Thought For The Day

Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.

John F. Kennedy

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Women Helping Women—Or Not!

Any one of you who has read my books, follows my blogs or has heard me speak knows that “Women Helping Women” is a major theme of my work.  The Best Friends at the Bar project is a pay it forward project, and I hope we all know what that means.

Not so fast, however.  It appears that women are not always living up to the responsibility to help their fellow women, as recognized in this favorite quote from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, “There’s a place reserved in Hell for women who do not help other women.”  We knew that it was a problem in the past when women were just coming of age in the workplace, but we hoped that, in the day of enlightened women, it had gone away.  Apparently not.

In a recent WSJ article, “The Tyranny of the Queen Bee,” this deficiency is addressed again.  According to the article, the term “queen bee syndrome” was coined in the 1970s following a study at the University of Michigan, which examined promotion rates and the impact of the women’s movement on the workplace and concluded that “women who achieved success in male-dominated environments were at times likely to oppose the rise of other women.”   In other words, the women who had made it to the top wanted to remain exclusive and have all the female power.  If you saw the movie Mean Girls, you get it.

Ancient history?  Not so much.  Recent studies show that the Queen Bee Syndrome is still alive and well and continues to negatively affect the career ascents of women professionals.  And it is not just theory.  I see it in practice all the time.  As the article points out:

This generation of queen bees is no less determined to secure their hard-won places as alpha females. Far from nurturing the growth of younger female talent, they push aside possible competitors by chipping away at their self-confidence or undermining their professional standing. It is a trend thick with irony: The very women who have complained for decades about unequal treatment now perpetuate many of the same problems by turning on their own.”

Ouch!  Such good news and such bad news.  “Hard-won places” and “turning on their own.”  When will we get it right, and how many women’s careers do we have to see negatively affected by jealous and resentful senior women?  Please, let’s make this a priority and solve the problem RIGHT NOW!  Let’s commit to helping each other and seeing us all rise together.

If we can’t get this right, how are we supposed to tackle the really tough stuff?  REALLY.

Here’s some advice from Gloria Feldt, who I read a lot, in a  CNN exclusive “Why Women Must Seize This Moment addressing how women can get ahead in business.  She calls it “Sister Courage” and invites like-minded men to join.  Here are some snippets—echoing some of my own thoughts above:

  • First, be a sister at work — make alliances with people who share your concerns. Don’t let yourself be isolated.  Reach out to give help and ask for help when you need it.
  • Second, have the courage to raise issues. Engage even when it’s hard.  That doesn’t mean being unkind. It does mean not backing off.  It means defining your own terms — for flextime, for pay raises, for promotion, for creating a practical, productive work situation where everyone wins.
  • And third, put sister and courage together into a purposeful strategy and keep moving until you’ve reached the goal.  Women earn 57% of college degrees, hold 85% of the consumer purchasing purse, are 54% of voters and half the workplace, and they’re stuck at under one-fifth of congressional, corporate board, and top management seats.

Hear, hear!  We can–-we MUST-–do better.  Women Supporting Women!  It is the only way.

The information above appeared in the March 2013 edition of the Best Friends at the Bar Newsletter.  It is important stuff for all of you to know and think about, so I am including it here as well.   If you would like to be added to the Best Friends at the Bar Newsletter mailing list, please contact me at [email protected]

Career Counselors, Law School Educators, Law Students, Practice Advice, Pre-law, Young Lawyer | 3 Comments

Thought For The Day

It’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.

Dwight Eisenhower

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An “Old Pro” Dedicates Himself to Pre-Law

As you know, recently I have added pre-law as a major focus for Best Friends at the Bar.  I have been writing more about pre-law, and my summer and fall schedule is beginning to fill with speeches to pre-law audiences at colleges and universities.  I am very excited about this new focus, and I also am very excited to be joined in the pre-law effort by a friend and colleague, who is refocusing his own efforts from law school to pre-law.

Tony Bastone is someone you need to know about.  He recently retired as the most senior career services dean in the country and veteran of six law schools and now is using all of that knowledge and experience as the Senior Pre-law Advisor at the University of Colorado.  As the students there will learn soon, Tony Bastone can make all the difference for students who need to create clarity from the confusion that so many undergraduates face, and there are scores of current and former law students to attest to the positive effect he has had on their career decisions.  How fortunate for all the undergraduates in Boulder who are interested in going to law school!  When they see the mustache and the bow tie coming their way, they better have some answers to the tough questions he will ask.  It is that kind of probing exchange that will help them focus on their futures and make good and lasting decisions.  There is no denying the harsh Italian judge!

I first met Tony when he hired me to speak at Roger Williams University Law School in 2010.  It was my first speaking engagement after Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law came out, and the program at Roger Williams Law was a celebration of Women in Law Day.  What I did not know then and I do know now is that Tony has started Women in Law Day at all of the six law schools where he served as Dean or Director of Career Services.  In other words, he started it long before it was fashionable—because he knew how important it was to keep women in the profession.  That is the kind of wisdom that Tony Bastone has to offer, and I am so pleased that he has come out of retirement to continue to support both women and men in our profession.

