Get the May 2013 Best Friends at the Bar Newsletter

The May 2013 Best Friends at the Bar Newsletter went out today to over 800 addresses.  Get on board!  If you are not signed up to receive the newsletter, you missed lots of good information on how to measure success as a young woman lawyer, the new initiatives by law firms and entrepreneurs to help lawyers with work-life challenges stay in the profession, the value of networking from a variety of interesting perspectives, and a special tribute to women in the military.  You also missed knowing where I am taking Best Friends at the Bar on the road in June.   There are lots of things planned that you will want to know about.

You can sign up for the Best Friends at the Bar Newsletter by clicking the “Newsletter” tab at the top of the Home Page of my web site, www.bestfriendsatthebar.com.  Or, if you e-mail me at [email protected], I will add you to the newsletter mailing list and send you a copy of the May Newsletter.

Make sure that you are ‘in the know’ by subscribing to the monthly Best Friends at the Bar newsletter for young women lawyers.

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Thought For The Day

Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him.

Booker T. Washington

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What is Success for Young Women Lawyers?

Success has been on my mind a lot recently.  As so many of you know, the February bar exam results came out recently in jurisdictions across the country.  It is such an intimidating process to go on-line to get the good or bad news, but, in addition, the on-line messages are often very insensitive and lacking.  Frankly, I find some of them offensive.

Fortunately, jurisdictions phrase the results differently because it would be unfortunate for all jurisdictions to parrot one in particular that informs those who did not pass that they have been “unsuccessful.” Oh, please, can’t they do better than that?  People should not be labeled as “unsuccessful” because they did not pass a test that can only be described as a “crap shoot” by many of those who have taken it.  I took two bar exams and passed both, and I could not have predicted the results of either when I walked out the door at the end of the exam.  So, I would rather see the message be something like, “We are sorry to inform you that you have not passed the bar exam.”  Let’s just leave out the reference to being “unsuccessful” altogether.   Someone who fails to pass a bar exam is hardly unsuccessful as a general description, and yet that is the way too many young people will receive that message.

So, that is what got me started on my tirade, but it led to a broader consideration of what success really is.  Fortunately, the definition of success in business and in life is changing, but it still has a long way to go to make people in general—and many women lawyers in particular—feel good about their professional accomplishments.   I have been talking about this since I launched the Best Friends at the Bar project six years ago, and I am happy to hear more people talking about it today.

I hope that you are familiar with what I call Personal Definitions of Success that are tailored to you and your individual circumstances and that I write about in my books.  To refresh your memory, if you have significant responsibilities for home and family in your personal life, you are not likely to succeed within the same definition of success as the young lawyer seated next to you, who does not have those responsibilities and can devote as much time to career as he or she desires.  It is all time-related and a simple exercise in math.  Time is finite, and, for some of you, with significant responsibilities for home and children, there is just not enough of it to go around.

The retention rates for women lawyers are very low, and those retention rates can be traced directly to how women feel about their careers.  If they feel good about their careers, they stay in.  If they feel bad about their careers, there is not much to hold them to the profession.  So, the logical solution is to find a way of making more young women lawyers feel good about their careers.  To do that, we have to stop defining success for women with family responsibilities the same way we define success for men and women without those same levels of responsibility in their personal lives—at least for the periods of time when women are particularly career challenged with the responsibilities of home and family.

I know that flies in the face of the teachings of the Women’s Liberation Movement and some of the thought leaders of today like Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook executive who wants you all to “lean in” to your careers like men, but I also know that it is the only practical way to keep more women in the profession. To do that, we will have to encourage women, who are particularly challenged juggling professional and personal lives, to define their success in terms of flexible work schedules, reduced hours, sole practice, alternative practice settings (like those I profile in Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today’s Woman Lawyer)  and the many other variations that will help them survive the most difficult care-taking years, stay in the profession in one way or another, and be ready to jump back into a full-time schedule once the responsibilities of their personal lives are redefined as the children get older and become more independent.

