The legal profession is not typically viewed as fertile territory for poetic interrogatories.

But Jane Shay Wald, emeritus partner at Irell & Manella, is an outlier in this world of Spartan speech and rigid rules: Instead of eschewing her rhyming dictionary for a copy of Black’s Law, she’s embraced her inner Maya Angelou.

“Given the choice, I would always rather practice law in rhyme these days,” Wald said.

And much of the time she’s able to. Instead of hindering communication with clients, co-counsel, and even opposing attorneys, Wald’s missives have a way of cutting through the often curt correspondence the profession engenders.

“It takes some of the sting out of being opposing counsel,” said Wald. “I don’t want to say it becomes a poetry slam, but some of the friction dissipates when you can compliment them on their poem even if you disagree with their legal position.”

Wald, who primarily represents clients in trademark disputes, said she’s used rhyme to foster professional discourse for more than 30 years.

It might seem like a lot of extra effort to communicate with rhymes, but Wald said the art form comes naturally to her and she rarely spends more than a few minutes on her poems.

“It comes right out of my head,” she said. “Sometimes I think through things in poetry before I do in regular speech.”

Despite her dedication to writing in verse, Wald has no formal poetry training and you’re not likely to find her thumbing through the works of Alfred Lord Tennyson or Robert Frost.

“I have no interest in poetry,” Wald said. “I just like communicating with it.”

Inside Pitch

When Melisa Gotto, founder and chief executive of Scandal Co-Active was growing up, her parents enrolled her in the requisite tap and ballet classes. “But I wanted to roll around in the dirt,” she said.

Gotto, 40, got her way: She played softball in Glendora’s Lassie League and eventually was selected as a starter for varsity softball in high school and later even played in college.

A love of baseball (and later softball) was instilled early. Gotto and her family regularly attended every Los Angeles Dodgers home game, and “my father would even bring his radio with us so he could hear Vin Scully during the game,” she said.

The mental strategy involved in the sport has stuck with her. Gotto started her own boutique PR firm in 2014 after nearly two decades working for large agencies.

“Starting your own company is a whole new ball game,” she said. “There’s a lot of risk, because in some people’s minds, it seems you don’t have the same resources a larger agency might have.”

Her West Hollywood PR, marketing, and social media firm specializes in entertainment, technology, and lifestyle clients, such as Van Toffler’s digital media startup Gunpowder & Sky.

When it comes to motivating her professional team now, Gotto relies on the competitive drive she learned all those years ago.

“It turns out, those instincts never leave you,” she said.

Staff reporters Henry Meier and Kristin Marguerite Doidge contributed to this column. Page 3 is compiled by Editor Jonathan Diamond. He can be reached at

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