Women Lawyers Need to Take a Break

Taking a break and feeding our souls is something that women lawyers need.  We tend to jump in with both feet whenever we are called on to serve at the office or at home or in the community, and we often overextend ourselves.  Taking time to recharge our batteries is particularly important.

All work and no play makes us dull.  Dull to ourselves and dull to others.  The people around us at work are not attracted to us just because we are smart and competent.  They also are attracted to us because we are interesting and understand that there is life beyond the law practice.  That goes for clients, as well.  My favorite clients, who I believe felt the same away about me as their lawyer, were the ones I shared human experiences with over lunch or a glass of wine.  It is that personal connection between you and your colleagues and clients that will help you build the “book of business” that will inform your future success in practice.

So, I am taking my own advice, as I do every year at this time.  August is my summer hiatus, and I devote it to family and friends and self-evaluation.  The blogger in me will be silent, and there is never an August newsletter.  To fill the void, just picture me somewhere on a beach with a good book and enjoying the sunset. That is instructive in and of itself!

This year, my August hiatus will include a trip with my daughter, who will have finished her federal court clerkship and be headed to private law practice, and a trip with my husband to celebrate my mother’s 99th birthday and catch up with other relatives.  Yes, my mother is amazing!  In fact, the two Smith-Blakely women in my life are all that I ever could have dreamed.  I am, indeed, a lucky woman.

Have a wonderful end of summer. Breathe easy and feed your soul.  Make a commitment to the balance in your life.  Create intoxicating memories to get you through the hard work that is ahead of you.  Be authentic, know what you need, and go for it!

Adieu.  Until we meet again on the Best Friends at the Bar blog!

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Thought For The Day

Sincere compliments cost nothing and can accomplish much. In any relationship, they are the applause that refreshes.

Steve Goodier

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Thought For The Day

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

Howard Thurman

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Lessons from the 2014 NAWL Conference

Last week I was in NYC attending the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) Annual Conference.  I always look forward to this event, but this year’s program was particular meaningful to me.  The conference theme of “Leading with Confidence and Courage” is one that is very close to my heart, and, in fact, my new book will address that theme as well.  I am happy to say that I sent the manuscript for that new Best Friends at the Bar book to my publisher weeks ago, so it is on its journey to help all of you achieve leadership in the law profession and also help you know what to expect from the leadership at your firms and other employers.

There were some very informative breakout sessions at the NAWL Conference this year and inspiring speeches by the award recipients during the lunch program.  One of those recipients, Anita Hill, who became famous when she accused US Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during the Senate confirmation hearings in 1991, held the crowd spellbound and received a standing ovation.  Her remarks and the plenary session where she served as a panelist were particularly valuable and thought-provoking.

I hope that some of you had an opportunity to attend the conference.  If you missed it, here are some lessons you would have learned:

  • There is a tenuous connection between being confident and being right.  People who say they are 100% confident are wrong 20% of the time;
  • Speaking up is often hard for women.  Practice is the key.  The more you do it, the easier it gets.  Always remember to be succinct and put a period at the end of your contribution;
  • Women lawyers must learn to self promote.  It is who you know “who knows what you know” that will make the difference in your career rise;
  • Confident women are not always well-received.  Learn to pick your battles.  It is a judgment call when to make a public statement calling out someone’s behavior or when you confine that to a private conversation.  Use good judgment and make sure it is worth it if you choose the public setting; and
  • Use humor to your best advantage.  It is a great ice breaker.

I hope that you will put the lessons of the NAWL Conference to good use.  I know I will!



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Thought For The Day

The most important relationship in life is the one you have with yourself — everything else is a plus.

Diane von Furstenberg

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Thought For The Day

We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.

Charles Swindoll

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Good News on the Lawyer Job Market Front

I am not in the habit of repeating myself.  However, when something is as critically important as this, I take some latitude.

Recently, I reported to you what was good news and still is.  The subject was an improving job market for graduate lawyers.  The Slate article, which I shared with you on Facebook, was based on thorough research and well-reasoned conclusions that by the year 2016 the supply of graduating law students will be reduced to meet the demands of the market.  It got my attention because the author took on some industry doubters in a quite effective way.

That article is very much worth reading if you are a law student, who is questioning your decision to go to law school based on the job market, or if you are a prospective law student looking for advice.  However, it does not give much solace to law graduates, who will be several years out of law school by 2016, and still without jobs.  That is another issue.

Now comes a popular law blog, which concludes basically the same thing.  I watch trends, and this is beginning to look to me like a trend.  This second article comes from Above the Law, one of the industry doubters mentioned above, and cites to the Slate article.  Hmm …. not so Above-the-Law-ish to switch sides, and very significant for that reason alone.

As you will see from these articles, the number of students taking the LSAT is down considerably, and the number of students in law schools today is at a 30-year low.  As a result, supply is about to meet demand, or so the argument goes.

Don’t get me wrong.  This information is only important if you really want to go to law school and incur the student loan debt that most law students must to get the degree.  If you are wishy-washy about being a lawyer, don’t bother.  It is too much work and too expensive.

However, do not fall victim to “throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” a phrase you are sure to hear repeatedly as a law student.  In other words, don’t overreact and get rid of all possibilities that do not include actually practicing law.  If you know the non-traditional path you want to take with a law degree, go for it.  Your commitment is just as important as the person with a passion to be the next Perry Mason — or David Boies for those of you who do not have a clue who Perry Mason was.

We are not used to good news, so let’s make the most of it.  I hope it pans out — for all of you.




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Thought For The Day

Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.

Joseph Addison

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