5 New Office Rules For Young Women Lawyers

I am a big fan of MSNBC’s Morning Joe show.  I like the treatment of the news, the vigorous debate, the quality of guests on the show and the hosts.  Joe Scarborough can get on my nerves from time to time, but I feel an affinity for Mika Brzezinski because she is from my area of Northern Virginia, and I have a connection to her family.

After completing a project during my public service days, I was treated to a very interesting evening of Russian caviar and vodka in the Brzezinski home by the charming Emilie and Zbigniew Brzezinski—but that is a story for another time and place!  As you probably know, Zbigniew is the former National Security Advisor to President Carter.  But, you may not know that Emilie is a formidable sculpture artist, whose artistic tool of choice is a chain saw!  I told you it was interesting.  I first saw her work in the University of Virginia Art Museum when I was in Charlottesville visiting my kids at UVA and needed a moment of silence.  Her work is amazing and very inspirational.

Now, Mika, the product of these two wonderful and accomplished people, has gone on to become a household name and has written a book, Knowing Your Value—Women, Money, and Getting What You’re Worth (Weinstein Books, 2011).  A recent edition of Cosmopolitan magazine featured Mika on the cover and included five tips from her book that you need to know:

1.  Don’t be afraid to piss people off;

2.  Brag about your accomplishments first.  Then ask for a raise;

3.  Keep your friends close…And leave your co-workers at the office;

4.  Remember business is business.  It’s not personal; and

5.  Make yourself visible (and not just by wearing something red).

It is a good read, even though you may not agree with everything that Mika has to say.  Certainly, Joe does not!

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Thought For The Day

Stupid questions are better than stupid mistakes.

Japanese Proverb

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The Girly Girl Lawyers and Why They Matter

Yes, you heard me right.  I said “Girly Girl Lawyers.”  Hold onto your seats and listen for awhile.  It will be worth your time.

Girly Girl Lawyers is what I call a significant group of young women lawyers—-who I happen to love— in my second book, Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today’s Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business, 2012).   Yes, me—the women’s advocate who founded Best Friends at the Bar to help raise the retention rates for women lawyers and make improvements to the practice experiences for all women in our profession.  Me—the one who travels the country as a motivational speaker for young women lawyers to advise them on the challenges of law practice for women and to enhance their survival skills.  Me—the one who wants you to be very serious about your profession and your career goals.  Confusing, I know, and worthy of an explanation.

First, let me identify the young women that fit my description of Girly Girl Lawyers.  As explained in the book, they are the millennial generation young women who are obvious on every law school campus and in every law firm that I visit.  They are smart and savvy and enthusiastic about life.  They typically dress in a way that makes it clear that they have fashion and style sense, and they love having Cosmos—or the cocktail of the moment—or lattes with their girlfriends.  Many of them have favorite fashion web sites to start their day and to end their day, and Pinterest is a staple for them.  They can’t wait to get the new editions of InStyle and their favorite interior design mag, and they can tell you the best vintage clothing stores in the city. You see them on the streets of Soho, on Miracle Mile in Chicago, in Beverly Hills and in Georgetown.

However, they also are the young women who graduated at the top of their law school classes and have excellent practice skills.  They know how to fight the battle and take no prisoners.  They are headed for very satisfying and successful careers in the law if they don not get derailed along the way.

Girly Girl Lawyers seem to be everywhere.  Their numbers alone would cause me to focus on them in a project like Best Friends at the Bar.   But I also know that they are the ones who are most likely to be challenged by the work-life struggle that is sure to come their way in our profession.  Many of these young women will marry, they will have children, and they will transfer the same personal traits that make them interested in classically feminine things like nurturing and nesting to classically feminine caretaking for their families.  That is where the rubber will meet the road—-it always does, and it lends significantly to a mid-career drop out rate exceeding 40% for women lawyers.  They are a population at risk.

But my motives for salvation of young women lawyers go well beyond the Girly Girl Lawyers.  They just happen to present an easily defined challenge to start the discussion.  The challenge for the Girly Girls is similar to the challenge that all young women lawyers with passions and interests beyond the law will face.  The Girly Girls just sharpen the focus.  This is how it works.

The key to success and finding an acceptable work-life balance for all young women lawyers is to safeguard the things that make them happy and to have personal definitions of success—-not the definitions of the male lawyers in practice or the woman lawyer in the office down the hall.  No—-personal definitions of success founded on personal circumstances and personal goals.

A personal definition of success may be something different from becoming a partner in a law firm if a young woman is staunch about protecting the things in her personal life that matter most and make her happy.   That is certainly true for the Girly Girl lawyers, but it also is true for the young woman lawyer who happens to be an avid cross-country runner and trains for marathons.  It is also true for the young woman lawyer devoted to mastering a musical instrument and playing in the symphony orchestra, and it also is true for the young woman lawyer compelled to follow her passion for feeding the homeless.  All of the young women of these various definitions, and more, count equally, but using the Girly Girl Lawyers as the example makes explaining it so much easier.

So that is what I do. If we cannot find a way to keep the Girly Girls and the piano player and the long distance runner and the volunteer at the homeless shelter in the profession, we will lose huge amounts of talent and it will impact best legal practices for a long time to come.  So, you see, there is a lot at risk if women lawyers with significant passions and interests outside the law cannot find their way.

