Young Aspiring Lawyers Meet and Learn about Careers in the Law

This week I am busy working on a presentation for young women college student leaders from across the country.  The National Conference for College Women Student Leaders is  being held this week at the the University of Maryland in College Park.  This conference is a great opportunity for young women to gain information and background on a variety of career options and to have one-on-one discussions with women in those fields and ask important questions about careers of interest to them.

It will be my pleasure to speak to these young women.  Most of my speaking events are at law schools, law firms and law organizations, and I am looking forward to being a sounding board for these young women at such an important time in their decision-making.  I assume that they are expecting to learn a lot from me about how to overcome the challenges of law practice for women, but I, also, am expecting to learn a lot from them.  I will be interested to know what has piqued their curiosity about a law career and how well their colleges and universities have responded to their interest.  Although some pre-law programs at the college level are excellent, there are too few of them, and I hope that these young women will become inspired and go back to their own schools to encourage more dialogue and information sharing at that critical stage of education.

I also am looking forward to getting to know a little about these student leaders.  Leadership is a demanding endeavor, and each one of these young women has distinguished herself in one way or another through leadership.  You may recall my recent blog on women as world leaders  (March 27, 2012), which you will find in the blog archives on my web site, and I remind you of it again here.  Women are uniquely suited to addressing critical international issues and multinational and multicultural situations, and hopefully some of the young women leaders I meet on Friday will fill these important roles in the future.  As the blog and the underlying sources point out, there are alternatives to aggression and war, and women have proven to be very effective problem solvers and negotiators in these challenging settings.  Many of the most effective world leaders today are women, so it is my hope to inspire some of these young women college leaders to pursue a legal education and use it as an effective leadership tool in the international community and in so many other settings where lawyers can make lasting and positive differences.

So, congratulations to all of the young women who have come to the University of Maryland this week to enhance their leadership skills and explore the options for their futures.  They also will be hearing from Lily Ledbetter as the keynote speaker on Friday, and you may recall my recent blog on the pay equity issues that affect women (May 24, 2012) that Lily Ledbetter will be addressing.

If you are an attendee at this conference, I encourage you to come to my program tomorrow afternoon, Friday, June 1st, and introduce yourself to me.  It will be my pleasure to get to know you!

 

Career Counselors | 3 Comments

Thought For The Day

You cannot dream yourself into a character: you must hammer and forge yourself into one.

Henry D. Thoreau

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A Most Memorable Law School Graduation

It will come as no surprise to my readers that my daughter Elizabeth graduated from Seton Hall University Law School last Friday.  I am so proud of her, and I know it shows.  AND, I make no excuses for that.

Graduation Day is a time of joy for all moms and dads, and you just have to let us revel in it.  You are a part of us, and we burst with far more pride for you than we do even for ourselves.  My husband and I both graduated from law school so many years ago, but it was not the same.  This one was better.

First of all, as a woman lawyer, I have had to make certain sacrifices in my personal life for my professional life over time, and I was not always sure that my daughter approved of those choices.  Her decision to follow me into the legal profession makes me believe that she understood more than I knew.  Many children reject the professional and career callings of their parents, and I am happy to say that it was the not the case with Elizabeth and me.  However, I know that she will not follow my same career plan and that she will chart her own course.  That is exactly what I want for her.  Hopefully, she reads my books and blogs and knows how to do that!

Beyond that, the graduation was especially unique.  The keynote speaker, the current US Ambassador to Afghanistan gave a fitting address about “going to the guns”, which I took to mean find your calling and engage.   It was a good message and very well-delivered and received.  However, it was not the speech or the emotion or the pomp and circumstance that made this particular graduation special.  It was the venue on that particular day.

The Seton Hall University Law School graduation was held in the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey at 10 AM on the morning of the same day that the New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers would face off to determine which team would advance to the Stanley Cup finals.  Although the Dean of the Law School announced that the graduation was the most important event in the stadium that day, the crowd was not buying it!  After all, this is hockey, and it is a huge regional rivalry.  The importance of the second event of the day—the Big Game—became apparent in short time.  After all, the graduation had been scheduled for months, and the Big Game is a case of chance.  There is no way of predicting that game in advance, but the show must go on!

As the final processional of new graduates exited the stadium, the Zamboni guys were lining up machines and equipment to transform a fitting graduation venue into a hockey stadium.  That’s when something happened that totally made my daughter’s graduation the indelible event it always will be.

