It Is NOT OK For Women Lawyers to Cry at Work

If you have followed my writing for the last ten years, it will not surprise you that I do not advise crying at work — unless it is behind closed doors and the telltale hints of crying are erased before you re-enter the office common space.  Or unless you are facing some devastating personal loss.

So, when I saw the articleIt’s Okay To Cry At Work” on Above the Law recently, I had a visceral reaction.  Visceral because I am trying to help you become the most competitive and highly competent and regarded professionals possible — and crying at work is not the way to reach those goals.

The question of whether you should cry is different from whether you have a right to cry.  Your “right to cry” is firmly established.  You have a right to cry because there is a lot that women lawyers have to cry about.  They are outnumbered by men in a profession that is also hugely male dominated.  Only 20% of the partners in law firms today are women and that leaves a lot of management and leadership that does not understand the challenges to women lawyers and/or does not care about them.  Women lawyers with children and family responsibilities are pulled in so many different directions that they are sure their limbs will become detached at any moment.  And there is still far too much gender discrimination and implicit bias running rampant in the profession that it stretches the causes for optimism, even on a good day.

Yes, there is a lot to cry about. But, don’t do it.  It makes you look weak — as recognized by Kathryn Rubino, the author of the ATL article.  Why would you want to look weak in a shark tank?  That just does not make any sense.  The fact that women have traditionally been the criers does not change that result either or establish the wisdom of weeping openly in the workplace.  In fact, in a profession as challenging as the law, where criticism comes from all directions, including the client, the senior counsel, the opposing counsel, the managing partner, and the judge, why on earth would you want to look weak???

Apparently the men have figured this out.  I have been a lawyer for almost 40 years, and I have yet to see a male lawyer cry in the workplace over stresses related to the job.  Yes, I have seen tears in male eyes on 9-11 and at the images of Sandy Hook Elementary, and I would expect that.  But, I do not expect it for the reasons suggested by the ATL article.

And I am not interested in the health benefits of crying in this context.  Although I generally am interested in women lawyers paying attention to their psychological and physical health, this is not one of those times.  You will find yourself in a much more “healthy” state if you safeguard your professional future.  Job security trumps endorfins every time.  Trust me.

Your job always should be to keep communications open, and crying will shut down a conversation in a nanosecond, especially if the person on the other end of the conversation is a man.  Men do not feel comfortable seeing women cry, and they will do everything possible to wiggle out of the discussion.  So will a lot of women.  The reason for that is that shows of emotion like crying are personal and — as a rule — do not belong in communal settings.  Sure there are exceptions, but do not strain your brain looking for them and trying them out.  There is a law of diminishing returns associated with academic exercises like that.

You are a professional, and you are expected to act professionally.  I have a rule of thumb that is appropriate here:  If you would not exhibit certain behavior in the courtroom before the judge or jury, don’t do it in the workplace.  It is an easy rule to apply.

 

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A Good Message for the New Year

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“I succeeded in a man’s world.  I am not afraid to be a woman.”  How about that for the start to a new year where the sky is the limit for us as women?

That is the message that appeared in a photo ad that I did recently for my all-time favorite jeweler.  I. Gorman Jewelers of Washington, DC and the Gorman family have been a part of my life for a long time.  They deal only with cutting edge jewelry designers and artisans from around the world, and their inventory is breathtaking.  I have spent many hours gazing at those jewel-filled cases and wishing I could have it all — or at least one from each case!

But, I was not prepared for the call I got last summer asking me to participate as a model in their new ad campaign.  In a genius manner, they had decided to use several of their own clients, not professional models, to showcase their jewelry.  But, me?  That seemed impossible.  I never had done anything like this before, and my first thought was that it was not for me.

The Gormans can be very convincing, however, and I also saw the benefit of spreading the Best Friends at the Bar message to a larger audience, an audience beyond women lawyers, an audience of all professional women.  My name would not be on the ad, and that was very important to me.  It is the message that is important, and the ad would be as much about the future for women as about drop-dead gorgeous jewelry.

So, I agreed to sit for the photo session, and I had the greatest Cinderella and Queen for a Day experience of my life.  Quite simply, it was a ball!

