King & Spalding, Thomas, Kennedy, Sampson and Patterson, Alston & Bird, and Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan, among others.