Detroit and Kansas City Here I Come!

Early this morning I left for a two-event trip to Detroit and Kansas City.  In Detroit, I will hold an informal meeting with women students at the University of Detroit Mercy Law School on Friday afternoon.  This is a follow-up to a speech that I gave at the school several years ago, and I am pleased to say that I will be back by popular demand.  I always enjoy seeing the students and the faculty and administration there and learning about the new and innovative things that are being done at an outstanding metropolitan law campus.  The clinical programs are especially impressive.  I also will attend the gala on Saturday night celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Law School, and I look forward to hearing the inspiring speeches about the value of a Jesuit law education.  As a graduate of Georgetown Law, that theme rings very true for me.

After that, I will board another plane to Kansas City, Missouri, where I will be speaking to the Association of Women Attorneys of Greater Kansas City on Tuesday, October 30th.  I am privileged to be the Keynote Speaker for this annual event, and I look forward to seeing some old friends in the Kansas City women’s bar association and to meeting some new ones.  I love Kansas City and remember my delight the first time I visited.  Who knew there could be all those fountains in the middle of Missouri?  Certainly not this midwest girl!

Back next week to bring you more updates on issues affecting women lawyers.  Enjoy the fall colors and cool nights where ever you are.

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Thought For The Day

Your imagination is your preview of life’s coming attractions.

Albert Einstein

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NAWL Report on Retention and Advancement of Women Lawyers Discouraging

The annual report of the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) was released earlier this week on October 22nd.  As I expected, the news is not good for the retention and advancement of women lawyers.  Below are a few excerpts from the report that are particularly troubling.  As you can see, there is still a great deal of work to be done by groups like NAWL and projects like Best Friends at the Bar.

It is important to keep in mind that this report is based on a survey of the nation’s 200 largest law firms.  Although many of you will choose different career paths and different practice settings, you still need to understand the current status of women in the profession and the trends regarding compensation, partnership and leadership, to name just a few.

“We are disappointed that women lawyers are still not reaching the highest levels of big firm practice or leadership in significant numbers,” said NAWL President Beth Kaufman,Partner at Schoeman Updike & Kaufman LLP in New York. And the pipeline of women available for advancement may be shrinking: for the second year in a row, the proportion of women entering big-firm practice has decreased. If this trend continues, it could trigger a downward spiral for women in the profession — we could see fewer women senior partners and law firm leaders in the future, and thus fewer role models and mentors for succeeding cohorts of women lawyers.”

NAWL Foundation President Stephanie Scharf, a Partner at Scharf Banks Marmor LLC in Chicago, who founded the NAWL Annual Survey, noted that “the gap between male and female compensation at the equity partner level does not correlate with male/female differences in billable hours, total hours or books of business, begging the question of how firms actually set compensation for their partners.”

The report also stated that “women still typically hold only 20% of the positions on a firm’s highest governance committee, and only 4% of firms have a woman as the firm-wide managing partner.”

So, you see, there is a reason that I keep reporting to you on these issues.  They are real, and they are disturbing.  We all hope that the situation for women in Big Law will improve because that sets the stage for improvement for women throughout the profession.  We also should hope that women lawyers who cannot succeed in that practice setting will have the confidence to transition their practices to alternative practice settings.

We all need to start treating the practice of law as the privilege that it is and find our places within the context of the larger picture, which includes the alternative practice settings.  Only then will many of you be content enough to stay in practice for your benefit and the benefit of a profession that needs your skills, your unique perspectives and your talent to assure best practices.

To read the complete NAWL Annual Report, go to

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Thought For The Day

Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

Ancient Proverb


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Your Best Preparation for Law School

Now that we are full into the fall college semester, my thoughts go to the many college and university seniors who are applying to law schools—-and the many other college and university students who are thinking about applying to law schools.   Some of the students in their first years of college must be wondering how best to prepare for a law education.  If they are not, they should be!

Although there are no guaranteed prescribed programs and no one path to law school, there is some good advice floating around out there, and I feel compelled to add my own.  Some of this and more is covered in my first book, Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2009), and I recommend it to you.  It is considered to be one of the best books on the market today to give you a realistic view of law school and the law profession, especially for women.

You might expect the American Bar Association (ABA) to be a source of information on how to prepare for law school, but the ABA does not make any specific recommendations about undergraduate majors or class choices.  However, in its materials published by the Pre-Law Committee, the ABA includes majors that are traditionally good preparation for law school—majors like English, philosophy, history and political science.  It also includes economics or business in that group, but I am not persuaded concerning the value of those courses for law school.  Most of what you need to learn in law school that is related to business and economics is taught in your Contracts and Uniform Commercial Code classes, and that is pretty basic stuff that can be grasped without either a business or econ background.

In my experience, English, history and political science are particularly helpful majors because the emphasis in those courses is on research and writing skills.  However, any courses that emphasize analytical thinking and problem solving, writing skills, oral communication and listening skills, and research will be very helpful in preparing you for a legal education.