The ad ran in the November issue of the Washingtonian magazine and on the sides of metro buses in DC throughout the Fall!  I even saw myself on one of those buses, and I nearly stopped traffic in the middle of DC.  My husband chased one of those buses for two blocks to get a photo.  It was fun.

Above is a picture of me at the Washingtonian 50-Year Anniversary Gala in October beside a poster of the ads featuring me and three fantastic and beautiful women.  I am the one in the lower right-hand corner.  The message reads, “I succeeded in a man’s world.  I am not afraid to be a woman.  I wear I. Gorman.”

This is the message of Best Friends at the Bar.  The jewelry is a plus but not  necessary to be a Best Friend at the Bar.  Be confident.  Know your value.  Be proud of being a woman and everything that comes with it.  Have a Personal Definition of Success.

Remember it and know that I will never let you forget it!

Thanks to I. Gorman for an unbelievable and unforgettable experience — and to the photographer Gary Landsman, who definitely knew how to make me look better than my best.  Bravo!

 

 

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Winning and Losing for Women

I hope that you have heard about the new book, Top Dog:  The Science of Winning and Losing by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.  Better yet, maybe you have read it.  From what I have read so far, the concepts are fascinating.  The book explores the differences between winning and losing performances and why are we not always up for the challenge.  It gives insight into how we all can become better competitors and uses scientific evidence and wisdom gained from politics, finance, genetics, neuroscience, psychology, military training, sports, economics, and education to help readers identify their competitive styles and make game-changing decisions on the way they compete.

Although the book addresses competition in both sexes, there is so much here for women.  With so many women in the workplace today, including in law practice, the competition is keen between men and women, but, as you will read in the book, that does not mean that men and women compete the same way.  They don’t.

According to the research included in Top Dog, women and men choose competitors differently, differ in their approaches to winning or not losing, judge circumstances differently, approach risk differently, and choose who they will compete against differently, to name just a few distinctions.  These distinctions definitely amount to differences that can be outcome determinative in settings like job interviews, board meetings, managing and mentoring.

The authors urge women to be more competitive in their work environments and explain why it is important for women to play to win and not to be so dependent on calculating odds of success before trying something new.  They downplay the importance of coalition building and encourage women to speak up without being invited into the conversation.  Raising your hand and waiting to be acknowledged can short circuit your opportunities to make valuable contributions.

I often have made the sports analogy between the behavior of men and women in business in my books and in my programs.  And, here it is again in Top Dog.  You will read there that men approach their careers like sport—they play hard and they are prepared for both victory or defeat.  Women, however, are much more cautious and want more assurances before they get in the game and “leave it all on the field.”

It reminds me of that great quote from Dwight Eisenhower that I posted as a Thought For the Day recently:  “What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.” In Top Dog, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman reveal the size of the fight in all of us and help us to take it to the next level.

I absolutely cannot wait to read more of this book.  I am jumping on a plane later this week with book in hand.  Stay tuned to see if my high expectations are met.  I also am following up on a recent program at Georgetown University where author Merryman spoke about the book.  Unfortunately, I was not able to attend, and I have inquired about any recording of the program that may be available.  When I get that information, I will pass it on to all of you.

Until then, what are you waiting for?   Take a risk.  Speak up and do not wait to be invited into the conversation.  Play hard to win, and be confident.  Make people notice you by your confidence and your willingness to take on new challenges and move out of your comfort zone.  Get in the game!

 

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Be Sure to Thank a Vet Today (and Have You Thought about Service in the JAG Corps?)

Today is Veteran’s Day, and I hope you all have taken out time to thank someone who served or is serving our country in a military capacity.  I know I have.  I am privileged to live with a former Marine, so it is easy and natural for me.  You don’t have to look far either, so make sure you do.  Veterans are all around you, and they really would appreciate the acknowledgment today and every day.

In thinking about Veteran’s Day, I am reminded that service to your country as a lawyer is something that some of you may want to think about.  I am the daughter of a military lawyer, who served in the European Theater during WW II, and my husband also served as a JAG officer in the Marine Corps Reserves after active duty during the Vietnam War years.  This makes me proud, and it also makes me think that being a JAG officer would be very interesting and rewarding.

