Thought For The Day

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”


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Thought For The Day

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

Sir Winston Churchill

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Earth Day and What It Means for Women Lawyers

Happy Earth Day!

I hope that you all are wearing green and digging in your own or someone else’s garden today —- at 6 AM before your professional responsibilities begin!  But, if you are in California, remember that you can dig, but you cannot water — at least not very much. Beware of the vigilantes who are reporting violations of the drought-related water restrictions in the Golden State.  “Drought shaming” is a little like tattle taling for a good cause.  Ugh!  Your name could turn up just about anywhere these days.

When I think of Earth Day, I think beyond my garden and tilling my little piece of the earth.  Yes, I love all of that, and I have more gardens than anyone needs or wants to maintain.  Gardening is another one of my passions, along with helping young women lawyers, and I appreciate what the earth can produce in such lovely abundance.

Beyond that, however, I think of the need for women lawyers to be “down to earth.”  We have heard that phrase all of our lives, but what does it really mean?  To me it means being genuine.  Remaining connected to your roots and embracing who and what you are.  It is being authentic.  The opposite is being disingenuous …. being fake …. trying to be someone you are not.  Going down that road is a slippery slope.

Being down to earth is especially important when you are networking with colleagues and working to develop clients.  One of your most valuable tools in those venues is the power of YOU.  It is being yourself, letting your genuine enthusiasm and likability shine through.  It is engaging people with the attitude that it is all about them and how you can help them.  It includes a warm and friendly handshake, eye contact that does not give way to the over-the-shoulder glance to see if you are missing a greater opportunity somewhere else in the room, and follow-up that tells the potential client or professional contact that you have enjoyed their company and your conversation with them.

There is a lot of conceit, hubris and false self-confidence in our profession.  Those are not the people you want to channel.  I know you know who they are, and I also know that you can do better.  It all starts with being confident and assured about who you are.

So, do better.  On this Earth Day, practice being down to earth. Watch for good role models to help you develop your own genuine professional style.  Practice your networking with your new “earthy” style, and continue these efforts well beyond Earth Day.

Good luck!  I think you will find that the earthy approach suits you well.


Career Counselors, Law Firm Managers, Law Students, Practice Advice, Pre-law, Young Lawyer | 1 Comment

Thought For The Day

“Find joy in everything you choose to do. Every job, relationship, home… it’s your responsibility to love it, or change it.”

Chuck Palahniuk

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Law Firm Biases Against Women Lawyers Still a Problem

Law 360 has confirmed that the hiring stats for women lawyers have not improved since they were measured at this time last year, and the cause seems to be clear:  Unconscious bias against women in law, according to industry leaders from in-house counsel to BigLaw leaders.  Of course, this comes as no surprise to me, based on my own research, and it is a subject that I address in my new book, Best Friends at the Bar:  Top-Down Leadership for Women Lawyers,  to be released in the summer of 2015.

The Law 360 article quotes one BigLaw chairman as saying, “The best way for firms to address this is to be aware of it.  Because it is unconscious bias, we effect change when we discuss it and make people aware of it.”  Makes sense to me, but getting the conversation going and having the male leadership of law firms listen and admit to biased attitudes will take more than a nice quote.

The data, however, is clear, and law firms need to take action.  Law 360′s 2015 Glass Ceiling Report provides survey results from 308 firms and displays a bleak picture for women in law.  The percentages of total attorneys who are female and the percentages of law firm partners who are female are both up only slightly from last year’s report.  Although law school graduating classes are approximately 50 percent female today, the report projects that it will be 2072 before women make up 50 percent of U.S. law firm partners.

That is a shocking revelation.  Law firm leaders have been making assumptions about the future of individual women lawyers based on general preconceived notions since the profession first included women more than 4o years ago, and those assumptions have come to be self-fulfilling prophecies.  If a young women is told that she is not a good law firm investment because she most likely will leave to have a baby, she then is most likely to leave and have a baby.  If no one at the office has confidence in her professional future, how can we expect her to?  Add disparate mentoring and networking opportunities for women versus men to those unfortunate assumptions, throw in a little bias in the performance review process, and you have the makings of unconscious bias that can affect a woman lawyer’s career for years into her future — if she can salvage a career at all.

