Center for Women in Law

Convening leaders, generating ideas, leading change.

Michele Coleman Mayes

Vice President, General Counsel, and Secretary, The New York Public Library

Michele Coleman Mayes is vice president, general counsel and secretary for The New York Public Library (“NYPL”) and a member of the senior management group. Mayes is responsible for guiding NYPL’s legal strategy to enable NYPL to achieve its mission. She joined NYPL in August 2012.

Mayes brings extensive legal, corporate and government experience to NYPL. From 1976 through 1982, she served in the United States Department of Justice as Assistant United States Attorney in Detroit and Brooklyn, eventually assuming the role of Chief of the Civil Division in Detroit.

In 1982, Mayes entered the corporate sector as managing attorney of Burroughs Corporation. After Burroughs and Sperry Corporation merged, creating Unisys Corporation, she was appointed staff vice president and associate general counsel for Worldwide Litigation. In 1992, she joined Colgate-Palmolive Company as vice president and associate general counsel U.S. In 1993, she was promoted to vice president of Human Resources and Legal for North America and ultimately became vice president, legal and assistant secretary, and elected a corporate officer. In 2003, she joined Pitney Bowes as senior vice president and general counsel. In 2007 she assumed the role of executive vice president and general counsel for Allstate Insurance Company, a position she held until joining NYPL.

Mayes is the recipient of numerous awards, including the American Bar Association, Commission on Women in the Profession – The Margaret Brent Award, and the Minority Corporate Counsel Association Trailblazer Award. She was named one of America’s top black lawyers by Black Enterprise in 2003. In 2009, Mayes was recognized as one of the most Influential General Counsels in America by The National Law Journal and by Ethisphere Institute in 2011 Attorneys Who Matter. Also in 2011, Michele and Kara Baysinger co-authored a book entitled Courageous Counsel that chronicles conversations with women general counsel in the Fortune 500.  She was honored as a Lifetime Achiever in 2012 by The American Lawyer.

Mayes is a member of the board of Legal Momentum.