Really, you say, but I am a woman.  Not so fast.  There are many women lawyers serving in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps today, and THE Judge Advocate General of the US Navy—-THE top lawyer in the Navy— is a woman.  I have met Vice Admiral Nanette De Renzi, and she is a very impressive naval officer and a very lovely woman to boot.  According to those who work with her, Nan is tough when she needs to be and every bit the woman when she wants to be.  That’s my kind of professional woman!

Each branch of the armed forces—the Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy and Coast Guard– has a Judge Advocate General.  The Judge Advocate General officer is in charge of all judge advocates and is responsible for all legal matters affecting that branch of the service.

The Free Legal Dictionary defines the JAG Corps and a JAG officer as follows:

“Judge advocates are attorneys who perform legal duties while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. They provide legal services to their branch of the armed forces and Legal Representation to members of the Armed Services. In addition, judge advocates practice international, labor, contract, environmental, tort, and administrative law. They practice in military, state, and federal courts. A judge advocate attorney does not need to be licensed to practice law in the state in which he or she practices because they are part of a separate, military system of justice. …

A judge advocate is admitted to the armed services as an officer. Because the Uniform Code of Military Justice is different from civilian law in many respects, a judge advocate undergoes an orientation and then education in Military Law. The U.S. Army’s JAGC school, for example, at Charlottesville, Virginia, provides a ten-week academic course for new JAGC officers to learn about the mission of the corps and to receive an overview of military law.”  www.legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com

For a first-hand account of experience of a female intern in the JAG Corps, consult Ms. JD at ms-jd.org/navy-jag-corps.  Although the numbers have changed since this 2007 post, it is a good source of general information about the JAG experience through the eyes of a female law student.

So, if you have not yet thanked a veteran today, you still have plenty of time.  There is sure to be one on your train or your bus going home tonight or one at the local food market or one just down the street in your neighborhood.  They might be easier to spot on a day like today when some of them will be wearing little American Flags in their lapels.

Veterans are proud of their service, and we are proud of them.  We thank them for their sacrifice and for helping to keep us safe at home and abroad.  We know that they are young and old, black and white, red, brown and yellow and that they serve their country out of love and dedication to freedom.  We appreciate their bravery and their willingness to put themselves in harm’s way for our sake and the sake of our country.

Happy Veteran’s Day and THANK YOU to all the vets!

 

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Book Launch Event a Big Success

We celebrated women lawyers in style—-oh, yes we did!

The Book Launch for my new book, Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today’s Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business, 2012) on September 27th at Georgetown Law was a huge success.  Almost 100 guests filled the Atrium of the Edward Bennett Williams Law Library at Georgetown Law to celebrate the new book and to meet some of the lawyers who made the night possible.  Lawyers from the sponsoring firms, Polsinelli Shughart and Lerch Early & Brewer, mixed with lawyers from honorary sponsors Cooley, Womble, and DLA, and they all were delighted to meet so many women lawyers who have contributed to the Best Friends at the Bar books.

Contributors like Kathy Tighe, Inspector General of the US Department of Education, and Mary Gately, partner at DLA Piper, clearly enjoyed discussing their participation in the books and encouraging the young lawyers to take advantage of the many mentors who have contributed to the books.   The video chronically the project debuted at this event and met with rave reviews.

Matt Calise, Director of Alumni Affairs at Georgetown Law gave welcoming remarks on behalf of the law school, and Assistant Dean Markeisha Miner of the University of Detroit Mercy Law School delivered key notes.  My remarks were focused on thanking the many people who worked so hard to make the evening a success.  Special thanks are due to the event partner, GlobalWIN (Global Women’s Innovation Network) and to media partner, Ms. JD.  I hope that many of the guests took my advice and hurried to sign up for the Ms. JD She Leads Annual Conference on October 5th at Washington College of Law, American University, in Washington, DC.  I will be participating in that conference, and I know what an excellent learning experience it will be for young lawyers.

Most of the guests walked away with signed books and ready to spread the word further about the Best Friends at the Bar project.  It was a great night, and I could not be prouder of what we have accomplished in raising awareness of the challenges to women lawyers and in providing the tools to help young women lawyers make realistic career choices and plans to fit their personal circumstances.

Bravo to all who supported the event and who accept the mission.  We have demonstrated that we are making a difference!

Keep an eye out for pics from the evening on the Best Friends at the Bar Facebook page.  Maybe you will see yourself there!

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Jump On Board the Book Launch Express!

