Thought For the Day—Women Lawyers Need to Stay On Track

Never take a short cut that leads you in the wrong direction.  It is better to work harder and longer and end up where you need to be.

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Changing Roles for Women Lawyers—And the Men in Their Lives

The roles of women and men in our society and in our profession are changing, and we need to embrace the opportunities presented by those changes.  As women lawyers and law students, you have chosen a profession that will result in success and power, and this has the potential to interfere with the relationships that you have with men—many of whom may be threatened by these new roles for you.  It is important to think about these changes and to anticipate the future dynamics to give yourself the best chance at a positive outcome.  Here is some food for thought.

There is no real news in the fact that the roles of women have changed.  It has been going on for decades, and much has been written on the new roles for women as professionals, executives, entrepreneurs, managers, and power brokers.  Women entered the workforce in record numbers during this time, and there was bound to be plenty of change for them.

We also know that the roles of men have changed and that many of those changes are related to the changing roles of women.  Many men are more involved in caring for their children, in the details of home life and in supporting the work their spouses do outside the home.  Some men have enthusiastically embraced these new responsibilities and involvements and some have done it more reluctantly because it needed to be done.  It has not been easy for the men any more than it has been easy for the women, but very often financial and economic concerns have driven the result.  We now have many more stay-at-home fathers than ever before, and it is not unusual for a law firm to provide paternity leave as well as maternity leave.

This is common knowledge, but I recently read a new take on this familiar story that I think may interest you.


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Thought For the Day–Women Lawyers Need to Learn to Take Care of Themselves

Believe the flight attendant:  Put your oxygen mask on first before you attempt to help others.

On the ground that means take care of yourself so that you can take care of others.  Women lawyers, who have a lot on their plates and are caught in the work-life struggle, need to remember this.  You cannot be good for others if you are not good to yourselves.

Take time to exercise, eat well, enjoy family and friends and maintain your equilibrium so that you can be effective in helping others.  Putting yourself first is not a crime!

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Young Women Lawyers Need to Remember the Importance of Friendships

It is time for me to come clean with you.  I was just slightly less than honest with you last week when I told you that I was MIA for a week because I was doing community projects.  That was the truth but not the whole truth.  I also was out playing with my girlfriends at the Picasso exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, and the significance of this will become more clear in a moment.

The exhibit, by the way, is excellent and is on loan from the Musee National Picasso in Paris where I first saw it years ago.  It is on tour while the Paris museum is being renovated, and Richmond is the only east coast venue on a seven-city world-wide tour.  Richmond is the closest venue for my friends and me, so off we went for two days of art, shopping, eating really good food, and acting like Thelma and Louise times two and without the harsh overtones.  Just the fun.

The significance of this is the value of friendship and how important it is to protect your friendships no matter how busy you become in your professional lives.  Friends are what ground you.  They are the ones you can laugh with and cry with and the ones who give you great advice because they have known you “in thick and in thin” and they understand what makes you happy.  They are the ones you will call on in your future when you need a babysitter at the last minute to make that critical meeting with clients, when your mother becomes ill, when you lose a family member and when you are on the edge from the weight of all your responsibilities.  And they will call on you, and you will do the same for them.

Holding fast to who and what you are is very important in this demanding, project-oriented and time-consuming profession you have chosen.  It is very easy to stray from the things that make you happy, and friends help you from straying.  They help to keep you on a straight course, they nurture you, they rejoice at your successes, and they help you through your losses.  Without them you simply can cease to be who you really are and who you were meant to be.


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Thought For the Day–Future Planning for Young Women Lawyers

In planning your future, making money should never be more important than making friends.

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Women Lawyers Need to Learn to Generate Work in Their Communities

I know. You have not heard from me this week.  Hope you missed me!  I tried to work in a “Thought For the Day”, but even that was hard.  You see, I was working on two projects for my community, and it took up most of my time.

But I was thinking of all of you.  Volunteering on behalf of your community is a really good thing for young women lawyers to do, and you need to start thinking about it.  First, it is a great way for you to give back to your community.  We all live very hectic lives these days, but the volunteer work in our communities still has to be done—even more so in a “down” economy like this one.  Government services have been curtailed in some areas, and there is just more work that needs to be done by volunteers.

Second, and maybe the more important reason for my purposes here, is the great networking opportunities for all of you through community work.  You know my mantra about generating work—that it is your path to freedom and options in your practice.  The way to get the attention of the partners and management in your practice is to bring in work.  Do that, and you will find that you have a great deal more control of your practice, options in your practice and respect from your colleagues.  That all converts to upward mobility and security.

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Thought For the Day—Opportunities For Young Women Lawyers

Turn challenges into opportunities every day!

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The Male Definitions of Success in the Law May Not Work for Women Lawyers

News flash:  The male definitions of success in the law many not work for women lawyers.  I always include this message in my speeches at law schools and law firms, and I want to share it with you here.

This statement, of course, is a reference to the work-life struggles that are so difficult for women lawyers who have responsibilities for home, family, and aging and disabled family members.  I emphasize that young women lawyers are all different and that you must make choices that will work for you.   I also emphasize that for those choices to be good, they must be made by you and for you and be tailored to your personal circumstances.  I always include a Power Point slide that presents the various practice options, from full time to part time and including both public and private sector settings.  I do not make any value judgments about individual choices and career plans, and I emphasize that the only bad choice is no choice and the only bad plan is no plan.

The male definitions for success in the law are a big part of this dilemma for women, and young women lawyers must stop buying into these male stereotypes for success.  You must remember that, for the most part, those men have wives and you do not.  The male definitions of success only work if you have no greater responsibilities in your personal life than the men you work for and the men you compete against.  For the rest of you, it will be an uneven playing field, and you will have to throw off the time-honored stereotypes and chart your own course to success.

Does that mean that I want all women to work part-time or flex hours?  No!  Of course not!  What it means is that I would rather have you work those alternative schedules than give up being a lawyer entirely.  In fact, I tell my audiences that I hope that enough of them find the perfect nanny or a mate or family member who is willing and able to assume a large share of the childcare responsibilities to allow the young women lawyers to continue in full time practice to help accelerate women to the top of our profession.

So, in reporting about my speech at Marquette University Law School recently for the Ms. JD blog, Marquette Law Professor Lisa Mazzie reported my remarks, which included the above.  Her blog was great, and I hope you caught my post about it earlier on this blog.  What interested me also was a comment to Professor Mazzie’s post where the writer pushed back by saying that we should not be making new definitions of success for women and that women should be competing on the same terms as men because they could—or something to that effect.  I think that comment begs the point, and here is why.

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