Good training in careful and analytical reading of complex materials is essential.  That is so much of what lawyers do.  Long before they pick up the file and run to the courthouse—which is the image you see far too often on TV and in the movies—there is a lot of reading and studying of judicial opinions, laws, documents and other written materials.  This is not always the most fun part of being a lawyer, but it is absolutely necessary for proper preparation and best representation for your clients.

In addition to choosing courses and majors that will help you most in law school, you also should consult with your school’s pre-law advisor if there is one.  Many undergraduate colleges and universities assign a person or persons to fill that role, and their services my be available to graduates as well as students.

This is very important because today many people do not go to law school immediately after undergraduate school.  In fact, my husband and I advised our children to work for at least two years after college graduation before going to graduate school.  Our daughter started law school two years after college graduation, and our son has been accepted to law school after more than three years working in the private sector.

Work experience is valuable in terms of understanding the world of business and putting future career plans into perspective.  It is important to learn to work in difficult environments and with people who challenge you.  Learning to push back when appropriate and to accept criticism when appropriate are extremely valuable life lessons and are excellent preparation for law school.  Law school is a very competitive environment, and the lessons you learn in the work environment will serve you well and will help you to keep confident and emotionally healthy under the pressure that is sure to accompany a law education.

Last but not least, any course work or project that teaches you to gather and organize information, form a framework for that information, and effectively present the information is very important to preparation for law school.  It really does not matter what the subject of that information is.  It can be organizing a political rally, heading up preparations for a sports tournament, chairing a charity function—anything that builds and refines organizational skills.  As you may know, law school classes very often are graded on the basis of one exam, which is given at the end of the semester.  Having the skills to organize a semester’s worth of information in an effective format can be the difference between success or lack of success in law school.

In all this preparation for law school, however, remember not to eliminate undergraduate courses that “float your boat” and may not fit the descriptions above.  Lawyers also need “life”—as compared to “work”— to keep them happy, and pursuing subjects that just plain entertain you and broaden your horizons is critically important to developing a satisfying and successful life.  That is the subject of my second book, Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today’s Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012).  Get it and read it when you have the time.  You will be happy you did!

For more information on preparing for law school, I recommend the blog Girl’s Guide to Law School and the on-line magazine Her Campus article at

Good luck!


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Thought For The Day

Never give up on something you cannot go a day without thinking about.

Courtesy of Deborah Mellis

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Best Friends at The Bar Themes Echo at Washington Women’s Weekly

Earlier this week I attended a program sponsored by Washington Women’s Weekly.  If you do not know WWW, get on board by going to  Judith Willson publishes this on-line periodical and plans the program content, and she does a fine job of it.  This week’s program was no exception.

For this special Executive Leadership Series program, Judith brought together three leading business women to discuss whether there is a New Normal and, if there is, does it include not “having it all?”  The panel consisted of: Teresa Bozzelli, President of Sapient Government Services; Diane Zanetti, Senior VP of Citibank; and Allison Abner, Emmy-award winning writer and producer.  As you can imagine—if only from the theme of “having it all”— the themes of Best Friends at the Bar were rebounding off the walls of the Westin Georgetown  in DC.  Themes like:

The Work-life Challenges for Women in Business.  The True Meaning of Balance.  Having It All or NOT.  Career Fulfillment.  The Individual Definitions of Success and Owning Your Success.  Realistic Goal Setting.  Good Choices and Good Planning.  The Importance of Support Systems.  The Importance of Being Present.  Women Helping Women.

ECHO, ECHO, ECHO.  It was so gratifying to hear the Best Friends at the Bar themes articulated by these remarkable women and to have their discussion confirm that the themes of my books and speeches go well beyond just the law.  Women at all levels of management and the professions face these same challenges, and it is high time that we combined our efforts with women outside the law to harness our aggregate energy to get to the bottom of these difficult issues.  I intend to do just that in my next book, and I cannot wait to get started.

For more on this particular program, go to the October 17, 2012 edition of the Washington Women’s Weekly at  Read the reviews and the key take-aways from each of the panelists.  Then, get on the mailing list and sign up for a future program.  The content is spot on, the venues are always inviting, and the opportunity to network with women in business is unmatched.

Here are Judith Willson’s own words describing the mission of WWW:
“[The mission of] Washington Women’s Weekly (WWW) [is] to connect powerful women in Washington with the next generation of trailblazers. WWW is an online venue for professional women to achieve their greatest potential through the guidance and leadership of other successful women through a mentor match-up service, weekly profiles of accomplished women sharing their success stories and lessons learned, networking events and articles, news, information and links to other relevant sites.”

Sound familiar to any of you Best Friends at the Bar followers?  I certainly hope so, and I consider myself in very good company!

Hope to see you at the next WWW program.  Stop by and say hello!


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

Thought For The Day

Character is a diamond that scratches every other stone.

Cyrus A. Bartol

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