Thought For The Day

Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.

Samuel Johnson

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Law Firm Associate Hiring Still Lagging

The National Law Journal (NLJ) has just published its annual report on the 50 law schools that NLJ 250 law firms relied upon the most to fill their first-year associate classes during 2011.  This report also includes information on the law schools that saw the most alumni promoted to partner at NLJ 250 firms in 2011.  This is captioned “The Go-to Law Schools” because it details the law schools that are the most popular in terms of hiring for the NLJ 250.  However, some of you are going to take the bait and look at it as the “Do Not Go to Law School” report.  I think that would be an overreaction, and here is why.

This report, see the link below, is worthy of your reading time.  However, you do not have to have a bottle of your favorite spirit handy to get through it.  Yes, the news is not that good, but maybe what this really means is that law students and recent law grads must be a little more introspective about what they really want to do with law degrees.  That would be preferable to the former knee-jerk reaction to go to law firms for the money.  I recently blogged about the various good reasons for going to law school, and I hope you saw it.  (If not, you can find it in the archives dated 2-4-12.)  Now, would-be lawyers may be forced to address the alternatives earlier rather than later.  But, that is not a bad thing.

If this reminds you at all of the bad break up you had because you waited too long to face the music about you and your significant other, it should.  Take stock early and when you see the troublesome signs—-whether they are coming from you or from circumstances, as in the case of the recession and current law firm hiring practices—and act accordingly.  You will be saving yourself time, disappointment and even heartbreak in the long run.

Take a look at the NLJ article, and I will have some other observations about it later this week.  And, feel free to keep a bottle of that favorite spirit handy.  On second thought, you might find it helpful!

Career Counselors, Law School Educators, Pre-law, Young Lawyer | Comment

Thought For The Day

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.

Albert Einstein

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Thought For The Day

The thing always happens that you really believe in; and the belief in a thing makes it happen.

Frank Loyd Wright

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Pearls of Wisdom about Women in Leadership

From time to time I read something that I do not even want to try to summarize here.  It is just too good, and I do not have anything to add that would improve it.  This is one of those times.

Here is a reprint of an article from yesterday’s Huffington Post on line that you will want to read.  It goes way beyond women in the law, and that is what I like about it so much.  It is a call to action for all women.  I hope you enjoy it and share it with your friends—both females and those valued males who are supportive of women in leadership.  After you read it, ask yourself what you can do to advance this cause.  The possibilities are endless.

Leadership: It’s a Female Thing

By Monika Mitchell, CEO, Good Business International Inc.
Posted: 02/22/2012 4:10 pm

Last week, I found myself on Manhattan’s West Side in an exquisitely decorated loft owned by Winds of Change philanthropist Shamaya Gilo. Sixty powerhouse women were gathered together for wine and cheese and to strategize about how to support women’s leadership through cold-hard cash. The loft was filled with talented and accomplished women of wealth — women who were personally wealthy or those who pulled the strings at some of New York’s top financial institutions. Present in the room were wealth managers, venture capitalists, fixed income and equity traders, professional investors, lawyers, quants, mutual fund managers, bankers, heads of family foundations, philanthropists and market makers of all kinds and a couple of token (and sympathetic) males thrown into the mix. We had one thing in common: the drive and ambition to push more capable and accomplished women into the ring.

What is the “Ring?” It is the corporate boardroom, the C-Suite at Fortune 500 companies and top levels of financial institutions. The ring includes politics, finance, business and generally anywhere that women have been traditionally marginalized, which let’s face it, is everywhere that matters aside from the home front. The question we are asking is why are women deliberately kept out of key roles in world affairs and what can we do to change that?

The New York gathering of high-powered women, organized by Criterion Ventures under the direction of the indefatigable Jackie VanderBrug, encouraged women to invest in each other. Speaking to the crowd of well-heeled power women were Nada Jain (Golden Seeds), CJ Juhasz (ISIS Fund/Women’s World Banking), Jo-Ann Tan (Acumen Fund), Georgie Benardete (Multicultural Capital), Sally Boulter and Noelle St. Clair of Calvert Foundation who detailed each organization’s mission to empower women. The event marked a shift in action — we are tired of waiting for men to open the door for us. Ladies and gentlemen … in the 21st century, we are opening the doors for ourselves.

