Arguing with a fool proves there are two.
Doris M. Smith
Arguing with a fool proves there are two.
Doris M. Smith
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.
Today I need to talk to you about women. Not just women lawyers, but women in general. Women are getting a lot of attention these days, but let’s make sure that we understand why and what the downside can be unless we are vigilant.
Recently, in an April 6th story, the Associated Press reported that President Obama announced that women are not an interest group. Although that sounds a little off-putting, I am happy with that logic and conclusion. No matter what your politics are—and I do not get into politics in this forum—I think that you will agree that women do NOT want to be an interest group. We might want to be a force, a solidarity group or even some kind of sisterhood, but we do not want to be an interest group. Here is why.
I concede that it is nice and refreshing for women to get so much attention in the race for the White House, but we should not get carried away in the warmth of the limelight just because we are suddenly a priority. We are a priority because women vote. It is as simple as that—something, by the way, that we should be proud of. Yes, there are some more legitimate and substantive reasons for focusing on women today, but none of them is as important as the effect on the electorate in this political season.
But, that does not make us an interest group that can be popular one year and unpopular the next. Simply speaking, women and their issues do not have borders that encase us as other interest groups do. After all, we are not trying to repopulate the planet with the spot-eyed owl. We are not so isolated and discrete that ignoring us has no repercussions beyond our literal and strict definition as women.
Our issues are not just women’s issues. They are family issues, they are educational issues, they are economic growth issues and more. They do not start and stop with women. They extend to the children of women and their needs, the aging parents of women and their needs, the disabled family members of women and their needs, the husbands who have been laid off from jobs and their needs, and the household budget issues and constraints that flow from all of those things.
So, as we go forward, do not allow your identity as women to result in pigeon-holing women’s issues. It is not just about women and the availability of birth control, women and other healthcare coverage, women and the need for equal pay for equal work, women and the availability of work-related retirement programs…..and the list goes on. IT IS ABOUT WOMEN.
It is not simple, by any means, and we should not let anyone convince us that it is. The more complicated it is, the more attention it will receive. Women’s issues have long fingers, and we cannot let our national leaders forget that. We cannot let them dismiss us as simply an interest group when the time is convenient. We want to stay on their radar. That is the only way we will get ahead.
Remember, as women lawyers, you are women first. Think about these things and understand your responsibility to the larger group. The majority of women are trying to move in the same direction, and you, as lawyers, will be in unique positions to help advance the agenda for women.
That reminds me of another quote from the President in that same press conference. “Is it possible that Congress will get more done if there were more women in Congress?”
Duh. I guess that was a rhetorical question!
The essential thing is not knowledge, but character.
Joseph Le Conte
I am so proud of my law alma mater, Georgetown Law. Of course, I am proud for many reasons, but this week I am particularly proud after attending the Women’s Forum held at the law school last Friday and hosted by some of my favorite folks there. The Alumni Career Services Director Marilyn Tucker, the Director of Alumni Affairs Matt Calise, and Associate Director of Alumni Affairs Sarah Myksin, joined forces and their considerable talents to produce a highly informative and successful Women’s Forum that is back by popular demand after four years. Those of us who attended are lobbying for it as an annual event.
Although all of the day-long program was impressive, including the panelists and speakers, one particular part stood out for me as valuable to all of you law students and prospective law students. Hearing that US News and World Report ranks Georgetown Law as #1 in clinical programs was music to my ears, and then hearing about all of the practicum courses that Georgetown Law has added to its curriculum to produce practice-ready graduates was the cherry on the top of the sundae for me.
Many of you will recall my former blogs about the importance of practicum and the excellent work that leaders like Professor Bill Henderson of Indiana University Law and others are doing to forward this agenda. Little did I know that my own law school offers 31 clinics and also practicum courses on topics like Administrative/Regulatory Law, Business, Criminal, Education/Research, Environment, Family Law, Federal Legislation, Gender, Government, Health/Healthcare, Human Rights, Immigration, International and Public Interest. In addition, there are an array of upperclass practicum course offerings. These all were reported by Associate Dean Deborah Epstein, who has been instrumental in developing these programs.
