Jennifer Justice is an entrepreneur and former entertainment executive known for her expertise in building artists’ careers and business portfolios by marrying art with commerce. From the beginning of her career, JJ as she is known, has championed gender equality & diversity in the workplace and beyond. As General Counsel and EVP at Roc Nation, she helped structure the vision and growth of Roc Nation. She served as Jay-Z’s personal entertainment attorney for a total of 17 years as well as Beyonce’s personal attorney for one year while at Roc Nation.
In 2019, JJ founded The Justice Dept. – a business development, management, strategy and legal firm that works with female entrepreneurs, executives, talent, brands and creatives to build and maximize their value focusing in the areas of tech, consumer product, finance, media, entertainment and fashion. JJ hosts a fast growing podcast called “Takin’ Care of Lady Business”, has been named a “Game Changer” by Goop, by InStyle as one of the 50 Badass Women Changing the World, and on Billboard’s Women in Power list three times. She has been featured on the TODAY Show, Yahoo, The Skimm Podcast, and is a regular contributor on NBC News.
What’s the one negotiating lever women overlook in almost any negotiating situation?
What’s more important in a critical negotiation – looking for fairness or looking out for your best interests?
Why does even a top notch attorney work with ANOTHER attorney when engaging in a negotiation for herself?
In this episode, Jennifer Justice, entrepreneur and women’s advocate extraordinaire, talks about what it means to claim your space, how to use relationship building for long-term wins, the importance of having an objective champion, and much more
Links and Resources:
The Justice Department: Jennifer Justice’s legal and business advisory firm
Takin’ Care of Lady Busine$$: Jennifer Justice’s fast-growing podcast for women
Jennifer Justice: Thank you for having me.
Jennifer Justice: I can’t point to one, but what always makes me so happy that I did this and started this is when I help a woman understand her worth and value and that translates into real money for her so she no longer has to worry about things that she never should have had to worry about given her level of experience, et cetera. That is, enlightening women of their power and their worth always makes me really happy.
Jennifer Justice: It’s usually when I have that initial call with them, and I can see that there is a fear and an insecurity and fear of the unknown and not really knowing what the next step should be. I basically go like, “Well, this is what I do. I don’t do what you do. That is why I would hire somebody like you to do it.”
This is what I do. I can help you in these ways. I can protect you from a legal standpoint. I can protect you from a business development standpoint. I can negotiate deals for you that will make your life better and easier and your companies better and easier and more valuable, and you don’t have to worry about it.”
Then they have this sigh of relief going, “Okay, I didn’t know that there is somebody out there that could do that for you. Now I feel better about not knowing what I don’t know”, because you don’t need to know everything.
Jennifer Justice: I think a lot of it is trying to negotiate for yourself. It is not something you can just learn overnight. Even if I give you tips, it is not easy. It is almost like acting. It is like I know how to have a poker face and I know when to get off a call and I know when to add a line that makes somebody happy or feel like it is not so contentious or, I can tell when there is deal fatigue and it is their last offer.
So, it is really difficult, usually what I say is if you can hire somebody to negotiate for you, then do that. Even lawyers do that. I hire somebody to negotiate for me. So, one of the hurdles is that we are our own worst, enemy when it comes to that. It is really hard. I can go negotiate for anybody, but negotiating for myself, I have issues with.
Jennifer Justice: It is everybody. Everybody is like that, male and female, but mostly female. They have been told forever that they are not worth their value. If you are in a situation where you have to negotiate for yourself one of the biggest red flags to me is, “Yeah, just tell me what you want.” I’m not the one reaching out here for a job. You reached out to me. I am in a great situation. You are the one interviewing. You have told me what you are going to do to make it worth my while. You don’t have to react. You can be like, “Okay, great. Is that everything?”
Your salary is not everything. It is also how long you are going to be there. What is your title? Who are you reporting to? What are your responsibilities? Where are you working in the world? Are you working at your house? Are you working? What is your vacation? Is there equity? If you get fired and you didn’t do anything wrong, how much are they going to pay you? If you left a stock situation to get in another situation, what happens to that if you get fired?
There are a lot of other variables, and it is asking that and to put everything in writing, put it down. You will look at everything in a whole. Even when they say, look, what about the salary? Does that sound good? It is like, “I don’t know. All these other things matter too.” So, the salary could look great if other factors are as great too. Send it to me in an email. I’ll get back to you. Then that allows you to respond in an email in a way that you probably may or may not do in person as powerfully.
