Another Door Opens for Women

Last week, another door opened for women.  Women in the military can now serve in combat, an arena where they technically have been prohibited from performing to date.  Whether you are in favor of this or not, it undeniably opens up new opportunities for women.  I have had a lot of indoctrination about this over the years because I am married to a retired Marine officer, now lawyer.  He certainly has his opinions on the subject, but he is reasonable enough to recognize that two sides to the argument exist.  Good for me because I am not always “on his page.”

You would be wrong to assume that all of the opponents of this recent decision are men.  In fact, I commend to your reading an opinion piece in the Washington Post by Kathleen Parker—you know, the conservative columnist with the awesome red glasses!—addressing the reasons she opposes the new rule.  That article, “Combat Puts Women at Unique Risk” is thought provoking and makes some distinctions that I did not know existed.

But, no matter how you line up on women in combat, there are some indisputable facts involved that deserve your attention.  In particular, I found an article on to be very interesting.    Among other thoughtful observations, the author opined on the effect of this ruling on the opportunity for women as business entrepreneurs after they leave military service.  The article pointed out the statistic that 10% of the small businesses in the US today are owned by US veterans and the perception that military training at the command level is comparable to a top-ranked MBA program.  Although I can imagine myself more comfortable getting my business acumen at Wharton, it is all in the eye of the beholder.

What does that mean for women lawyers?  Nothing if you do not connect law with business.  However, law is business, and there is a lot of opportunity for entrepreneurship in law.  Many of the women coming out of the military will go on to law school.  (After combat, even law school looks like a piece of cake!)  They will go on the GI Bill to boot, a real advantage in these days of over-the-top law school tuition.  Those women lawyers may be the ones to set up women-owned law firms to respond to the work-life struggle of the traditional law firm setting.  Those women may be the ones to establish virtual law practices out of their homes.  Those women may use their legal backgrounds to start small businesses, and some of those women may end up like me one day founding a new mentoring program for women lawyers and treading new ground.

If you are in favor of women in combat, you can rejoice because you got your way.  For the rest of you, look at the cup half full, find the silver lining or indulge in whatever cliche or metaphor that works for you.  Women have many opportunities ahead, and this is just one of them.

You go, girls!

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Thought For The Day

To look up and not down; To look forward and not back; To look out and not in, and to lend a hand.

Edward Everett Hale


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Thought For The Day

Well, there–see, he did not provide good counsel.

Justice Clarence Thomas (in mid January 2013, breaking his near 7-year silence from the Supreme Court bench in responding to the credentials of a lawyer, a Harvard Law grad, who it was alleged had not provided good counsel).


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How did Hillary Do?

I suspect that many of us were watching attentively when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week.  I certainly was, and I was very impressed with what I saw.  I am a fan of Secretary Clinton, both for what she does for our country abroad but also for the strong role model she is for women professionals throughout the world.  My opinion of her has morphed a bit over time since she first came on the national scene with husband Bill, and most of my reservations have been allayed and replaced by admiration.

Like you, perhaps, I was cheering when Hillary took on Senator Ron Johnson from Wisconsin, pointing out to him that what mattered most was how to fix problems in the future and not dwelling on the past and “who struck John.”  Although I was not sure that the substance of her response was totally accurate, I really liked the way she handled the opposition.  AND you will recall that I am from the great state of Wisconsin, so that is saying a lot!

But, as I contemplated Secretary Clinton’s response to Senator Johnson, new concerns started to take over my thoughts.  Later, when I heard her detractors comments on the exchange, like “No wonder Bill is afraid of her,” I knew that I had to write this blog.

The subject of my concern is the degree of emotion and anger that Secretary Clinton showed in her response.  I would not doubt if some of that emotion and anger related to the accusations by detractors that Hillary had concocted an illness to avoid  testimony on the Benghazi crisis last fall—Benghazi Flu, I think they called it.  That would make anybody mad, especially when it turned out that her illness was real and landed her in the hospital.  But, that’s not the point.

The point is that giving into emotions like anger and disdain and forcefully gesturing the way that Hillary did—and on camera—have a way of coming back to bite you, especially when the target of your anger is a man.  If Hillary decides to run for president in 2016, you can be sure that the footage of that exchange will be run again and again in Republican campaign adds with very strong tag lines.  You can expect to hear campaign rhetoric about the appropriateness of similar responses with foreign leaders who do not share or approve of US opinions and actions and on …. and on … and on.

I am sure that Hillary will be able to handle the push back that surely will come if she decides to run for public office again.  She is a pro and highly skilled.  She brings the kind of gravitas to any situation that gives her advantages over others—all well deserved.  I have no doubt that she knew what she was doing and had calculated the risks.

My concern is not for Secretary Clinton.  My concern is for the young women watching that exchange and misinterpreting it for their own lives.  Young women who were as thrilled as I was to see Hillary take Senator Johnson to task but do not fully comprehend the repercussions to them of similar conduct.  For instance, have you asked yourself whether you could risk a display of that kind of emotion in the office?  Could you survive the criticism and the allegations of lack of professionalism that are easy to level at junior lawyers?  If you do not think so, and neither do I, consider a different approach when the time comes.  Start by practicing now for that moment.

Think of something that makes you really mad.  Some allegation of wrongdoing that is not true and impeaches your honor and your dignity.  Let yourself react the way you would like to—preferably in front of a mirror so that you can see yourself or, better yet, on camera.  Study those images, and then, get it together, and deliver the same response again in a strong and willful way but as a controlled advocate and without an excess of emotion.  Practice, practice.  Practice makes perfect.

I continue to be a big fan of Hillary, and I am excited to think what lies ahead for her and for all of us as women.  But there is a big difference between you and Hillary Clinton.  She knows that, and I think that she would be the first person to want you to do everything you need to do to survive and prosper in your profession.

So, use the example of Hillary Clinton to inform your future, remembering always that you can get away with a lot as a Clinton, as a former First Lady, as the Secretary of State and…………..more?  Keep it all in perspective.

Having said that, there also are likely to be times when you will be completely within your rights to “Give ’em Hell!”   I know that I have had my moments—and it was the right thing to do, and I had no regrets.  Most women lawyers have similar experiences.  But, it has to be the right thing at the right time.  Distinguishing the right time for emotion and outrage and anger from the myriad other incidents that pique you on a daily basis is what will set you apart as a professional.

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Thought For The Day

As you are woman, so be lovely:  As you are lovely, so be various.

Robert Graves

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Thought For The Day

Government is a trust, and the officials of the government are trustees; and both the trust and the trustees are created for the benefit of the people.

Henry Clay

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Best Friends at the Bar Sits Down with The Daily Muse

Below is the link to an interview I  gave the Daily Muse that was published today.  I hope that you will share it often and widely to help advance women in the profession of law.

The subjects addressed in the interview include:

  • The reasons for the low percentage of women partners in law firms and what law firms are doing about it;
  • The most challenging issues for women lawyers and how to overcome those challenges;
  • The best advice for women lawyers about advancing their careers; and
  • The best advice to my younger self.

Help me spread the word that women lawyers have a great opportunity to make their marks in the profession and to do it strategically and without sacrificing all that they value in both their professional and personal lives.

To quote Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier today in her remarks introducing Senator John Kerry at his Senate confirmation hearing to become the next Secretary of State,  “reclaiming the potential of the world’s women and girls” is one of the top priorities for the State Department.  Hear, hear.

You don’t have to be a cabinet member or a member of Congress to advance that agenda.  We all need to be a part of it!





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Thought For The Day

Justice is the only worship.  Love is the only priest.

Robert Green Ingersoll

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