Thought For The Day

Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you can’t get it wrong.


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Young Women Lawyers: Tweet With Caution!

In the past few years, we have seen that Tweets can get you in trouble.  For example, according to an article in the Washington Post  titled, “The tweet can set you free — from your job,” several women journalists have sacrificed good jobs after imprudent Tweets.  CNN correspondent Diana Magnay of CNN found herself reassigned to Moscow after her Tweet was found unacceptable by her employer, and, in 2010, Octavia Nasr was dismissed from her job as a correspondent at CNN under similar circumstances.   There also was a news story earlier this year about a young woman, who made ill-chosen and stereotypical remarks about the people of a nation she was flying to at the time.  The Tweet went viral, and she was fired before the plane landed.

Tweets are not the same as conversations with trusted friends.  Tweets turn up in all kinds of unintended places, and you have no control over them once they are gone.  Beware.

I know that you all love Tweets.  I love them, too, when it comes to promoting Best Friends at the Bar.  Social media rocks, and there is no other way to reach as many people without much effort.  However, unburdening yourself of  your troubles and your inner thoughts in cyberspace seems to be a little risky.  Be careful what you say and who you say it about.

I wish this was the end of the story, but Tweets are not the only problem.  How about e-mails?  Remember the BIG LAW firm that got into trouble when an associate e-mailed about “churning work” — words that were interpreted to mean charging excess hours to a client.  That associate was looking for a new job much earlier than anticipated.  Beware.

Tweeting is a very limited way of communicating.  140 characters is all you need, right?  Not so fast.  Somethings cannot be adequately addressed in 140 characters because they are nuanced and need further explanation.  Those are the ones you should stay away from.  If anything you write can be interpreted in conflicting ways or if you are writing about a subject you should avoid, resist the temptation.  Pick up the telephone and deliver that message to someone who you know cares and who you can trust.

Employers understand the problem, and many of them are issuing lengthy “principle papers” on Tweeting, ReTweeting, etc.  Here are some examples:

  • Be mindful of the impact that publicly expressed opinions can have on your employers; and
  •   Always treat Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms as public activities. … Civility applies whether an exchange takes place in person, by telephone, by letter or online.

Excellent food for thought.  Beware.

You know I am going to Tweet this.  It is for your own good!

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

Thought For The Day

Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Do not bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.

William Faulkner

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Women Lawyers Need to Take Responsibility for Their Careers

When I speak to the Erie County (PA) Bar Association conference later this month, I will stress the important role that young women lawyers must take in shaping their careers.  It is a theme that I talk about in both of my books and in my speeches at law schools, law firms, and law organizations throughout the country.  It also is the only way to safeguard careers for lawyers with competing roles as caretakers and lawyers.

I attend a lot of conferences for women lawyers, and I read a lot of media focusing on the challenges that women lawyers face.  I feel your pain.  I remember those days myself when I did not feel like a good enough mother or a good enough lawyer.  It is a constantly disappointing feeling, and it is one of the reasons I founded Best Friends at the Bar.  I had felt alone in those challenging years, and I wanted to use the power of numbers to help each of you make the most out of your careers.

I also knew that all the talk in the world about what is “fair” and what “ought to be” is not going to change the fate for many of you.  Conference after conference after conference I listen to all of the ills repeated one more time, and I know that is not going to take women lawyers as a group where they need to go.  The only way to do that is to “heal thyself.”

The healing starts when you take charge.  That is a message that I wish I could convey to every young woman lawyer to give her the tools she needs to craft a satisfying future in the law.  There is no one way to do that, but it all starts with a realistic view of unique personal circumstances and what you can reasonably expect of yourself.

So, when I read articles and blogs like this one, where young women lawyers lay out a litany of complaints about the challenges of the profession and the unfair treatment by mostly male supervisors, I am a bit frustrated.  It is not that I do not believe them or that I do not understand them.  Because I do.  I also sympathize with them, and I find many of the comments to that particular article insightful and valuable.  But, I know that the young women, who spend most of their time focusing on the grievances, are betting on a horse that will not win, place or show.  The only sure bet for them is themselves.