Jennifer Justice: Well, definitely, it is a magnification. I think we all know the data, but I’m not going to pretend to step in the shoes of somebody who, and it is very well documented, has been repressed in a way that is beyond comparison to me. I still am not equal as a white woman, so I don’t even want to try to answer that question from that perspective. I see it happen across the board to women and I see all the pay disparity, let’s put it that way. I see all those numbers in real life and how that plays out.
Jennifer Justice: I think it is 50-50, right? It is like it is steeped in the patriarchy of loving the fact that it was ruled by one particular group of basically mostly white men and not really valuing women, seeing what their job is to really disservice them, whether that is at work or at home. We are also served every day, all day long, with ads that go by buses and in TV and on the top of taxis, and every flyer in every store that is completely unattainable as a woman. Depending on what age they are that is just not attainable.
So, your own security wanes very quickly as a woman. In fact, the height of a girl’s security is eight years old. Once they hit puberty, it just plummets. So, it is in us, right? It is like we come about it honestly as well. Then you have the patriarchy just agreeing with everything that we are feeling about ourselves, you know?
Jennifer Justice: Well, they can be both. The best outcome for yourself can be the fairest version too. Sometimes when you get too much, it is going to get taken away too fast. I’ve done those kinds of deals before when I had a lot of leverage and I’ve taken everything. Then, like Turnabout’s Fair play, somebody comes and does the exact same thing, you know? The best kind of deal is where both parties win. They don’t get everything they want, but they both get something they want.
Jennifer Justice: Like I said, if you can’t surround yourself with a team that is going to do it, so you can do your job all day long and you don’t have to worry about those details. I always just put myself in a position of like, “Who am I really negotiating for? Is it for me?” No, it is actually for my nine-year-old twins. You know what I mean? Everything I’m doing is taking away time from them. If somebody is disrespecting me, they are disrespecting them. So, what is the fairness? What would I do if I were representing them. So, that fictitious person that you become to be able to look at a bird’s eye view and see what exactly fairness means from there is important.
Jennifer Justice: That is usually people who, if you are not going to hire the professionals, you have to surround yourself with a bunch of other people in your network that will help you understand what is standard across the board. That includes men who love to share information.
If you are not getting the same as them, why wouldn’t you? So, to really do all of your research and find that this is what is standard in the business so that you can say this is what is standard. I think I have a lot of clients who do that and they also go with their gut instinct.
Jennifer Justice: You have a lot more available because of the research and they also have a lot more available because of the laws where it is now in New York that they have to actually put salary bans, if you are talking about a traditional job as an employee or an executive and they can’t ask you what you want.
You know that what you made before if you are not accessing these groups of people, I mean, there are a lot of female organizations that you can join for not a lot of money where you can ask these questions as well. For a lot of it you have to rely on your instinct and otherwise, what else is there?
The other thing is, like I said before, ask what they are going to offer you. If it doesn’t work or it doesn’t feel right, and you are kind of in a jam and you need to take the job, you can always take it and know that that’s not where you are going to stay, with your eyes open. Ask all the questions. That is important.
Jennifer Justice: Oh yes! You always ask for 10 things knowing that you want one or two, and sometimes they will give you the other stuff like it is no big deal, and then it narrows it down. It is chess.
Jennifer Justice: Yes, exactly.
Jennifer Justice: Well, I want them to stay a client. I don’t do one off deals. I’m not a litigator where somebody comes and then I do the deal and they are gone, and they probably don’t need me ever again. I usually do deals over and over and over for people.
So, it is a mutual trust. They need to know that I’m going to represent their interests as much as possible. I need to know that they are going to reward me for and respect my fees, et cetera.
My reputation also speaks for itself, and that is something that I take great pride in. I’ve done this for a long time. I have a great reputation of being very strict and not backing down for the right reasons.
You can tell that there are certain people who are brand new, and they have never done this before, and you have to have longer conversations and some people you don’t fully gain their trust regardless. There is nothing I can do about that. That is something within the.
It is mostly because if they never looked out for themselves in the first place and then finally are doing that, they want to get to the point where they should have been in the first place. But you can’t get there and sometimes you have to take responsibility for your lack of action in representing yourself. That is part of it too.