You see, Elizabeth is a law clerk for the New Jersey Devils organization, and her office is in the Prudential Center.  She has clerked there for the General Counsel for the last few years, and she is going to continue to work for The Devils next year until her federal court clerkship begins.  As a result, she KNOWS the Zamboni guys.  AND, they know her—just not as a law student and new graduate.  So, when Elizabeth exited in the procession, the Zamboni guys took notice—as only Zamboni guys can.  They were her cheering section, and she loved it.  A chorus of “Liz, Liz, Liz” by the Zamboni guys was heard far and wide.  It is one thing to have the academics heralding your accomplishments, but THE ZAMBONI GUYS!  Now, that is really special.

It was a fitting end to four years of hard work and sacrifice.  Elizabeth graduated with a concentration in Intellectual Property and a specialty in Sports and Entertainment Law, all the time working in the day and going to school at night.  She managed to keep a balance in her life that continued to include family and friends, and she kept the complaining down to a bare minimum.  For that we are grateful and proud.

Good luck to Elizabeth and to all of you recent graduates.  Even without the Zamboni guys, I hope your graduations were completely memorable.

AND, last but not least, you may have heard that the New Jersey Devils prevailed in the Big Game—-in overtime and against the odds.  They are Stanley Cup bound!  (I hope my daughter gets tickets and that she remembers how grateful she is to me for all of my love and support during law school!!!!!!!!!!!  I’m sure that she will………….)

Law Students | 3 Comments

Thought For The Day

Your imagination is your preview of life’s coming attractions.

Albert Einstein

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Are Women Paid Less Than Men? Does That Apply to You?

Are women paid less than men for performing the same job?  Sounds like it should not be the case or that it should have been outlawed long ago, right?

Well, it was and it wasn’t, and there are a lot of terms open to interpretation in the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the more current Fair Pay Act, also known as the Lily Ledbetter Act, signed into law by President Obama in 2009.  In fact, even with those protections, the research reporters at Forbes.com, as quoted in the Post-Standard Syracuse on-line newspaper in April, find that a woman working full time now earns 77 cents for every dollar a man working full time earns.

That figure is even more astounding when combined with a recent Pew Research Center poll that reports that two-thirds of women between the ages of 18 and 34 cited high-paying career among their top life priorites, compared to 59 per cent of young men who had the same aspirations.  In fact, this reversed a similar study done in 1997 and reported in the Post Standard Syracuse.com on-line source, which found that men were more career-driven than women.

One conclusion is that women aspire to high paying jobs more than men, but men are still making 25% more than women for the same work.  So, that may make you wonder whether we are living in a third world country—at least that is what it makes me wonder some times.  But, then, as a lawyer, I understand that the laws are complicated and are replete with opportunities for loopholes.

Take for instance the Equal Pay Act of 1963, discussed above.  That is a United States federal law amending the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, aimed at abolishing wage disparity based on sex. It was signed into law by President John Kennedy, and, in passing the bill, Congress denounced pay-related sex discrimination because it depresses wages and living standards for employees necessary for their health and efficiency, and it prevents the maximum utilization of the available labor resources, among other reasons.  Sounds like exactly what is happening today, doesn’t it—if the Forbes.com figures are correct?

Although I am not an employment lawyer, I can see lots of opportunity to escape application of the Equal Pay law within the context of law firms in just the following words defining the law:


“No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section [section 206 of title 29 of the United States Code] shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs[,] the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions, except where such payment is made pursuant to (i) a seniority system; (ii) a merit system; (iii) a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (iv) a differential based on any other factor other than sex …”

In fact, a 2007 Department of Labor study  cautioned against overzealous application of the law without closer examination of possible reasons for pay discrepancies. This study suggests that men as a group earn higher wages in part because men dominate blue collar jobs, which are more likely to require cash payments for overtime work; in contrast, women comprise over half of the salaried white collar management workforce that is often exempted from overtime laws.

So, there is a lot to chew on here.  For instance, ponder just these few questions:

* Salaries are private at my company so how can I tell if I’m getting equal pay as my male counterpart?

*  Who determines what “substantially equal work” means at my company?

*  Does my compensation fall under one of the exceptions for a seniority system, a merit system or a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production?

This is not an attempt to brief the law or the applicability of the law to any situation.  However, it is important that young women understand that these issues exist. So often, we take for granted things that are really unsettled and that need greater attention.  For instance, women today are seeing their rights eroded in areas of reproductive freedoms that we thought were settled years ago—only to find that they are being threatened again in the 21st Century.