That does not mean that we do not need some women to stay on the upwardly mobile full-time career path with a direct trajectory to the corner office or the corporate C-suite.  Of course we do.  We want them to be on that path and to get to the top of leadership and management so that women’s abilities will be recognized and appreciated and so that they can help develop policies that will assure options for women lawyers who need them.   We hope that those more upwardly mobile women will have the perfect mates, the perfect nannies and the perfect law firms and many, many resources to allow them to do just that.  I am all in favor of it, and I devote a lot of time in my books addressing how these women can overcome the challenges of a male-dominated profession to help them accomplish those goals.  But, as much as we applaud the women who are able to stay on uninterrupted career paths, we know that it does not work for all women.

So, that is what I talk about in my books and in my speeches and whenever anyone will listen to me.  I am a pragmatist, and I do not rest on ceremony or useless principles.  I want as many of you to succeed as possible.  It is as simple as that.

Others think it is simple, too.  Recently, I have spoken to two male lawyers who have founded serious flexible-time programs with the specific objective of keeping women lawyers in the profession and not losing them to the talent bleed that results from the work-life challenge that has such a great effect on women and their careers.  One of them, Benjamin Lieber, left Big Law to found The Potomac Law Group, as detailed in a Washington Post article earlier this year.  Ben and I will be having lunch soon to discuss the project, and I can’t wait to hear all about it.  Another program is in place at Gallagher & Kennedy in Phoenix where the efforts there are headed up by Scott Henderson.  Mr. Henderson is a fan of Best Friends at the Bar, and contacted me to fill me in on the project, which is not limited to women but which is helping so many women at that firm survive the challenging work-life years and continue to feel successful.

Bravo for these efforts and others like them.  But, back to the definition of success.  What are other people saying about it?  Stay tuned for my next blog to find out!

 

 

 

 

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Thought For The Day

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

John Quincy Adams

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A Belated Mother’s Day Message to ALL Young Women Lawyers

I fell a little behind on Mother’s Day this year—but for good reasons.  I spent the time surrounding Mother’s Day, first, with my very senior mother—I am forbidden to tell you how senior but think in batches of 100!—and, second, with my daughter selecting the bridesmaids dresses for her October wedding that is fast approaching AND celebrating yet another bar passing. Yes, two behind her, and now she can relax and enjoy the very fast approaching wedding—I think I said that, but, somehow, I cannot get the very very fast approaching wedding out of my mind these days!

So, even though I missed reaching out to you closer to Mother’s Day, I think you would agree that I celebrated the “big day’ in style.  Spending time with my mother and with my daughter are gifts at this time in my life especially, and I will take any and all opportunities.

If I had been more timely, I also would have celebrated all you lawyer/mothers out there and given you high fives for a job well done.  Those of you who are trying to balance careers and families know that high fives do not begin to acknowledge all that you do.  But, it is a good place to start.  I admire your courage and your grit and your ability to stick in there when the going gets tough.  So, now, these many days later, go home, pour yourself a beverage of choice, and toast all that is so special and amazing about you.

AND if I had been more timely, I also would have given those of you young women without children an itty bitty lesson on planning.  You probably think that I have told you all I know about planning your careers, but here is a twist.  Not planning too fast can sometimes be the right strategy.

For instance, I hear from some young women that they think they do not want to have children, and they sometimes tell it to me as if asking for my approval, as in, “Do you think that is alright?”  I always respond that being alright with me is not what matters and that I do not make value judgments about such personal things.  However, I also ask these young women to tell me why they think they will make that choice.

Some of the answers are more thoughtful than others, but the one that always gets my attention straight on is, “Because I do not like little children.”  At this response and depending on the person who says it, I can be heard to laugh and laugh and laugh some more.  Then I regain my composure and explain something that too many young women just do not seem to understand.