As I might have mentioned—-at least a few times lately!—-the Book Launch Event for my new book, Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today’s Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business, July 2012) is coming up fast.  The date is September 27th, and the venue is Georgetown Law from 6 to 8 PM.  The celebration of the book and of women lawyers will be held in the Atrium of the Edward Bennett Williams Law Library.  The guest list is filling up fast, but there is still room for YOU, so get on board.  I encourage all of you in the DC area to come—for a bunch of reasons, and here are just a few.

First and foremost, you will be supporting women lawyers.  One of my favorite quotes—and you have heard it from me before—is attributed to Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State:  “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”  Hear, hear.  The more attention that we can create for the issues facing women lawyers today, the better the future for women lawyers will be.  But, we have to stir things up a bit and get noticed.  The Book Launch is a perfect time and place to do that, so come one, come all!

Second, you will have an opportunity to network with lawyers from law firms and practice settings not only in the DC area but in other areas of the country.  New York, Massachusetts, Florida and Michigan are a few of the other practice areas that will be represented among the attendees.  The employment market for lawyers is still challenged, and you will be able to talk to those lawyers about the opportunities in a variety of geographic areas.  This kind of networking does not come your way often, so take advantage of it.  Think OCIs with good food, good drink and nice people!

Some of those lawyers will be at the event representing the sponsoring law firms.  These firms are AWESOME and have my complete admiration and heartfelt thanks for supporting the Best Friends at the Bar project now and in the past.  Firms like DLA Piper, Womble, Venable, Cooley, Walsh Colucci, Polsinelli Shughart and Lerch Early have been there every step of the way.  They provide financial support, and they are great cheerleaders for the project.  Meet the lawyers from those firms and find out why they support women.  Not all firms do, you know!

You also will be able to meet some of the fantastic women who are profiled in the new book.  Women like: Sally Blackmun, former in-house counsel, who might even tell you some tales of her famous Supreme Court Justice father; Kathleen Tighe, Inspector General of the US Department of Education and President Obama’s appointee as Chair of the Recovery, Accountability and Transparency Board; Markeisha Miner, Dean of Career Services, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law; Laura Oberbroeckling, Harvard Law Grad, who left Big Law to hang out her own shingle in style; and Amy Yeung, an outstanding entrepreneurial young woman, who also experienced Big Law and is now in-house counsel in a fast emerging and exciting industry.  These women will inspire you, and you need to meet them.  You also will meet Contributors to Book One, who jumped in when the project was in its infant stages and are completely devoted to the cause.  They are not to be missed!

AND, did I say that the food, the drink and the venue will be great!  Yes, great, as in very tasty and plentiful food and drink and a killer venue.  The Atrium of the Edward Bennett Williams Law Library at GT Law should be in Architectural Digest!  Really!  We are pulling out all the stops to celebrate five successful years of Best Friends at the Bar, and you need to get on the A-Train to join us.

Here’s how you do that.  E-mail my publicist at Jessica@neuprofile.com and tell her that you want to come.  It is that simple.  She will take care of all the details.

Be smart.  Be there.  I look forward to seeing Women Supporting Women!

 

 

 

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Planning is a Big Deal—Especially for Women

I have been a planner all my life.  I make lists, cross out what I have accomplished, highlight in yellow what is really important, and rejoice when everything is crossed off the list—-until the next day when the list starts anew.  I believe in planning ahead and being super organized, as anyone who has read the Best Friends at the Bar books knows.

Throughout the time that I practiced law, I made a list at the end of each day and put it prominently on my desk to greet me the next morning.  Over coffee, I reviewed the list, made priorities for the day and adjusted the list as needed.  It was a good plan, and it worked for me.  I had a personal relationship with my list.  No one came between me and my list.

But, recently, planning has taken on a whole new meaning for me.  I now am planning my daughter’s wedding and a Book Launch Event at the same time.  My fear—the thing that keeps me up at night and is not affected in the least by Ambien—is that I will end up with a book sales table at the wedding and a ring bearer at the book launch!  You laugh…  I am totally capable of that in my current state of mind.  To boot, a man just came to my front door with a load of mulch that I know nothing about!  A BIG load of mulch.