It will not surprise you to know that I would like to see a clinical or practicum offering on Challenges to Women in the Law at Georgetown Law and law schools across the country. Rest assured that I am working on it. As you know, I believe that all young women law students need a reality check about the challenges in their futures and help in overcoming those challenges. Even though it is not your mother’s law practice, it also is not clear sailing. That is why I have written my second book, Best Friends at the Bar: The New Balance for Today’s Woman Lawyer, to give all of you a leg up. That book will hit the book stores and be available for sale on line and from my web site in July, and I hope you will help yourself by getting a copy for you and your friends.
Balance is the key to happiness, and there is so much in both of my books to help you achieve that balance. Each formula for balance will be different, but having your own plan and creating your own definition of success and your own balance are critical to career satisfaction and success.
So get started! Take advantage of the Best Friends at the Bar books and programs like the Women’s Forum offered at Georgetown Law to become really savvy about your future. There is more to success in the law than top grades in contracts and torts, and there are increasingly more people out there to help you. It is up to you to find them.
It is not work that kills men [ or women], it is worry. Work is healthy…..Worry is rust upon the blade. It is not movement that destroys the machinery, but friction.
Henry Ward Beecher
The fact is, that to do anything in the world worth doing, we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in and scramble through as well as we can.
You have heard me say this before, but some things are so fundamental and so important that they need repeating. Like business development, negotiating is a core competency in our profession, and women must take it seriously and become good at it. Whether that means you are negotiating for salary, negotiating for benefits, negotiating for work assignments or negotiating on behalf of your client. You must learn to do it well and not to hold back.
Two women that I know are uniquely positioned to help you with this. Victoria Pynchon, of Forbes Women She Negotiates and a contributor to my new book coming out in July, and Carol Frohlinger, author of Her Place at the Table and Nice Girls Just Don’t Get It, are women that you need to get to know. You can do that by following their work. They will teach you the basic skills of negotiating in a way that will become part of your repertoire and will reap huge benefits down the road.
Victoria Pynchon’s recent article in Forbes Women on line (March 2, 2012) caught my attention. In that article, she takes issue with the advice of at least one negotiations guru that making a friend of someone with whom you are negotiating is to be avoided. He posits that social and recreational activities designed to promote collegiality between you and an adversary can be an impediment to effective negotiations. He sees issues of tarnishing a friendship, hurting an adversary’s feelings and fear of being rejected as things that can interfere with the negotiating process.
My first reaction upon reading this was to wonder whether the guru was speaking to lawyers of substance or to patients on a couch somewhere. We, women lawyers especially, are uniquely capable of multi-tasking and are able to separate our emotions from our responsibilities very effectively. Any woman who has raised children knows that you can love them and discipline them and expect good behavior from them at the same time. You even can love them after they tell you, in a tantrum, that they do not love you. Likewise, I am confident that we can befriend our professional adversaries and at the same time keep our objectivity at the negotiating table.
Victoria Pynchon agrees for different reasons. She is a pro at negotiating and has spent most of her professional career doing it. She has watched the women’s numbers increase in adversarial settings, and she does not buy “the old bromides like old men are better than women at adversarialism because they’d played more team sports than women.” She was awake during the last century, and she recognizes the effects of Title IX on women’s sports opportunities and experiences.
Victoria does, however, understand that many women do not embrace conflict as much as men. Her answer is “Don’t Fear Conflict–Master It”, and I totally agree. Find your own negotiating style and make it work for you. It may include befriending the other side and creating a trust relationship or it may include more intimidation. Who is to say what works best for you until you try it on for size and find the perfect fit.
In Her Place at the Table, Carol Frohlinger and her co-authors Deborah Kolb and Judith Wilson, address topics like mobilizing supporters, getting buy-in from a variety of players, and garnering resources to enhance your negotiation skills and get positive results. This book is worth the read, and I hope you “go to school” on these women authors who speak your language and understand your capabilities.
It all makes sense, really. You have your own style of dress, your own style of entertaining, your own style of nurturing……and the list goes on. Now find your own style of negotiating. Embrace it and reap the benefits. It sure beats retreating and letting someone else take all the credit or, worse, deciding that you are a force that does NOT have to be reckoned with.
Good luck negotiating. You actually do it all the time in your personal life—-with your spouse or significant other, with your children, with the guy selling umbrellas on the street corner during an unexpected rainstorm and with the vendor during the summer farm market. Now is the time to start negotiating for yourself so that you also can negotiate effectively for your clients.
Embrace it, run with it, and see how much fun it can be.