Jennifer Justice: They started their company. They have a co-founder, they don’t do a deal with each other or operating agreement or just did a form and didn’t really think about things like getting married and divorced and what that means for it or, they both are in marketing, so who is talking to the lawyers and accountants? Do you know what I mean?
Then they don’t do that and then they want to get out of it, and they want everything. One decides, “Yes, I’m going to leave. It’s fine. You can take the company.” But they never negotiated for themselves in a way or pay the actual money for get real professional advice on what that means.
Now their situation is like somebody who takes a job of Vice President or above, and they just kind of say, “Oh, I can negotiate the deal by myself, and they sign this employment agreement”, and then they come to me when they get fired without cause and they are telling them, they get a month.
Then they are like, “Wait a minute. I left this job.” I’m like, “Okay. I can’t get you back to what should have been because you did not hire somebody.”
What you also have to ask yourself in that situation is, “Why is that company treating you like this?” They are treating you like this because they know that you don’t have enough respect for yourself, that you didn’t hire a professional to negotiate your deal. That is how they are going to treat you.
They are hiring you to protect the company. So, if you can’t protect yourself, how are they going to protect the company? It speaks volumes when you are in a high-level position, or a founder and you don’t hire the right people to negotiate because you are not taking it seriously.
So, why would they take you seriously? They might believe in it. They might put money, they might hire you, but they are going to treat you when things go down, how you have treated yourself actually.
Jennifer Justice: I try to point out that this serves nobody especially in terms of social media. Those things are usually happening when you are trying to get rid of somebody. They are not usually happening when you are going into a deal where everybody wants to be happy because if that were the case, then what kind of partnership are you going to have after you sign the deal?
To me, I’ve actually had that happen when somebody was trying to do a decline and I was trying to do a deal and I was so disrespected I said, “Look, you guys, it is up to you. I can finish this deal, they can abuse me, whatever. But it is a big red flag when somebody acts like this. Then you are going to have to work with them.”
One time somebody got into the deal regardless and it went horribly bad because it was exactly as I had predicted the other time. They said, “Yeas, you know what? You protected us so many times. There is no way we are going to do a deal with this person if they think it is okay to talk to you like that.”
Jennifer Justice: You are like dating somebody. There are red flags – if you want to see them or not is the question. So many people are just desperate to get a deal done because they think it is going to be really great or they have always wanted to do a deal with this person, or it’s a lot of money.
But there are deals that are just too bad to do. They have a lot of money attached to them, but you will sell the soul of your company or yourself and turn those down and there is going to be another one around the corner. You have to operate out of place of abundance, not scarcity.
Jennifer Justice: Know that something else that we trust, your instinct knows that a better deal is going to come along with a better company. I’m talking more from like a founder doing a partnership deal or something like that, not necessarily, “Look, I really need a job. I have to feed my kids.”
Jennifer Justice: Yes, especially for those reasons. Particular people who give money, and at that point, it is a learning lesson in managing, but the more success you have, the more leverage you have over these people and if you are doing really well, you could potentially find somebody to buy them out, so they are not in your face all the time.
If you are not doing very well then maybe they have a point, and maybe you shouldn’t be the person running the company. You can still be the founder. You can still be a visionary, but you don’t have to be the person running the company.
Jennifer Justice: I’m pretty straightforward. I don’t give it all away, but it is just personality, it was something I didn’t know I had, and it came naturally to me. It is not for everybody, but I have a lot of clients because they’re women and community driven and want to get along be like, “You have got to be nice.”
I’m like, “Okay. Don’t tell me how to do my job. This is not ego here. I will literally get you the best deal you could possibly get but let me do my job.” There is no such thing as being nice in a negotiation. There is Harvard Business Review documents on it. You don’t have to be rude. You don’t have to be mean, but you don’t have to be nice. Nice is a different word. Negotiation nice is a pushover.
Jennifer Justice: Being nice means offering up way too much. You are not rude. You are not disrespectful but nice doesn’t belong in negotiations.
Jennifer Justice: First of all, you have to figure out what kind of a business are you? If you are a services business, you shouldn’t be raising money. You should be able to provide your services and make money.
You really only need to raise money if you have a big capital that you need to actually get things off the ground, like product or research or those kinds of things that some kind of product company that needs a bunch of money to do all the packaging and the products, et cetera, or some kind of technology company that needs a bunch of engineers to build a product.