Tony is also the only career services dean emeritus in the country, an honor bestowed on him by the University of Colorado at Commencement in 2005.  So, it is only fitting that he is back at that great university doing what he does best.

I wish him well in his new position and know that he will bring the same level of professionalism and enthusiasm to his new job as he does to all of the things he believes in—-like Best Friends at the Bar. Thank you, Tony, for all of your support for the project over the years.  It is my pleasure now to turn the cameras on you!

Career Counselors, Pre-law | 1 Comment

Thought For The Day

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.

Henry David Thoreau

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The Law Insider Features BFAB on Sheryl Sandberg

Check out my article on The Law Insider that came out today at  Lots to think about there for women lawyers who also are reading the Sheryl Sandberg book or the press surrounding it.

My article, Five Things Women Can Learn from Sheryl Sandberg, addresses Ms. Sandberg’s message to women in traditional business but also distinguishes the value of that message for many women in the law.  I wish it was different—honestly, I do.  I wish that I could tell you that Sheryl Sandberg has all the answers for young women lawyers.  But, I cannot.  She has some very solid advice for women in business, but she also skips lightly over the realities that some women, even those in traditional business, do not have the resources to make it all work to get to the corner offices and flex their muscles—especially during the childbearing and childrearing years.  Without the nannies, the cooks, the housekeepers and the personal shoppers it all becomes very challenging.  While it is true that some husbands and mates are pitching in more at home these days, I do not think that is going to free up enough time for many women in business for the open field run that Sheryl Sandberg seems to respect singularly and advise above all else.  The approach narrows the definition of success and leaves out too many women for my taste.

Ms. Sandberg also too often seems to view having children as an unfortunate complication to a woman’s career—particularly those women who do not have all the support systems identified above.  For the rest, who want both career and children but who do not have the open field for the direct route to the corner office,  what about them?  Are they supposed to feel less successful, or worse, like failures?  I don’t think so, and I don’t want you to think so either.

That is what I think about Sheryl Sandberg and women in traditional business.  I am not a woman in traditional business, so that is only what I think.  However, I am a woman lawyer and have been one for a long time, and what I know about Sheryl Sandberg’s advice and its applicability to women lawyers is worth checking out.   What you will find is that it is not all about a lack of ambition, which Ms. Sandberg lays at women’s feet, but a lack of time.  That old foe, the billable hour, strikes again!

Tell me what you think!



Career Counselors, Law Students, Lifestyle, Young Lawyer | Comment

Thought For The Day

Only a fool tests the depth of the water with both feet.

African Proverb

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Pre-Law as a New Focus for Best Friends at the Bar

Welcome to all the pre-law audience out there!  You have not been forgotten.

Best Friends at the Bar always has been aimed at women in pre-law.  In fact, the first book, Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law, was specifically written for the pre-law woman and includes a lot of information for young women deciding whether to pursue careers in the law.  Of course, that book also was written for the woman law student and the young woman law firm associate, and the second book, Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today’s Woman Lawyer, digs deeper into the balance that young women lawyers need at all levels of their educational and professional lives.

However, until recently, my speaking, blogging and other outreach has been focused on law schools, law firms, and law organizations.  Now, that focus has been broadened, and I am enjoying my first ventures into the pre-law world.  Recently, I blogged about my experiences at Holy Cross College, and now I am happy to report that I am hearing from other colleges and universities.  It is very exciting, especially for someone like me, who started as an educator before law school and had a teaching fellowship at Georgetown Law.  It all has come full circle!

Pre-law education is such a logical audience for what I write and speak about, and it has given me an opportunity to also focus on the Law School Decision.  In fact, the University of Michigan asked me to write an article for the university career web site on that very subject earlier this year.  It seems that the students at the University of Michigan, as well as the students at colleges and universities across the country, I suspect, rely on the negative law blogs for information on the important question of whether law school is a good idea for them.  Typically, that is very narrow and jaded input, and the University of Michigan wanted something broader and more balanced to guide its pre-law students.  My guess is that your college or university wants the same.

That article, in two parts, can be found on the following links to the University of Michigan web site:

Please take the time to read the article and to forward it to undergraduate students, who will benefit from it.  You will be doing yourself and them a favor.

So, I invite you to join the effort to bring Best Friends at the Bar to your college or university or your undergraduate alma mater.  Talk to the pre-law advisors at those schools and direct them to the Best Friends at the Bar web site.  I would love to hear from them and include them in the effort to fully prepare undergraduate students for the challenges of law school and law practice and to help those students understand what the law profession has to offer beyond just financial gain.  There is so much more to the story!

I also am pleased to see Ms. JD’s Pre-Law Prep Guide on the Ms. JD web site at  I am sure that will prove to be a very valuable resource for all of you out there in pre-law land.  Bravo to Ms. JD and good luck to all of you!



Career Counselors, Pre-law, Young Lawyer | Comment