“You can’t change how people treat you or what they say about you. All you can do is change how you react to it.”
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
Happy Independence Day! Yes, it is about small town parades, fireworks and sparklers, burgers on the grill, mountains of ice cream, and being together with family and friends. It only comes once a year, so knock yourself out! But, during the festivities, do not forget about the “independence” part.
I am not just talking about the Declaration of Independence or what it has meant to the evolution of this country where we all enjoy freedoms and independence unparalleled in the world. That is the focus, but it goes much further than that. It is about national independence and also about individual independence. After all, Thomas Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers were fiercely independent men — or there would not be any United States of America today.
As you know, there were no Founding Mothers. Too early for that, although history has it that George Washington’s mom was a force. But, still, not recognized as having “founding” value. Today, women have the opportunity to rise as high as men, but the road is rocky and it takes strength and independence to achieve those heights.
So, what does it mean to be an independent woman? Last week, when our President chose to disparage yet another woman, Mika Brzezinski responded by saying that President Trump’s words did not defeat her because she was raised to be a strong woman — one, apparently, with thick skin and who knows exactly who she is and who she is not.
That is what all women need to be because we will be challenged again and again throughout our lives and careers. Women have to prove and reprove their worth at every turn. Achievement for women is a transient state of being. It has to be done and redone. There is no value in complacency.
How do you become strong and independent? Many sage and eloquent writers have contemplated that question. Today I borrow from the commencement address at Cardigan Mountain School for boys in New Hampshire, as delivered by Chief Justice John Roberts earlier this week. My son-in-law attended Cardigan Mountain School, and I know it to be a fine place to develop strong and independent young men. However, Justice Roberts’ words are equally as instructive in developing strong and independent women. Here is part of what he said:
Success comes to those who are unafraid to fail. And if you did fail, you got up and tried again. And if you failed again, you got up and tried again. And if you failed again — it might be time to think about doing something else.
From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly so that you will come to learn the value of justice.
Betrayal will teach you the importance of loyalty. Loneliness will instruct people not to take friends for granted. Pain will cause someone to learn compassion.
I wish you bad luck — again, from time to time — so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life. And understand that your success is not completely deserved, and that the failure of others is not completely deserved, either.
Hear, hear. Success is most often derived from being strong and independent. Heed the words of the Chief Justice, and become strong and independent by failing. Become strong and independent by being treated unfairly. Become strong and independent by being betrayed, by being lonely, and become strong and independent by having just the right amount of bad luck.
Through all of your challenges — and because of them —you young women lawyers are on the way to becoming wildly successful. Embrace the challenge. If you fail, just pick yourself up and keep on going. It is not failure that defines you but how you respond to failure.
Booker T. Washington
“Experience shows that success is due less to ability than to zeal.”
Here is some very good news for women lawyers with family responsibilities. In her article for Above The Law, Staci Zaretsky describes a new program for women litigators who no longer can make traditional law firm practice work because of childcare responsibilities and other aspects of family life. She outlines a “hot new trend” of lawyers leaving law firms to join what she describes as a growing field of litigation finance and highlights the efforts of Fulbrook Capital Management in developing a program to fit the needs of women lawyers.
Known as “Virtual Women in Law,” the program is Fulbrook’s response to the recent loss of talent from women leaving law practice because of work-life conflicts. This program takes advantage of all the latest digital technologies and will allow women lawyers to work from home — or whatever location they choose — with flexible hours. Check it out here.
The founder of Fulbrook Capital Management and a former Latham & Watkins partner describes the Virtual Women in Law program as “designed to create an alternative distinguished career path for women lawyers, while tapping into an extraordinary pool of talent that otherwise might be unused, wasted, or spent on less than optimal terms.”
Hat’s off to Fulbrook Capital Management in these efforts. Of course, there are other firms that specialize in litigation financing, and, if you are interested in this field of work, you should check out a variety of options for your future. This post is in no way an attempt to endorse the Fulbrook program over other similar programs. You must do your homework.
And, as always, it is the hope that more traditional law firms will follow the example of Morgan Lewis, Baker McKenzie and others that have recently embraced telecommuting as an option for their lawyers and one that has proven to have no negative effects on productivity.
All of this is a step in the right direction toward keeping women lawyers in the workplace — if that is where they want to be.