That is when you want to start raising money. But you want to make sure you have an MVP – Minimum Viable Product or something that actually works. You should try to bootstrap as much as you can, so you know that value.
Jennifer Justice: We first start off with the mission and the vision of the company, why it is there. I usually start working with people after they have released something and they have bootstrapped or raised a little bit of friends and family money or something like that, and they know that there is a product, but they just need another set of hands, eyes, ears, et cetera – a pop-up executive team that can help them fast track that growth.
Sometimes it is building the deck that says what the true story is, right? Oftentimes, they go too high vision, and sometimes they don’t, think big enough. All those things.
Then it is helping them find the right people to do the business model and the financials. Then it is, “Great, you have done that. Now you need money. Okay, how much money from whom and how far is that going to get you?”
Then other ones who have already gone through that process and have raised a bit of money but need access to network, et cetera, I help them find those people to hyper grow their company, whether or not that is brands to upload on a platform or partners in music or entertainment to help subsidize what they are doing online.
Another way is, making sure that you have all of your customers on the cap table, basically. So, female founded companies should have women on the cap table and they should raise from women.
We are our own best advocates. We are 80% of the purchasing power. If we have skin in the game, we are going to purchase our own products and we are going to make sure that all of our friends are doing it as well.
Jennifer Justice: When I’m talking about women on the cap table, I’m usually talking about individuals that come in under an SPV – Special Purpose Vehicle or raising individual money because when you are a female founded VC, you are just a female VC. All eyes are on you, and you are being hyper judged, just like the person who is asking you for money.
I hear a lot of women going, “Oh, women won’t give me money.” Well, think about it. They want to keep their job too, right? So, they need some real wins. Unfortunately, the real wins have been from men, and so they need to put some of that in their pocket.
They have to be 150% sure where men are 50% and if they gamble it all the time they are going to be scrutinized if they lose money and they take the wrong bets. So, they can’t just say, “Hey, it is a female founder. I’m going to put money in it because it is a female founder.” I wish that was the case.
Honestly, when I started the Justice Department, I really thought that was the case. Then I started getting into why more women aren’t investing in women. I’m like, “Oh, right. They are having the same issues that everybody is having and you are being hyper scrutinized just for being a woman in general, regardless of you having a big job and raising money from l big LPs or if you are a startup and you know you are broke and you are trying to raise money, but you have a great idea.”
Jennifer Justice: Yes, I help them identify certain people, but I also make sure that if they are raising money, they raise the most you possibly can so you don’t have to go back again or can you wait to raise the money? Can you launch some stuff?
Then it just becomes inevitable that they have to put it in, because if they don’t, they are going to lose out. You never really want to be in a position where you are like, “Okay, I don’t want to. I feel desperate again.” Back from that, scarcity versus abundance kind of situation. So, you want to make sure that you are in a driver’s seat, and you are not desperate for the money.
Jennifer Justice: One is, do you like this person who is investing in your company? They are now technically your partner. Do your research about them. Find other people and portfolio companies of theirs and talk to them and see how much they are involved or not involved, et cetera.
For example, women, we need all the help we can get. Are they strategic? Can they help us? Do they have knowledge and institutional knowledge that we don’t have or a network of people we can get to very quickly and introductions to people that will make our life easier and take a lot less time figuring out your valuation and not really moving from that, how much do you want to own of the company?
What does that mean when somebody invests in your company? What rights do they have? What kind of timeframe do they want that money back in? Five years is a short period of time, but ventures like a 7 to 10. It is candy, so you never know.
Jennifer Justice: I’m sure there are some financial metrics that I can’t speak to. Did you get what you wanted? Can you still control the company? Can you raise more money when you still control the company? That is what you want to know and just move forward.
You can’t get caught up on that stuff. You have got to move forward. You take that money, use it to your advantage, build the company. You can’t sit there and go, “Oh, I could have done better.” That never serves anybody. It is just the source of anxiety.
Jennifer Justice: There is no such thing really. I mean, you can’t even put all the worst-case scenarios because how are you going to know? The worst-case scenario could be that they take more than 50% of the company. It could be that they are not giving all the money.
