When Eileen Salathé Hollcraft arrived in Washington, DC, to attend law school at Georgetown University, she had less than $200 in her pocket for food and transportation, no meal plan, and no job. She had come from a small community in the middle of New Hampshire and had fallen in love with the nation’s capital after a month-long internship in undergrad that a professor helped her snag.
Decades later, Hollcraft is lead counsel of crop protection regulatory at Corteva Agriscience in Indianapolis, where she continues to lean on a skill that took her from humble beginnings in rural New Hampshire to a successful attorney and beyond: building relationships.
“In college and in high school, I had teachers who believed in me, who understood my dream and my financial challenges, who basically said, ‘You are a smart kid and you are driven, so take these steps,’” she reflects.
The relationships she built in her professional career were equally as fruitful, not only opening doors to different career opportunities but also instilling the confidence she needed to step into new legal areas when she took a role as lead regulatory counsel at Dow AgroSciences before it became part of Corteva.
“I didn’t know anything about biotechnology, but quickly the importance of cultivating relationships became apparent, because my clients were initially my lifeline to understanding complex issues from a science, legal, and policy perspective, enabling me to advise the company,” Hollcraft reflects. “Sometimes, the easiest way to an answer is by talking to someone who’s been there before. Clients are often the best source of background and past practice to help me assess an issue and advise the company. I’ll ask, ‘What have you done in this type of situation?’”
Today, Hollcraft advises young lawyers to do the same. To be successful in their careers, she advises them to find someone they want to be like then to “listen, observe and absorb.” “It’s important to acknowledge the expertise others have, learn from them, ask questions, be curious, and never hesitate to ask for a leg up if you need it,” she says.
“As a friend and colleague for over thirty years, I know Eileen to be an extraordinary human being and lawyer,” shares Lynn L. Bergeson, managing partner at Bergeson & Campbell PC. “Eileen’s intellect and empathy enable her to understand the heart of a legal issue, and to anticipate and resolve human and social issues that are very much a part of the legal problem-solving equation.”
Before Hollcraft started her legal career, she had a crash course in the importance of relationships early on with her dad. He was a lifelong learner, a musician, a “glass half-full kind of person,” and a people person. “He inspired me to think I could do anything I wanted to do. We literally didn’t know where each meal would come from, but I never thought I couldn’t do something because of money,” she says. “And I was like my dad’s little shadow—I wanted to do everything he did.”
A childhood of raising pigs, sheep, and tending gardens was accompanied by Hollcraft’s strong desire to be a lawyer. It drove her to maintain good grades throughout high school and paved the way for full-ride scholarships in college and a path to law school. Along the way, she worked closely with her teachers and mentors, who saw her potential and helped her each step of the way, including a partner from her early career years that she aspired to be like.
“She worked hard, she was brilliant, she was savvy, and she believed in me. The relationship I built with her kept me with her as she established a boutique firm focused on chemical regulation,” Hollcraft says. “I continue to be in touch with her to this day.”
She went on to spend twelve years with DC-based law firm Bergeson & Campbell before going in-house as environmental counsel at Northrop Grumman for six years, working on issues like chemical reporting, site clean-up strategies, compliance matters, and due diligence. Most of all, she enjoyed the direct link to the business.
After a few years in a role that she loved, Hollcraft felt like it was time for a change. “I had two children and living in DC had a lot of blessings in that the schools were excellent. It was culturally diverse, but it was a really intense environment and where I grew up, it was the exact opposite,” she says. “I wanted my kids to see both sides of the spectrum.”
That prompted the decision to take a position at Indiana-based Dow AgroSciences, even though the only time she had stepped foot in the state was during her interview.
“I drove around and said, ‘This reminds me of home.’ Life comes full circle in a way,” she says. Ultimately, the spin into Corteva in 2019 reinforced this view. “Working for a company that seeks to ‘feed the world’ is a mission I can get behind, as someone who grew up living off the land.”