Admitting unconscious bias is not shameful.  We all have unconscious biases of one kind or another.  The shame is not doing something about it.  It cannot be assumed that all women lawyers want to avoid long hours and frequent travel.  Some do, and some don’t.  Even for women who become mothers, it is a lifestyle choice.  We should not be doing the thinking and choosing for them with our own preconceived notions.  We need to treat them like individuals and have conversations with them about how to best manage their careers and their professional aspirations.

Metrics and using those metrics to change outcomes is the key.  One law firm, Reed Smith, is doing just that, and you will read about the PipelineRS program in my new book.  There has been a significant increase in the percentage of new partners who are women at Reed Smith based on this methodology and followup training, and the program is a model for other firms to follow.

Who benefits from this exercise in rooting out unconscious bias?  Everyone benefits.  The women benefit from fair workplace practices, and the law firms benefit from retaining talent and demonstrating the diversity that in-house law departments are demanding more and more from outside counsel.  And the profession benefits from best practices grounded in retaining dedicated and talented lawyers.

It is a win-win.  So let’s just do it!

Do you suffer from unconscious bias?  Take the test and find out:

Career Counselors, Law Firm Managers, Law School Educators, Law Students, Practice Advice, Pre-law, Young Lawyer | Comment

Thought For The Day

“My coach said I ran like a girl.  I said if he could run a little faster he could too.”

Mia Hamm

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Thought For The Day

“We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community…Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”

Cesar Chavez

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Boosting Diversity Through Quotas —-Is This a Good Idea for Women Lawyers?

I have written on this subject before, and I return to it because I am hearing more and more chatter about it lately.  Much of the conversation is about advancing women to corporate boards.  In the last few years, countries all over the globe have passed laws mandating quotas for female participation on corporate boards.  Norway led the pack, imposing a quota of 40%, followed by France, Ireland and Spain.  The Netherlands and Malaysia chose quotas of 30%, and Australia, Britain and Sweden are seriously considering quotas and threatening legislation unless companies voluntarily comply with increasing the number of corporate board seats for women.

Although the trend started with businesses, it also is an issue in law firms.  However, I am not a fan of quotas for advancement of women in law firms, and nothing I have read has changed my mind from the time that I first addressed the subject in 2012.  Here’s what I said then and what I continue to believe:

It seems to me that women lawyers want to get where they need to go by being qualified and being recognized for their merit.  History shows us that quotas cause more resentment than respect, and such a result would be regrettable.  It does not matter how high you rise if you are not taken seriously when you get there. 

I think imposing quotas for the advancement of women, especially in the law profession, is a slippery slope, and I pay close attention to comments suggesting that advancing women to partnership and management positions in law firms before they are experienced enough for the responsibilities of those positions will lead to perceptions that the women are mere “window dressing in rooms full of experienced and powerful men” and the suggestion that advancing women in this shortcut manner will not result in a long term solution.

I also fear that quotas will carry the implication that women lawyers cannot succeed on their own.  We can, and we will.  However, that does not mean that we do not need help, but I am not convinced that quotas is the help we need.  It seems that some others agree.

A recent Lawyers Weekly article reported on the situation in Australia where a majority of managing partners believe the best way to increase the number of women in leadership roles is to focus on retaining female lawyers, not through imposition of quotas.  In the underlying survey, 34 managing partners at major Australian firms were asked how firms could achieve a higher percentage of women in partner roles.

Seventy percent of responding law firm managing partners suggested the best option for firms was to “ensure policies below partner level retain the best female talent.”  Only 6.7 percent of those responding favored quotas, 10 percent were in favor of unconscious bias training for law firm partners, and a little over 13 percent suggested aspirational targets rather than strict quotas.

The majority of respondents emphasized the need to engage with female partners and associates to develop programs and support structures that address the issues that cause female lawyers to either leave firms prior to promotion to partnership or block the conventional pathways to partnership.  Another focus among the respondents was on reintegration of women after maternity leave as an important consideration in significantly changing the percentage of female partners.

What do you think?  Are quotas the answer to advancing women in the profession of law?  Let me hear from you.






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