Leadership Corner: A Conversation with Rhonda Tobin

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we are spotlighting valuable insights from female leaders in our community. In this interview, Connecticut Wealth Management (CTWM) chats with Rhonda Tobin, Managing Partner at Robinson+Cole, a law firm with 500 attorneys and professional staff throughout the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, Florida, and California.


Rhonda Tobin is a highly-regarded trial attorney who represents major insurance companies and handles complex business litigation disputes. Her career with Robinson+Cole has spanned 30+ years where she has been an advocate for building diversity and inclusion within the organization, while also promoting a work-life balance. Recently, she was named to the Hartford Business Journal 2024 Power 50 class.

Q: Have you encountered any instances of gender discrimination or stereotypes in your industry? How did you address them?

Over the course of my career, I’ve been fortunate not to have faced many barriers to my advancement as a female attorney. In fact, I found myself with a seat at the leadership table fairly quickly.

However, I did experience some adversity early on in my career. When I first started my job search,  I interviewed with a large law firm in Atlanta where a male senior partner asked me “why a nice girl like me wanted to be a lawyer.” This was a bias I didn’t want to deal with and is why I decided to pursue a career in the north. There was also a time in my first-year of practice, when I was working on a couple of trials with a more senior attorney. In my first year of practice, I worked on a few trials with more senior attorneys. During one trial, opposing counsel commented to my male colleague that I was sent by the firm “to keep him awake.” Before I could even respond, my colleague quickly shut down these degrading comments.

I know not all women can say this, but in my experience gender discrimination and stereotypes have improved over those 30 years ago. It’s refreshing that for most of my career, gender wasn’t a factor as to why I was in the room or how important my voice was. I’ve been lucky in that regard and continuously try to pay it forward to my more junior colleagues.

Q: Can you highlight a particularly memorable success or milestone you’ve achieved in your career?

About eight years ago, I led a large team of people working on a complicated trial. The trial lasted a month in federal court and leading up to it was months of preparation filled with long days for the entire team.

When we reached the end of the trial, the judge took a moment to point out that everyone involved with the case , with only one exception, was female – the judge, the two law clerks, the courtroom staff, the attorneys on both sides, and the paralegals. This was such a powerful moment to realize that women were leading every aspect of this case and to acknowledge how far we’ve come.

Q: What steps have you taken to foster a supportive and inclusive workplace for women advancement?

Inclusion is embedded in who we are at Robinson+Cole and what we are trying to accomplish. Our firm’s core values are collaboration, civility, and inclusion; we have an active Diversity, Equity, Inclusion+ Belonging Committee and an active Women’s Committee.

We offer regular programming and activities aimed at women, including both educational and networking opportunities. We also have a monthly mentorship program that connects more junior and senior women together for one-on-one time, helping to build relationships within the firm and offer a platform to share career advice.

Whenever women are promoted at the firm, we host a cocktail hour to celebrate their achievements and allow space for individuals to tell their stories. I think it’s so important for everyone, women especially, to understand how someone got to where they are so that they too can see their own growth path forward.

One last thing that’s unique to the legal industry is the Mansfield certification which is run by an entity called Diversity Labs. This is a national initiative that promotes the advancement of diverse lawyers into leadership roles. Robinson+Cole is proud to have been Mansfield certified for several years and it has helped us to ensure that we are promoting more diversity across our firm and our leadership team.

Q: How do you prioritize a work-life balance while managing the demands of your career?

Everyone has a different definition of a work-life balance. I have always said that there is no such thing as complete balance, but if the level of imbalance works for you, that is success. And balance can be about children, or caring for elderly parents or pets, or even balancing work with your personal passions. For much of my career, it was balancing work with my family – my husband and sons.

What I always try to keep in mind, and what I often tell others, is that you don’t have to be great at everything at the same time. Give yourself some grace to understand that there are days when you can’t be a great lawyer and great family member and a great friend. Sometimes there are days when certain things need to give more than others – and that’s okay.

As women, we put a tremendous amount of pressure on ourselves. If you’re feeling satisfied and fulfilled in the various aspects of your life over the course of a week, month, or year, that’s success. And understand that everyone is struggling to find that balance just like you.

Q: What advice do you wish you had early on in your career?

Make sure you love what you do and take the initiative to shape your career into what you want it to be. With that in mind, be open to experiences that are outside of your comfort zone. Doing so usually allows you to discover new things that you didn’t think you could do before – and can help you find new confidence.

Also, focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses. When I think about strong teams, everyone brings different strengths, so concentrate on what you are good at and find opportunities to capitalize on that. My last piece of advice is to be kind to everyone – including yourself.

Wrapping Up

Rhonda Tobin’s journey serves as an inspiration for women at any stage of their careers. As we spotlight her achievements and those of women leaders everywhere this month, let us continue to strive for a future where gender equality is not just celebrated, but ingrained in every aspect of professional and societal life.

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