In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.
In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.
I always seem to be pointing out things about law practice that need to be fixed. I warn you of the pitfalls of practice and try to protect you from the big, bad stuff that can happen if you are not wary and diligent and cognizant of your responsibility to plan and to make good and rational choices to protect your careers. That is what mentors do, and I plead guilty to all of it. However, I also know that it is appropriate and necessary to help you craft the best careers possible in the law.
As we get closer to Thanksgiving—-which it TODAY!— I realize that some of the advising and land mine identification overlooks the fact that we, as women in America, are very lucky. We enjoy greater opportunities than women in most other parts of the world, and we need to be thankful for that.
For instance, I am thankful that I am allowed to drive a car— no matter how badly I drive it! I am thankful that I do not have to cover my face in public. I am thankful that I do not have to worry about being sexually assaulted for the simple reason that I am a woman and perceived to have little value, and I am thankful that I am able to access the highest levels of education available on the face of the earth. And, I am thankful for so many other things.
It is easy to get caught up in minutia and to treat every small thing as a big problem. We need to keep it all in focus. We need to understand that we have the ability to solve both big and small problems because of the privileges that we enjoy in this wonderful country.
I have lived abroad. I know the difference. Although I lived in a developed country, the difference between that experience and living in America was stark. There simply is no place like home, and we should never lose sight of it.
So, on this Thanksgiving Day, and after you have expressed your thanks for your families and your friends and the delicious food on your table, give thanks that you are a woman in America. It does not get any better than that for any of us. We are women who can reach for the stars, touch them, claim them and bring them down to earth. The fact that it may be harder for us than for some others does not diminish the value of having the opportunity. Just being able to say “I can do that” is a privilege that many women around the world do not have.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
At the food market yesterday (three days before Thanksgiving), where there was not a parking spot to be found and it was like bumper carts in the food aisles, a small boy was heard to say to his mother, “Mommy, I need a drink. I really, really need a drink!”
Yeh, no kidding—-we all needed a drink!
I love the columns that Gene Weingarten writes for the Washington Post Sunday Magazine, the one that all of the DC political junkies like me pour over on Sunday mornings. Between “Meet the Press” and “Face the Nation” on TV and the Washington Post Magazine section, Sunday mornings is when I get my political fix for the entire week. My family has known for years that my Sunday morning ritual is sacred to me and that they only can talk to me—-or to each other while in the same room with me— during commercial breaks
Gene Weingarten’s writing always gets my attention. He writes about mundane but interesting and amusing things in his column called “Below the Beltway.” It does not get much more mundane than that in Washington, DC. Most of all, he makes me laugh, and I love to laugh.
His column last Sunday made me laugh especially hard. He was exploring what he calls “pretzel logic.” Pretzel logic, as it turns out, is logic that is so contorted as to be unrecognizable to the rational mind. Here a sampling:
An influential Saudi Arabian cleric explains that the reason women are not permitted to drive in his country is that they might damage their ovaries if they were to become involved in an automobile accident, thereby affecting the health of the future generation.
Logical? Yes, of course……..
As Gene Weingarten points out, pretzel logic could be used to explain a lot of other things:
You need to understand pretzel logic because it most likely will be used against most of you at one time or another. As women, we are particularly vulnerable to pretzel logic. Pretzel logic can be used to convince you that you lack dedication to your profession because you cannot be expected to handle the responsibilities of both profession and family. Pretzel logic also can be used to explain that you were not invited to the sports event with the firm’s biggest client because you would not have enjoyed it, and pretzel logic can also be used to convince you that women are natural party planners and that you, therefore, are the logical choice for chairing the Christmas party committee.
There are no facts behind pretzel logic, but it sounds really good to the people who are trying to avoid facing serious issues and doing something about them.
So, beware of pretzel logic—-and remember that pretzels are not all thin and straight. Some pretzels are all turny and twisty and loopy and do not seem to have a beginning or an end. It is the same with pretzel logic. It is your job to put an end to it!
Never give up on what you really want to do. The person with big dreams is more powerful than one with all the facts.
Today, November 22, 2013, is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. For me and for so many others of my generation, it seems like just yesterday when we learned of the president’s death. Those memories are so strongly etched in our minds that we do not hesitate for even a moment when asked, “Where were you when President Kennedy was shot?” We know.