I understand that you might have called them something different, but that is not as easy as you might think.  Should I have called them the “Feminine Lawyers” and risk offending every woman lawyer who considers herself feminine but does not fit into that group in terms of her interests?  Should I have called them the “Multi-Dimensional Women Lawyers?”  You would have stopped reading a long time ago, and I would not have had the chance to tell you about personal definitions of success and why they matter for you.

I decided on Girly Girl Lawyers when I recalled how often I have heard my male friends describe their pink-cheeked, tutu-wearing daughters—who would go on to become doctors and lawyers— as “Girly Girls”, an obvious term of affection.  Certainly for me it is, because I have beloved Girly Girl Lawyers in my life, and I am a Girly Girl Lawyer.  Always have been.  No pinstriped oxford cloth shirts and little bow ties for me.  Nope.  Even in the late ’70’s when that attire was popular for young women lawyers, I wore silk blouses, last year’s designer suits that I bought at the discounter and heals as high as I could get them.  I refused to dress like a man because I was not one.  I joined a law firm of 25 men, and I made them believers that a feminine woman can be a killer advocate—as a construction lawyer, no less!  It worked for me, and I want it to work for the Girly Girl Lawyers of today.  I want it to work for all of you.  I want you to be happy enough in your personal and your professional lives to stay in the profession.

That is who the Girly Girl Lawyers are and why they matter.  A book critic, a super feminist from what I can tell, went ballistic at the name—that is, after she found the book most valuable and helpful for young women lawyers.  So, what’s in a name?

You cannot solve a problem until you define it.  Here’s to the Girly Girls.  Here’s to all young women lawyers.  Here’s to your futures!



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Thought For The Day

Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition.

Marilyn Monroe

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Thought For The Day

You can’t control the wind, but you can adjust your sails.

Yiddish Proverb


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It all Begins in Pre-Law

Best Friends at the Bar has added a focus—pre-law programs in colleges and universities.  After all, it is in these undergraduate programs that most students decide whether or not to attend law school.  That decision should be a very informed one, and programs like Best Friends at the Bar can provide the information that the students need to make good choices for their futures.  In fact, the first book, Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law, was written with pre-law students specifically in mind.

The benefit of Best Friends at the Bar to these pre-law programs was demonstrated so well when I visited Holy Cross College earlier this week to speak to the pre-law students.  My remarks focused on the law school decision, the important aspects of a successful and satisfying law career, and the special challenges to women lawyers and how to overcome them.  The event was a great success, and I thoroughly enjoyed becoming familiar with the college, the pre-law program and the students.

Holy Cross has a very extensive pre-law program that includes both Moot Court and Mock Trial and involves nation-wide competition with other undergraduate pre-law programs.  The professionals who work with the competitors are very dedicated and talented folks, and they help to make the difference between a mediocre pre-law program and an outstanding one.  Holy Cross is very proud of its record in these competitions, and there were a lot of trophies proudly displayed in the trophy case when I was there.

I also was very impressed by the students in the pre-law program at Holy Cross, and I enjoyed my conversations with many of them.  I found out that participation in the Mock Trial program requires familiarity with 8 of the exceptions to the hearsay evidentiary rule—of which there are more than 30—and I consider that nothing short of amazing.  I know law students who cannot claim that knowledge, and I also know many practicing lawyers who could not spontaneously list and explain more than five of those exceptions.  The students in the Moot Court program seemed equally as capable at advocacy, and I was doubly impressed to meet at least one student who has participated in both programs for all of his four years at Holy Cross.  It is no wonder that the students in this program graduate every year to enroll as 1Ls in excellent law schools and to excel in those settings, as well.

But, it does not stop there.  The program also includes the publication of the Holy Cross Journal of Law and Public Policy, which provides a forum for pre-law students at Holy Cross to examine some of the difficult problems facing society.   The pre-law Journal staff solicits articles from students at law schools throughout the country, and the pre-law students are responsible for all of the stages of publication.  It is a considerable effort, and the result is laudatory and invaluable for students who expect to attend law school and participate on a law review or journal.

Although it is clear that the students in the pre-law program at Holy Cross have been steeped in preparation for law school, that did not keep them from having questions and concerns that only a program like Best Friends at the Bar can address.  And, this was not just true for the female students.  The audience included a nice representation of young men as well.  My remarks about the value to young men of the Best Friends at the Bar books resonated with these young men, especially the reality that many male lawyers will marry women lawyers, will manage women lawyers and will be managed by women lawyers.  They understand the importance of being familiar with the special challenges to women in the law to becoming better mates and better managers.

So, hat’s off to the Holy Cross pre-law program.  I hope that your college or university has a pre-law program, and I would love to bring Best Friends at the Bar to those programs as well. Talk to your college professors and deans, and put them in touch with me through my web site at www.bestfriendsatthebar.com.  It would be a real boost for your program.

One thing is for sure, it all starts in pre-law.  Go Holy Cross!

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Thought For The Day

Travel is fatal to prejudice.

Mark Twain

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Thought For The Day

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.


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