What makes the world go around is money. The Criterion Ventures model aims to put money behind women-centric ventures and entrepreneurs. (Women investing in Women.) We have seen how money in the wrong hands, evidenced by the global economic crisis, has thrown the scales of power completely out of whack and left behind whole portions of the population on both sides of the Atlantic. Women, it may come as no surprise, have fared worse than average. The poor are getting poorer and the majority of poor in the U.S. and around the globe are women. They are the last to get hired and earn substantially less than their male counterparts.

I am not going to pretend that I don’t think women should have seats of power. I am not going to play nice and say it doesn’t matter. I am not going to quietly and apathetically marginalize my own gender by politely acknowledging that men are wonderful and capable of handling world affairs without us. Yes, many men are wonderful and ladies what would we do without them? But what we would do with them as co-creators of the world is the real issue.

The first and critical question is: What would men do without women? I’ll start by answering that from my home turf in the U.S.

In the last twelve years since the end of the 20th century and the birth of the new, America has started two wars that have cost millions of people their lives and changed the world order permanently. We have given birth to a devastating global financial crisis that has plunged millions of innocents into starvation, joblessness and homelessness. The wars and the economic collapse have resulted in international chaos and unrest and launched movements of desperation like the 99 and 1 percent. All of these disastrous events occurred under male leadership– without the help or input of women. Gentlemen, you have done such damage to the world we share, why you continue on that path and do not see the wisdom of incorporating women into top leadership positions is beyond logic. Yet women continue to be disenfranchised.

So enough. Enough of testosterone-fueled aggression whether it is the violence of economic greed or the guns of bloody wars. It is time for western civilization to enter the enlightened age. Women are the key to a more sustainable world in the new millennium.

Why are women the key to changing the world for the better? Because very simply: we are the life-givers, not the life-destroyers. It is in our DNA to create and nurture life, not desecrate it. Yet somehow, despite the fact that we carry, create and protect life, women are raped, murdered, mutilated, marginalized and humiliated every second of every day somewhere in our world. The issue becomes which kind of world do we want to carry forward — one that destroys life or one that creates it? If the choice is the latter, then the inclusion of women is essential.

In my work at the United Nations over the past several years, I had the honor and privilege of knowing one of the great men in this world and a true champion of women: Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury. As President of the Security Council in 2000, the Ambassador introduced Resolution 1325 which endorsed urgently needed economic and educational opportunities for women. The resolution was the result of his experience as a diplomatic leader in Bangladesh where women were routinely violated physically and materially. His work has greatly advanced the plight of rural women around the globe.

Yet our work in this decade necessitates more than helping women. In very direct ways, the world desperately needs women to help it. We need every bit of TLC for people and our planet we can muster. For women, this is second nature. Strength is no longer measured in an enlightened world by brute force. True courage can be seen in the stoic stamina, tolerance, patience and big-picture vision of women.

Something Ambassador Chowdhury once said stuck in my mind. He explained that at UN mediations to resolve global conflicts, the men at the table invariably wanted to know, “What’s in it for me?” They would ask how the solution would affect them personally in power and privilege before giving their consent. Women, according to the Ambassador, were more concerned with what kind of world they were leaving for their children.

The stark difference in thinking jolted me and I realized this was true. Women naturally think in terms of creation and cooperation, not domination and aggression. These qualities, however, are a double-edged sword. In one way, this is precisely the reason we have been held back. In many ways, we have held ourselves back. We have not fought tough enough or hard enough to say: This is our world too; you don’t have the right to destroy it for me or my children.

In this century of women, we — the feminine gender — and the men who see us as friend, not foe, need to pool our resources, money, votes and support and put these behind women in leadership roles. Only with the direction and input of women can we build a more sustainable world based on mutual cooperation and constructive solutions.

We are proud of the women on the world stage handling the complex chaos around them with grace, brilliance and courage: the Hillary Clintons, Christine Lagardes, Angela Merkels and Ellen Johnson Sirleafs. But they can’t do it alone. They need our help — every one of us, male and female.

Hillary Clinton said of empowering women, “It’s not just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do.” Jackie VanderBrug explains why: “Gender diversity [in companies, on corporate boards and in leadership roles] works for all of us. It allows you to see things that you would not otherwise see.”

