Kendell Renee Kelly is a Lifestyle Lawyer™ and strategist specializing in intellectual property, business, sports and entertainment.
A graduate of Georgia Tech, Spelman College, and Georgetown University Law Center, Kelly has strong ties to Chicago and splits her time between the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area and her second home of New York City. She is admitted to Illinois, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and the United States Supreme Court bars.
Currently, Kelly’s practice focuses on counseling private and corporate clients in set-up, protection, strategic planning, monetization and liquidation of intellectual property assets. As an entrepreneur and business owner, Kelly treats clients as if their business and legal needs are her own.
In addition to her practice, Kendell is also a sought after public speaker and social media darling that as been featured in US News & Word Report, Crain’s Chicago Business Report, Uptown magazine, Metro Mix, and a host of other publications and websites.
Ro recently sat down with Kelly to discuss the genesis of her career and get the inside scoop on the various health based initiatives she currently has in the works.
When did you know that you were destined to be a lawyer?
I knew I was going to be a lawyer at 8 years old, however, no one — including my parents — is exactly sure how I knew what a lawyer was. I told Dr. James Comer, the creator of my elementary school program, very explicitly, I would become a lawyer and then the first black woman president. Since my young mouth also prophesied my election to occur directly after a black man president and white woman, if Hillary wins, I will know my fun is over.
What’s the first case you remember that solidified your desire to be an attorney?
I can’t say it was actually a case; it was actually a little funnier than that. My aunt (who was also my godmother) (Mary) Lucille, was one of my favorite people. Therefore, the song “Lucille” and its author, Little Richard, have always held special places in my heart. One formidable childhood day, I saw Little Richard speak passionately about the stealing of all things black, and specifically, his musical legacy. I knew from that day on that I wanted to figure out how to stop people from stealing from the man who wrote my Lucille’s song and those talented, maybe underrepresented artists like him.
In your opinion, what’s the biggest misconception about practicing law that people have?
Unfortunately, people believe the sensationalism and the bad hype about lawyers. If a case is handled well, a lawyer never ends up in a courtroom — especially in civil law matters. So while I love movies like A Few Good Men and My Cousin Vinny, the likelihood of a theatrical witness examination, or even the snappy one-liners of Law & Order is pretty slim. Also, lawyers also aren’t generally bloodsucking narcissists. While I do know a few lawyers for whom I fear spontaneous combustion, I, and most of my colleagues, genuinely care, stress, and celebrate with our clients.
What are three key factors that you believe makes a great attorney.
Empathy — if you cannot understand, and properly share, the feelings of your clients how are you going to effectively communicate their needs? Empathizing with clients is not simply about “feeling their pain,” but more importantly it is about communicating how to fix it.
Commitment — frankly, being a lawyer is tedious. Between deadlines, filing dates, long forms, and other nuances of the law, to be successful takes time and effort. You really have to want to do this.
Courage — we are required to zealously advocate for our clients. There is a constant battle between our clients needs, our own values, societal norms and the letter of the law. But, the war must always be won by our clients and the law. This sometimes means having the courage to fight our own feelings and the perceptions of others.
Tell us about your Fit Night Out® initiative?
FNO is a mission of love for me. I firmly believe that the lack of knowledge of fitness and nutrition is the biggest killer in the world, and definitely the black community. Selfishly, adults, and specifically women, do not really have the same level of opportunity to make new friends beyond college. Fit Night Out® provides a platform for new friendships and bonds of support over common goals.
How did you develop such a passion for health and wellness?
Health issues affecting my family members have led me to thirst for more information about the interactions of food and exercise with overall health. For most of my life, health and wellness were terms used mostly for weight, and how to lose it. Unfortunately, and fortunately, over the last five years the terms “Health and Wellness” now mean life. During that time, my dad developed a heart problem that required his heart be electrically shocked back into proper rhythm. He was also diagnosed with prostate cancer and became a survivor. My aunt’s life was abbreviated due to mostly preventable health conditions. My gynecologist discovered fibroids in my uterus. My grandmother was bedridden due to Alzheimer’s and calcium buildup in her arteries. And, then my mother tested with cholesterol so high it required medication. That was the last straw.
I had been developing recipes that assisted with my grandmother’s care, but expanded to getting a certificate in nutrition and full-fledged mad scientist mode in my kitchen. Working with diet and exercise, we got my mother’s cholesterol down 80 points below the line for pharmaceutical recommendation. I am expanding the focus of Fit Night Out®, because not sharing this knowledge would be almost criminal.
How did you come to work with the rapper Freeway and the national kidney foundation?
The short answer – friends and the power of positive thinking embodied in Mark 11:23. But more specifically, over a decade ago a good friend and colleague, introduced me to super manager Marc Byers. Marc has known longer than most people about my commitment to health and wellness, Fit Night Out® and of course my legal practice. Marc and his brother, Sherman, own Rockstar Management of which, Freeway is a client. When Freeway was first diagnosed with kidney disease, he and the Byers’ brothers knew it would be vital to control their own messaging. They told the story to the local media and said they were looking to work with the National Kidney Foundation and The NKF found them the next day.
Any quotes or affirmations that you live by?
*laughs* My life is basically a series of quotes and affirmations but here are a few of my faves:
“… the desires of the diligent are satisfied.” – Proverbs 13:4
“I cannot control how I am perceived; I can control how I am presented.”
“It is better to be looked over than overlooked.” – Mae West
“You don’t have to love me. You don’t even have to like me. But you will respect me!” – Kelis
“I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” – Marilyn Monroe
What’s something that people would be surprised to know about you?
I make the majority of my own body products. One of my friend’s from law school started me on the path of natural product creation while she was concocting in her kitchen to avoid stretch marks during her first pregnancy. She was able to successfully hydrate her skin enough to avoid any stretch marks, and while I was maybe 20 years too late to prevent them all together for myself, I have become slightly obsessed with creating my own personal, best-working products.
Name a book that changed how you saw life and that you’d strongly recommend to others?
With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together by Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis. They are the idyllic “black” couple from all surface accounts. Their book reveals that they had to truly form their own standard for living their lives, despite what society expected or desired and they did it together.
What’s next for Kendell Renee Kelly?
My focus is on the holistic human, my next steps are bringing together (and ultimately sharing!) the tools I was blessed to learn whiling facing life’s recent challenges. The first part of this is continuing the Fit Night Out® tradition. We have an amazing event coming up in New York City with Freeway and the National Kidney Foundation. We are also expanding the recently relaunched website, www.fitnightout.com, to include personal stories, recipes, challenges and other resources to engage our members beyond our events.
Also, my entertainment and intellectual property practices continue to flourish. I am blessed with a full spectrum of work from intellectual property work for entertainment veteran Mathew Knowles and his new girl group BLUSHHH, to the helping launch the career of breakthrough talent Alex Vaughn. In addition to my clients amazing work, I am also applying my branding knowledge to a custom vape product in conjunction with Vaporcade.