The “New Law’ Models Present Great Possibilities for Women Lawyers

I am excited about the “new law” models and what they may mean to many of you.  By new law I mean law practices without walls — virtual, if you will — that present new possibilities for  experienced lawyers who cannot or do not choose to commit to full-time traditional practices but want to stretch their lawyer brains and continue in the profession.   These models advertise high quality legal services at cost effective rates made possible by lowering overhead costs, eliminating traditional salary structures, forgoing benefits that many attorneys do not need, and offering creative fee arrangements that clients are demanding and flexibility for the lawyers.  They market their services as free from the  pyramids and competitive environments that plague traditional law firms and consider themselves the law firm models of the future.

These new models, that are represented by groups like NewLAWu.s., Potomac Law Group, Axiom, Fisherbroyles VLP Law LLP  and Rimon in the US and Keystone in the UK, are examples of innovative thinking by founders who see real flaws in the traditional system of delivery of legal services. Check out their websites and try them on for size.

My attention to these new models has been piqued lately.  Last week, I attended a presentation by NewLAWu.s. at Columbia University Law in NYC, and, later that evening, I facilitated a discussion about the future of law practice at a dinner hosted by NewLAWu.s.  I found the new law concepts both interesting and challenging.  The flexibility and lower billable hour rates appeal to me, but I am a bit concerned about how the work comes in.  What happens if the “key man,” who has founded the group and represents the rainmaker, gets hit by a bus?  Really, think about it.  It seems to me that the challenge for developing work never changes.  Even in the new law concept.  The firm must be diversified enough to have a variety of rainmakers or there will be a serious drought.  I also know that working virtually does not work for everyone.  Even though these new models stress the team approach, I believe that remains to be seen.

I had the rare opportunity to sit down and discuss several of these models early on when they were being developed.  The founders recognized what they thought was a good fit for the goals of the Best Friends at the Bar program, and they sought out my reactions to their new models.  As a result, I have been in the cat bird’s seat to see some of the models develop.  So far, I am encouraged by what I see. 

So, put on your innovator’s hat and keep an open mind.  Be prepared to adjust your thinking and be open to new possibilities.  Also keep your critical-thinking hat handy.  There are still a lot of wrinkles that need to be worked out of the new models.  But they are worthy of your consideration and present new possibilities about what it means to be “successful” as a lawyer.  The Personal Definitions of Success that I stress in the Best Friends at the Bar program are very important to that discussion.

Two of the new law models, NewLAWu.s. and Potomac Law Group are sponsors for my Book Launch Event later this month.  They join a group of impressive traditional law firm sponsors in their enthusiasm for Best Friends at the Bar.  Proof positive that there is more than enough room for everyone!


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Thought For The Day

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.”


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Thought For The Day

“Your truest friends are the ones who will stand by you in your darkest moments-because they’re willing to brave the shadows with you-and in your greatest moments-because they’re not afraid to let you shine.”

Nicole Yatsonsky

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Women Lawyers Should Not Be Too Busy for Friendships

Time is the enemy.  How many “times” have I heard that — or written it.  It is true.  In a business like law, especially private practice where most of you bill by the hour, time is indeed important and controlling.  The more you bill, the more valuable you are to the law firm — or so the theory goes.  There are many other characteristics and skills that should make you valuable to a law firm, but don’t try to advance them over the value of your time.  It is a losing battle.

So, the tendency is for you to work, work, work and avoid the sweet little pleasures that life has to offer.  Like friends.  You think you can do it later, or you can’t justify the time for that cup of coffee, glass of wine or walk in the park with a friend.

However, friendships can be fleeting, and you have to tend them.  You do not want to learn the hard way and become the star performer at the office with no one special in your personal life.

I have been thinking about this a lot since I returned from my college reunion in late September.  The graduating classes of the 60’s from my sorority gathered on the shores of Lake Mendota at the University of Wisconsin to renew old friendships, make new ones and trip down Memory Lane.  Yes, I said ’60’s and please do not do the math!

Almost 60 women gathered there.  What I found was that the friends I gravitated to when I was a college student were not necessarily the ones I gravitate to now.  Lives change.  Experiences and interests change.  What mattered about friendships then may not be the same things that matter as much now.  And, that is the gift that keeps on giving.  I am now rich in friendships from the past and also rich in new friendships.  They all matter, and the combination adds layers to my life that I love and cherish.

I came home from four days of back-to-back events to a desk full of To Do lists and hundreds of unanswered e-mails.  But, it was worth it.  I returned with wonderful memories, old friendships that still fit like gloves and new friendships with interesting possibilities.  For me, it was well worth the trip and the time. 

I hope it works out that way for you.  You won’t know until you try it!

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Thought For The Day

“Find life experiences and swallow them whole. Travel. Meet many people. Go down some dead ends and explore dark alleys. Try everything. Exhaust yourself in the glorious pursuit of life.”

Lawrence K. Fish

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Did Anne-Marie Slaughter Finally Get it Right?

I try not to be picky.  Really I do.  But, I have to pick a little today.