Liking small children is not a very good reason not to have children of your own.  Honestly, many women with children—-and many men for that matter— do not like other people’s children.  They find them misbehaved, far too labor intensive and down right annoying.  They have nothing invested in other people’s children, and they see very little of positive value about them.

However, once you have children of your own, everything changes.  Your children are angelic, precocious and even genius-level mentality, worthy of Gerber Baby beauty competition recognition…….and the list goes on and on and on.  In other words, they are your children and that makes them special to the nines and worthy of all your adoration and attention.  You never get tired of seeing them smile, and you can’t wait for them to wake in the morning and get started on their special brand of cuteness…..at least until they are teenagers and, fortunately, they don’t wake until noon then!   You take pleasure in each and every one of their accomplishments and you have to nearly muzzle yourself not to share the details with all the world.  That is what being a parent is all about, but it is hard to see that when you are in your twenties and have only bad memories of the monster children you babysat for as teenagers.

This is not a commercial for having children.  Far from it.  Some will and some won’t, and that is just fine.  I simply want to caution you not to make a big decision like that based on such flimsy and faulty reasoning.  Let time pass on that decision until you and your mate have done some better research and have more experience watching your contemporaries become parents.

And, in the meantime, do not make decisions about your career that will piggyback on that same flimsy and faulty reasoning.  Deciding on a career path to the exclusion of all others before you have all the facts can prove disastrous.  Take time to see how your life unfolds.  Keep your options open and do not close any career doors until the time is right.

Now, that is what mother would have told you!

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Thought For The Day

Better keep yourself clean and bright.  You are the window through which you must see the world.

George Bernard Shaw

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Thought For The Day

The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.

B. B. King

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Join Me at the 2013 Georgetown Law Women’s Forum

It is becoming very clear that women are an unstoppable force, which will be changing the face of business in America and in the world in the next several decades.  The changes are already taking place and have caught the attention of commenters worldwide, including the participants and attendees at the most recent conferences of the prestigious World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.  As noted at those events, the number of women world leaders and women business entrepreneurs is on the rise, and women, from large corporate C-Suite members in the developed world to small business owners in the far corners of Africa, are gaining attention.  There is still a very long way to go for parity, but the advance of women on the world stage is palpable.

So, it will be no surprise to you that there is an energetic ongoing effort to compile data about women in the workplace.  For one example, check out these recent figures from Anne Loehr, an expert in developing authentic and transformational leadership:  http://www.anneloehr.com/statistics-to-kickstart-the-rise-of-women-in-the-workforce/.

These figures generally support what many of us in the law profession have been talking about for years.  For instance, nearly fifty per cent of the law school graduates are women, and yet fewer than 20 per cent of the partners in law firms across the nation are women and there are only five female managing partners of the group of large law firms that are commonly referred to as “Big Law.”  Women also are very poorly represented on the management and policy committees in law firms.  However, this disparity is getting a lot of attention through projects like Best Friends at the Bar and programs sponsored by law organizations, and there is hope that those numbers will improve as part of this trend that can only be described as “the rise of women in the workplace.”

These issues will be among those addressed by the 2013 Women’s Forum sponsored by Georgetown Law.  Although the conference has been limited to Georgetown Law alumni in the past, this year the one-day conference on Friday, June 14, 2013 will be open to all lawyers.  It is a great opportunity to network with other women lawyers, share experiences and build strong professional relationships.  The event will feature panels of accomplished Georgetown Law alumnae and other speakers on topics of interest to all women lawyers.  For more information and to register, visit:  www.law.georgetown.edu/alumni/alumni-events/womens-forum/index.cfm.

As a Georgetown Law graduate, I personally invite you to attend.  The people at the law school who are responsible for this event are well known to me, and they do a fine job of keeping us informed about the progress of women in the law and the challenges that continue to face us.  It is an event that you will not want to miss.

I will be there on June 14th, and I hope that you will join me.  Be a Hoya for a day!

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