It could be that they are horrible people and it got me too. There are a lot of them, and you have got to trust your instinct a lot. I think that you go for the things that you want and then you kind of know what you don’t want too. You know what I mean? So, with the process of elimination, you kind of figure out who would be good and who would not be good.
Jennifer Justice: Yes, it is a tough one because it is like me hiring an engineer. I don’t know if they are good or not. I would look to who else they have done work with. Being a lawyer is like the one thing where age is a good thing. It is like the more you have seen, the more you know.
You find other companies and you figure out who represented them and get their advice, if they were they good? Then you talk to three or four people. You see their pricing and you see other clients that they have because you can’t think of attorney just as somebody who is going to look at the paperwork and you are going to pay them and how much they cost.
There are people who are specialists in particular areas that can actually hook you up with a VC or one of their clients could buy you. You might want to pay more to get better quality. You get what you pay for.
When it comes to legal, there is way too high and there are things that you don’t need. Usually if you are a normal startup, if you don’t need something like a Gunderson or a Cooley, you don’t need that. They are too big and too expensive.
But if you are in beverage or food products or consumer products, there are definitely some lawyers who are great connect. If you can get them to take you on, because not everybody will, then you have an advantage in the fact that they might be able to find the right people to put money into your company or buy your company. You cannot discount that that’s like the invisible cost, but it is like it can pay off in spades times, you know so much.
Jennifer Justice: One is just a willingness to pay because that is always such a source of a pain point? Also, this company is not just like a little side project. This is really going to be something that you put a hundred percent of everything into and that you are going to be a real partner with them,
Jennifer Justice: Availability and taking it seriously and being able to jump on a call because I know, I’ve had founders who are clearly from a creative background and avoid the legal, and I’m like, “This isn’t going to work.”
The legal and the business and the accounting and the finance is the actual structure that holds the building up. The rest of it is window dressing. If you don’t have that, nobody is going to invest in you. Otherwise, they are investing in an influencer. It is just an idea, there is neither back nor strength to it. So, you have to have all those pieces in place. People have to make time for it.
Jennifer Justice: I mean, it is so personal, right? It is like an instinct.
Jennifer Justice: My podcast is “Taking Care of Lady Business.” You have a lot of really amazing women to give their advice, what they have done right, what they have not done right. Another avenue is the north in which you can time with me, a half an hour, an hour to give advice where you couldn’t give me a retainer or hire me full-time or hire, those kinds of things.
My company is not just a law firm. It is also, we are mostly actually a business development and business strategy company helping female founders grow their company that way. There are other ones of us having an Advisory Board. I sit on a lot of advisory boards too and help them and available an hour or so every couple of weeks or a couple of hours or when they need me to or look over something to get a second opinion, et cetera.
It is a great resource. The books, I haven’t really read a lot of negotiating 1 0 1 books that. That different from each other, you know, like they all say the same thing, “If you are going to get one, get one from a woman not a man, because it doesn’t it just doesn’t apply.” I’m going to have to read any of those in a long time. So, I’m not really up on the, on the tips of those, you know.
Jennifer Justice: Then, you should join these women’s groups like Female Founder Collective, there are a lot of resources there. You get access to other people who do different things in the organization. If you are a mom you can join, “Hey Mama”, which has a lot of women working as well.
If you join, when ask who referred you, you can put my name so you can reach out to a whole group of thousands of women. How has anybody been through this? Has anybody have somebody who does X, Y, Z? All that kind of stuff.
Jennifer Justice: First, sync bigger with a bigger vision. Always ask yourself if you could get more, always ask for 30% more than you think that you need. People also don’t want to write small checks.
They want to write bigger checks because they want bigger returns, so don’t think that you are saving anybody money. You are going to do better because you are asking for a smaller amount. that actually is a sign that you are not thinking big.
When you can make sure you have the proper team around you because investors are going to look for those people that you have put in place that are ex subject matter experts to do that.
They don’t want you being the jack of all trades. They want you running the company. You have the vision run the company. pay yourself real money. You have got to pay yourself and understand where you sit and control as much equity as you possibly can.
Jennifer Justice: Make sure you know that you are interviewing the people that are investing. You are interviewing them too. Why are they so lucky to invest in your company?
Jennifer Justice: I mean, we covered a lot. I was just talking so quickly, I don’t even know, I think we got a lot of stuff in there. There is a lot to process here.
Jennifer Justice: Thank you!