I read the Washington Post Book World article in last Sunday’s edition, and I started to feel the urge to pick.  The article, “Is ‘having it all’ as simple as getting men to demand it, too?” caused that reaction.  The article, written by Jill Abramson, former editor of the NY Times and current teacher at Harvard, addressed a new book by Anne-Marie Slaughter.  You will remember Anne-Marie Slaughter because of her essay in the Atlantic in 2012 telling young women that they could not have it all.  She was a professor at Princeton and a mother to at least one teenage boy (in New Jersey) at the time that she was trying to be a high-level State Department official (in DC), and she found that difficult.  Yes, who would not?

Now comes her new book, Unfinished Business, where, among other things, she makes the clarion call for valuing care and care-giving and the positive effect this will have in retaining and advancing women in the workplace and improving the care of their families.  She also invokes the call to men to join the conversation and demand change as well, and she views this as critical to getting positive attention to the subject.

So far, so good.  I certainly have no quarrel with that.  Where I start to fall away from the cheering crowds is when she uses the new book as an opportunity to apologize for her prior misconceptions, as reflected in the Atlantic essay.  She is sorry about her “naive” expectation about having it all and, it seems, her strident disappointment and highly personal approach to a subject that affects women at all class and education levels, and she seems to be trying to distance herself from the entitled person she appeared to be in 2012.  At the same time, however, she appears to blame the magazine for a title and cover art (of a toddler “crammed” into a briefcase) that was designed to sell magazines.   As if she did not benefit from the frenzy that the sensationalist art and provocative title created.  Me thinks that the author and the publisher were hand-in-glove on that one.

I am trying to remember that everyone deserves a second chance, and Ms. Slaughter is taking hers. She is trying to set the record straight and address important issues of work-life balance and discrimination against care and care-giving, and for that I applaud her.  As Jill Abramson writes, ” [Slaughter] is right that there is something fundamentally wrong with a society that values managing money so much more than raising children well.”

However, as a coach and motivational writer and speaker on behalf of women lawyers, I am a bit put off by the fact that, for three long years, Ms. Slaughter’s message that you cannot have it all has been affecting women in ways that has caused them to reject and leave the legal profession.  Those stakes are high.  Let’s get it right the first time. Let’s remember what our responsibility is and that our audiences are young and impressionable.  A Princeton professor is likely to get their attention.

As I have so often written, you can have some of it all of the time and all of it some of the time, but it is the rare woman lawyer who can have all of it all of the time.  That does not mean, however, that you cannot have it all.  It simply means that you cannot have it all ALL of the time.  Not many people can, men and women alike.  It also does not mean that you should give up and stop trying to make the best of your professional life.  It does not mean that you cannot find ways to improve the illusive “balance” and find a work-life mix that fits your needs and the needs of your family.  Because you can, and I witness many women lawyers doing that every day.  The “all” in “having it all” is personal, and having a personal definition of success is the fuel that drives feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction in both our personal and professional lives.

That is what I will continue to write about and speak about.  It needs to be said in a responsible manner.  Maybe that is what we finally are getting from Anne-Marie Slaughter with Unfinished Business.  I hope so.



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A Great Event for Women Lawyers

Last night I attended a great event for women lawyers at Polsinelli.  My husband and daughter both are members of the firm, and I am so proud that they were a part of this.  Well, sort of.  My daughter attended, and my husband supported.  No men allowed!

We were gathered for an intimate and candid discussion with Senator Claire McCaskill and to hear her views on women surviving and thriving as lawyers and lawmakers, as discussed in her recently released memoir, Plenty Ladylike.  She is awesome, and I wish all of you could have heard her.

Here are a couple of my favorite pearls of wisdom from this accomplished woman who was a prosecutor before she entered politics.

  • Success is not what you own.  It is doing what you love to do.
  • When harassed by her male colleagues, who had formed a group to take her down, she replied that, unlike them, being a state legislator was not the best job she ever would have.  And she was right!
  • The love of your family and friends is the best fuel for your success.  You cannot be happy at your job unless you are happy at home.

Senator McCaskill rocks as a motivational speaker.  There was so much valuable advice and perspective dispensed by Senator McCaskill in a short time, and her embracing approach, laced with a powerful sense of humor, left us yearning for more.  Every guest I spoke with was setting out to read the book.  That’s where you will get the whole story, and I enthusiastically recommend that you find a copy, curl up with it, and prepare to be amazed and awed.

Like anyone who attains greatness, Claire McCaskill’s was not an easy road.  But, she always kept her eye on the prize, and she has become an example of the value of perseverance and service beyond ourselves.  Like her role models, Margaret Thatcher (for the quality of her person and not her politics), Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Claire McCaskill is living large as a role model for all of us.

You do not have to embrace the Senator’s politics to appreciate her words.  So, get the book, read about a life well lived, and take whatever tidbits resonate with you and apply them to your own careers and lives.  It will be time well spent!

Thank you, Polsinelli, for your hospitality and purpose in presenting this opportunity to women lawyers.  It is a clear sign that you value women lawyers, and, for that, we value you!


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Thought For The Day

“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

Albert Einstein

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