The time to step up, step out and make our voices heard is now. Not a moment should be lost, because without our help and the feminine sense of balance and wisdom we naturally bring to problem solving, the world is a sad and sorry place. Our only hope for a better future lies in the power, appreciation and inclusion of women.
Monika Mitchell is the CEO of “Good-b,” New York’s award-winning CSR and sustainable business news journal and the co-author of a ground-breaking new book, “Conversations with Wall Street: The Inside Story of the Financial Armageddon and How to Prevent the Next One.”

Law Firm Managers, Law Students, Young Lawyer | Comment

Thought For The Day

If we all did the things we are capable of,
we would astound ourselves.

Thomas Edison

Career Counselors | Comment

Do Women Professionals Lack Ambition? REALLY?

By now you know that I respect Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook executive, who has become a leading spokesperson for women in business, and that I think she is an excellent role model for women in both business and law.  I have blogged about her in the past, and I love some of her coined phrases like “Lean in” and “Don’t leave before you leave.”  I include some of those messages in my speeches and point young women lawyers and law students in Ms. Sandberg’s direction for her personal brand of wisdom.

Recently, however, Ms. Sandberg spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and coined a new phrase that I am not so sure about.  She said that, “in the developed world we have an ambition gap at the personal level” and “we will never close the achievement gap until we close the ambition gap”.  In other words, women are not as ambitious as men, and it is holding them back.

This has caused a bit of a stir, and I am throwing my spoon into the pot.  I think that this is overly simplistic and ignores all of the extra responsibilities that women face at home and in raising children that men just do not have to worry about.  Or, if the men personally think that they should worry about it, no one else seems to care when it comes to handing out promotions.  The men certainly are not being held back because they do not jump in with their spouses to handle their own 50 per cent of the parenting and homemaking duties.

Rather than an ambition gap, I think that women professionals today have a time gap.  I write about this in my new book where I try to give harried young women lawyers resources and role models to help them make the most out of the time they have.  While it is true that the young women lawyers can hold their own with their male colleagues and very often outperform them, that all ends when the level playing field is tilted in favor of men with the addition of children to the work-life equation.  That is when time and its finite quality wreaks havoc with the achievement picture.

It is not ambition, but time, that is the problem.  Blaming it on a lack of ambition makes it sound a whole lot more solvable.  Maybe that is the intention because it is pretty grim the other way around.  Women can continue to be ambitious and do excellent work.  Many times, however, they cannot continue to do excellent work all the time—the same number of hours a day that men are able to do it.

Sheryl Sandberg is a prophet of sorts, but I think she got it wrong this time.  She is laying the blame at the feet of young women when, in fact, that blame should be laid just as squarely at the feet of law firm and business leadership.  Until the people at the top of firms and companies—men and women alike— understand and respect the disparity in terms of opportunities for men and for women, women will not make the progress that they so richly deserve and which is critical for the healthy survival of business institutions.

Clearly, men cannot make all of the decisions correctly—who is the woman who does not recognize that?— and we had better figure out a way to keep a good number of women of the mother/caretaker variety at the table to develop into the leaders that we need.

So, I think Sheryl Sandberg succumbed to a sound bite.  Even prophets get tired and discouraged. Some times they think they are not being heard, and they overpunctuate to get attention.  This time it was not a good idea.  Pointing the finger at women and telling them that they are not ambitious enough is counterproductive.  You can tell them that they need to be more assertive, you can tell them that they need to take new client development more seriously, and you can tell them that they need to take on the establishment a little more.  But, please do not tell them that they are not ambitious enough as a group.  Instead, look at the facts.

They are plenty ambitious in the wee hours of the night when they are drafting legal memos, fixing the kids brown bag lunches for the next day and filling out the school applications.  They are ambitious in a different way than men are, and that is not a bad thing.  They plan and they prep and they keep all of the balls in the air.  Those who just happen to have the perfect nanny, the perfect husband who does his share, or the perfect law firm eventually find their way to the top, and their ambition is recognized.  Let’s not mix up the concepts of hard work and ambition.

What will make women who reach the top great leaders, however, is not just that they are ambitious.  It is that they have compassion for others who choose a different path—those who take a different fork in the road— not out of lack of ambition but many times out of necessity.  It is that compassion in our women leaders that will pull us forward in the end.

Career Counselors, Law Students, Lifestyle, Young Lawyer | 3 Comments

Thought For The Day

Insist on yourself.  Never imitate.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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