So, heads up.  Watch for news on the Equal Pay issue and be cognizant of where you fit into all of this.  It is complicated, but that does not mean that you should not be paying attention.

 

 

Mr. Obama was surrounded by a group of beaming lawmakers, most but not all of them Democrats, in the East Room of the White House as he affixed his signature to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a law named for an Alabama woman who at the end of a 19-year career as a supervisor in a tire factory complained that she had been paid less than men.

After a Supreme Court ruling against her, Congress approved the legislation that expands workers’ rights to sue in this kind of case, relaxing the statute of limitations.

Prior to that:

 

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Thought For The Day

Kind words are the music of the world.

F. W. Faber

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More on Improving Your Negotiating Skills

How good a negotiator are you?  Do you leave a lot on the table or do you drive a hard bargain?

Negotiating is one of the areas where women are typically described as weak, although there are many exceptions.  I shared information with you last month from Victoria Pynchon of Forbes on-line blog She Negotiates.  Victoria is profiled in my new book, Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today’s Woman Lawyer, that will be released by Wolters Kluwer Law & Business in July.  I know that you will enjoy her story and her sage advice there.

Here are more tips on negotiating to hone your skills that I think are important to add.  This comes from the UK on-line source Womaneer in a December issue several years ago.  I filed it away for just the right moment, and, like so many things I file away, I just discovered it again.  The motivation for the Womaneer article was a 2010 episode of the BBC’s The Apprentice, which tested women’s negotiating skills against men’s.  The women failed miserably, treating the exercise more like a treasure hunt than a serious negotiation.  According to the article, the women did not want to come across as rude or aggressive.  Also, according to the article, the men did not care about those things.  No surprise there.

Here are the “Nine Negotiating Tips for Women” that were offered by the Womaneer contributor, with a little of my commentary thrown in for good measure:

1.  Leave emotions out of it.  Negotiating in the workplace is business. Treat it like business.

2.  Control your nerves.  Breathe deeply, yoga style.

3.  Ignore the whiny voice in your ear—your inner critic.  Just get the job done.

4.   Don’t take it personally.  A rejection in price or terms is not a rejection of YOU and all you stand for.  Again, it is business, and you should treat it like business.

5.  Pretend you are negotiating on behalf of someone else.  This is particularly important in personal negotiations like salary and benefit terms.  Pretend you are asking for something for your beloved grandma.  That should make you go for the jugular.

6.  Act like an adult.  Don’t fall apart when you do not get what you want.  Prepare better for the next negotiation.

7.  Don’t be apologetic.  No way! Be firm and pleasant and confident.

8.  Be assertive, not aggressive.  You know from reading my book that there is a big difference.  Keep your voice matter of fact and do not lapse into belligerence.

8.  Value yourself.  Put a true value on your contribution when you are negotiation for yourself, and be prepared to walk away if you do not get it.  That is the test of true value—anything less is untrue and unacceptable, and you must treat it that way.

9. Be prepared.  This one is my addition to the list.  In all things, be prepared.  That means anticipating your response to both the positive and the negative.  Practice.  It makes perfect.

I can particularly relate to #5 above, Pretend you’re negotiating on behalf of someone else.  This happened to me one day last year.  I was in Brooklyn with my daughter in pursuit of a perfect piece of furniture for her living room that she had found for sale on Craig’s List.  It was priced above her capability to pay, and she wanted my help in closing the deal on terms favorable to her.  The seller was so sweet, and it was clear that she did not want to give up the item at all—at any price.  And, if I had been negotiating just for myself, I am sure that I would have let her apparent emotions affect my drive for the deal.  But, I was negotiating for my daughter, the law student who is very limited in terms of discretionary spending, and who clearly really wanted the item.  So, the best of my negotiating skills went to work, and we left Brooklyn with a lovely piece of furniture and a very happy law student—with the furniture strapped on the back of a truck that we had brought to sweeten the deal!  (After all, the seller’s husband, who was insisting on departing with the item, did not have to cart it down the three flights of stairs or, worse, deliver it.)

Keep this list handy for your next negotiation.  I guarantee that you will see an improvement in your bargaining skills.

For more of the womaneer article, see http://womaneer.wordpress.com/2010/12/04/nine-negotiating tips.

Career Counselors | 1 Comment

Thought For the Day

To have what you’ve never had,
you must be willing to do what you’ve never done.
My motto is “Resist nothing.”

SerenDestineer Mary Loverde

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