The wedding is a way off and nothing can be done about the mulch man, but the Book Launch Event is right around the corner and you should know about it.  On September 27, 2012 from 6 to 8 PM, Georgetown Law will host an event to celebrate my new book, Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today’s Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business) that was released in July.  The event partner is GlobalWIN (Global Women’s Innovation Network) and the event co-sponsors are Ms. JD and the following law firms to date:  Polsinelli Shughart; Lerch Early; DLA Piper; Cooley; Womble Carlyle; and Walsh Colucci.   As you might expect, I am both delighted and humbled by the enthusiasm for and participation in this event.  I am particularly grateful to Georgetown Law for its generosity in hosting.  We are expecting some special guests, and this is an event that you will not want to miss.

The Book Launch Event is filling up fast, so get on board soon.  If you did not get an invitation, please e-mail my publicist at jessica@neuprofile.com to have an invitation sent to you, and do not forget to RSVP per the instructions at the bottom of the invitation.

If you have never been to the Atrium on the 5th Floor of the Edward Bennett Williams Library at Georgetown Law, you are in for a treat.  It is a beautiful space, and I can tell you that there was nothing like it when I attended Georgetown Law.  I remember a starkly simple single cube of a building that was know as Georgetown Law in my day.  My class was one of the first with a high percentage of women, and finding a woman’s bathroom in those days was harder than passing Income Tax.  The school could have raffled off “First In Line” passes to the women’s bathrooms and made a fortune!

Hope you will join us on September 27th.  You will be in good company, and you will be supporting the mission of Best Friends at the Bar—-raising retention rates for women lawyers and increasing diversity in the profession.

See you there!

BTW, my plan for tomorrow is……………….oh, you really do not want to know!

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Women Lawyers Must Take Advantage of the New Rules for Success

I read an interesting article in the National Law Journal recently.  The March 16th on-line edition included an article entitled “Women’s Successes in School….Bleed Away in Their Paychecks”, which offered some insight from author Anya Kamenetz that lines up nicely with my own thoughts on what women need to succeed in the law profession.

The particular point that interested me most was that girls outperform boys in school from the time they enter kindergarten—-for some very good reasons.  Girls learn to line up neatly, girls are less disruptive and listen better than boys, and girls follow the rules.  As a result, girls succeed in pleasing their teachers, getting recognition and achieving good grades.  That works very well—in fact, it works well all the way through law school—until the game changes.  Suddenly the personal characteristics being valued are not the same.  Suddenly the academic achievement does not translate into higher salaries for women than men—-or even equal salaries for that matter.

True, a lot of this has to do with the time that women take out for child-rearing, but there is more to this.  And it is more that we can control and change.

Instead of compliance, the competitive worlds of business and law want assertiveness and boldness, and those behaviors are the most rewarded in the new models.  So, as I have been saying in my books and speeches all along, women lawyers must step up to the plate and play the game that is popular at the moment and that leads to success, recognition and upward mobility.

Women lawyers must learn to be assertive, take credit for their accomplishments, and become comfortable with business promotion and networking.  They must learn to insist on quality work and fight for it.  Put those skills together with women’s natural and often superior communication and management skills, and it is a winning formula.  Ignore it, and you do so at your risk.

But, that is not all.  The NLJ article confirmed another of my major themes:  This will not happen without a lot of mentoring from senior women lawyers and a lot of planning by young women lawyers.  Structural changes in law firms—like the availability of flexible schedules and the advent of part-time career paths—-alone will not bring the results women attorneys want and need today.  Yes, those things are necessary and valuable, but it is really up to the young women to plan their careers with these things in mind and the more seasoned women lawyers to provide the mentoring and the support that is critical to positive results.  In fact, the NLJ article notes a survey by Catalyst that found that women with mentors saw their salaries rise 27 percent higher than women without mentors.  That’s significant.

Mary Ann Mason, a University of California (Berkeley) law professor is quoted in the article with this to say about mentoring and planning:  “I’d like to see Life Planning 101 as a college course.  Young women are unaware of how difficult it becomes fitting childbirth into your career plans.  But…if you think in advance, it becomes easier.”

If you have heard me speak or have read my book and prior blogs, this is not the first time you have heard this.  But, it is very much worth repeating.

For the full text of the National Law Journal article, see,www.nationaljournal.com/njonline/no_20100508_1960

 

 

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