To them, I say the following.  Yes, it may be impossible for you to have a family and stay on partnership track.  Yes, an in-house counsel position may work when you have just one child but prove to be impossible when the second child comes along.  Yes, you may want to take a real hands-on approach to raising  your children.  All of those things may be true, but railing against the machine is not going to get you where you want to go.

Instead, you will have to accept some of what disappoints you and take the long view of your career.  Life is not perfect.  You will have to look for alternatives to the positions that do not work for you, and you may need to delegate some of the childcare to people you view as less capable than yourself.  You also may have to consider some of the career options addressed in Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today’s Woman Lawyer, where I profile twelve women lawyers, who left law firm practice to improve their personal work-life balances.  In other words, if you want to stay in the profession, you may have to become creative.

You may have to think about forming a women-owned law firm, one of the options addressed in the book.  Your problems will be shared problems in that setting, and it may be a better place for you.  You may want to try your hand at academia or public service.  You may want to find a not-for-profit that interests you and is not held hostage to the billable hour.  You may want to try a solo practice.

To do any of that, you will have to take the long view of your career.  Nothing is forever.  You do what you have to do to muddle through until you have more freedom of choice.  Those children, who you love so much that you want to do everything for them —whether you have the time or not, will grow up much sooner than you think.  When they leave the nest to soar, it also will be your turn to leave the nest and soar to positions that were not possible for you during your children’s formative years.  But most of you will not be able to do that if you have left your profession during the intervening years.

Think about it.  Turn your disappointment into something creative and satisfying.  Applaud your choices and your Personal Definitions of Success.  Leave the rehashing of old wrongs to others.  You have better things to do.

Do not think, however, that I believe that the responsibility is yours and yours alone. I also know that the leaders in the workplace can do better and must do better.  That is the subject of my third book.  Stay tuned!


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

Thought For The Day

Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.

Jalal ad-Din Rumi

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Thought For The Day

Instead of thinking about where you are, think about where you want to be. It takes twenty years of hard work to become an overnight success.

Diana Rankin

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Be a Kinder Woman Lawyer

If you have heard me speak or read my books, you know that I am fond of repeating this quote from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright:  “There is a place reserved in Hell for women who do not help other women.”  I include it in most of my Power Point presentations because it is such a powerful, brave and thought-provoking statement.  Having met Ms. Albright recently and discussed the quote with her, it is all the more important and meaningful to me.

However, the needs between women go beyond just help.  There also is a need for women to be kinder to each other. Now you are yawning because you want me to tell you something you don’t already know.  Yes, we know that women can be competitive and very judgmental about each other in many social and personal settings.  Who among us has not experienced that — or, worse, been the perpetrator?  But, do we fully realize how destructive lack of kindness can be in a professional setting where we all are striving hard to succeed against some pretty significant odds?

The need for kindness among women was recognized recently when the first female Attorney General for Australia, Nicola Roxon, who served in that role between 2011 and 2013, delivered the keynote address at the Australian Legal Practice Management (ALPMA) Conference.  Her message was that professional females need to be less critical of other women.

Wisdom from the Aussies once again.  I often share articles about the Australian Bar with you for a reason.  They seem to make so much sense, and so do the recent observations of former Attorney General Roxon.  She believes that women can be the harshest critics of their fellow women and that it is not only destructive but interferes with the success of women globally.  She particularly does not like women imposing their own values and judgment on other women.  In her words,  “Stop being harder on women around you if they don’t make the same choices that you or your family make.” She goes on to say that it erodes morale and causes damage.

She also is in full agreement that there is no perfect work-life balance, and, after raising a daughter while practicing law, she knows a little about this.  She believes that it is a show of kindness not to judge the choices and the balance that works for others.  In that respect, she seems to be very much in agreement with the theme of Personal Definitions of Success that is at the foundation of the Best Friends at the Bar program.  I am pleased to be in such good company.

Ms. Roxon also had some interesting observations about the necessity for leaders to praise exemplary performance and the ability of women to accept praise.  Although it is true that women seem to want praise, how good are we at accepting it and making it work to our advantage?

For more, check out the article in Lawyers Weekly.




Career Counselors, Law Students, Lifestyle, Practice Advice, Young Lawyer | Comment

Thought For The Day

Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.

Malcolm Gladwell

Thought For The Day | Comment