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Updated: August 9, 2021 Women to Watch

Women to Watch: In both law and business, Krystal Williams is blazing trails

Photo / Tim Greenway Krystal Williams, founder of Providentia Group and Alpha Legal Foundation

Attorney and entrepreneur Krystal Williams, who first came to Maine a decade ago to hike the Appalachian Trail, left Maine’s largest law firm last year to start business and advisory firm Providentia. She also founded the nonprofit Alpha Legal Foundation to “drive change within Maine’s legal community,” and chairs the board of KinoTek Inc., a digital health startup.

Mainebiz: What drove you to study business and then law?

Krystal Williams: I have a deep curiosity about the systems and organizations that unite us as humans. I went to business school after I finished my Peace Corps service because I believe that companies have an opportunity and responsibility to improve the standard of living where they conduct business. I decided to go to law school because, in my work at a large company, I constantly faced issues that required understanding the legal parameters and complexities. “The law” became this black box of knowledge and nuance that I felt compelled to understand.

MB: What brought you to Maine, and what made you stay?

KW: The Appalachian Trail brought me to Maine — literally. I completed my thru-hike on Oct. 8, 2011. (It took another three years before I could move here permanently, though.) I have stayed in Maine because I love it here. I grew up in a Habitat for Humanity community in North Carolina, and there is a certain amount of scrappiness that is hardwired into who I am. I see that same scrappiness reflected in Maine’s culture, particularly the entrepreneurial community.

MB: Who are Providentia’s clients, and what are you advising them on?

KW: I primarily serve individual entrepreneurs and established organizations. Because I have both a J.D. and an MBA, I have a pretty big toolbox with which I can help individuals and companies find the right solution to their particular problem. Typically, I help entrepreneurs by providing the legal support they need to keep their business running smoothly. I also provide advisory and training services to established organizations that want to embed diversity and equity principles within their organizational systems.

MB: What does Providentia’s partnership with Black Owned Maine entail?

KW: I began working with Black Owned Maine in early 2021. We have such a shared passion to see BIPOC communities achieve economic agency, and we’ve partnered together to begin to address some of the gaps that exist within Maine’s entrepreneurial community. In July we kicked off programming designed to test the interest in and approach for a BIPOC business incubator. Our long-term goal is to create a BIPOC-led business incubator for BIPOC entrepreneurs. We are using lean startup principles during this six-month test and validation phase. People can learn more by visiting Black Owned Maine’s website.

MB: Longer term, what are your plans for Providentia?

KW: My long-term goal for Providentia is to be the employer of choice for ambitious and principled lawyers of color who want to make a home and a difference in Maine.

MB: What can you share about the Alpha Legal Foundation?

KW: I founded the Alpha Legal Foundation to create community and drive change within Maine’s legal community. Our 2020 inaugural fall programming, a three-part series titled “Legally Racist,” was attended by various members of Maine’s legal community. These are important conversations to have and continue. I’m currently planning this fall’s three-part series. We will focus on the criminal justice system, the tax code and the toll that racism takes on all of us, regardless of race.

MB: Why do you feel so strongly about lawyers’ unique role and responsibility in conquering systemic racism and moving society forward?

KW: We are a nation of laws, and the laws as created codified a racialized economic caste system that took land away from Indigenous Americans and enslaved Africans. If we as a society want to actually address the harm that was done over centuries, we have to look at and change how legislation is written and how our criminal justice system operates. This is where we lawyers, trained in the practice and art of law, have a unique ability and responsibility to craft a different future.

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