I was in my advance algebra class in high school, and, for me, it was like the end of a promise —-at least for those moments and days following the realization that Camelot was over. I had been in the presence of President Kennedy just a year earlier when then Senator Kennedy spoke at my high school in rural Wisconsin during the campaign leading up to the highly contentious Wisconsin primary. Jack Kennedy had come to town with his beautiful and sophisticated wife to convince voters that he was the right man to become the next President of the United States. For those of us who experienced his charisma and magnetism, we could not imagine anything else. We held our breaths when Jackie entered the assembly hall and walked the length of the hall in total silence before being introduced by a proud husband, and we hung on every word from a young and vital Senator, who spoke of hopes and dreams that resonated for all of us.
The Kennedy years brought promise to America. We were positive about the future, and we began to believe that anything was possible. We put a man on the moon, we sent Americans all over the world to help the less fortunate as Peace Corps volunteers, and we began to make progress on civil rights here at home. We started to believe that we could be anything we wanted to be and that we were not constrained by past notions and beliefs.
I suppose that was the time when I started to believe that I could be a lawyer just like my dad and that the possibility was not reserved for my brother alone. The Women’s Liberation Movement followed and continued the promise. Women like me went on to become doctors and lawyers and businesswomen, and we opened up even greater opportunities for the generation of women that followed. We lived out the dreams that had begun when a young would-be president challenged us to be all that we could be.
The lesson for today is not where I was 50 years ago. The lesson is to be everything you can be and strive to inspire others to do the same. Embrace every moment, make it count, and give back to your country. That is what the Kennedy Years mean to me.
Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.
Recently, I was told by a friend that her financial adviser had cancelled an important meeting because he was having work done at his house. At first, I could not see why that was a problem because, as you know, I am an advocate of work-life balance. After all, we all have personal issues pop up now and then that interfere with our professional lives and vice versa. It is challenging.
But, the more I thought about it the more I understood why my friend found this annoying. She was looking at it as a woman professional and knew that such an explanation of need to be on the home front during working hours would never fly as easily for her. She would get lots of critical looks and probably some critical remarks if she did the same thing. When a woman opts for a domestic task over a professional task, the assumption far too often is that she is not a dedicated professional and does not take her job seriously enough.
The same issue is presented when a man leaves the office at 4 PM on a weekday to go to his child’s soccer game or when a man comes in late in the morning because he was at his child’s parent-teacher conference. People in the office, mostly women, remark positively about what a dedicated Dad he is. No one talks about his lack of dedication to his profession or his less than serious approach to his job. But, try that as a woman, and you will be treated like you should be sending the nanny to the soccer game and to the parent-teacher conference as well.
This is the nature of things still, sad to say. It is a difficult reality but one that we have to learn to deal with until the day when women run the profession and do not make such harsh judgments. At least we hope they won’t. If they remember that women helping women is the way we all succeed, it will not be a problem. If they indulge in jealousy and competitive behavior, we will not make much progress. Let’s hope for the former.
Until then, here are a few pointers on how to avoid the issue altogether:
Some women will not agree with this. They will say that women have every right to tell all—just like the men— and not be criticized for it. They will consider it unfair that women are not treated the same way as men under similar circumstances, and they will want to make an issue of it. And, I can see that position, too. There is a lot of room for resentment in these situations. Double standards are like that.
However, I am a pragmatist, and I see no reason to tilt at windmills. Let’s conserve our energy for the really big fights. It doesn’t take much energy to just keep your mouth shut.
Less is more.
I welcome public speaking opportunities to discuss key issues addressed in my Best Friends at the Bar books for women lawyers and What Millennial Lawyers Want: A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice for ALL young lawyers. My programs are consistently approved for CLE credits. If you would like to arrange a speaking engagement, please contact me at [email protected].
The presentations for women lawyers address the low retention rates for women lawyers due to lack of systemic support for the issues of work-life balance and gender parity that affect so many women lawyers. My research and conclusions detail the benefits of change for lawyers and law firms and the approach that young women lawyers take to their careers.
I speak on a wide range of subjects related to women lawyers. Here are some representative speech topics:
*The Low Retention Rates for Women Lawyers and What We Can Do About it;
*Effective Leadership for Women Lawyers;
*Effective Negotiations For Women Lawyers — For Clients and For Yourself
*Why Women Lawyers Leave;
*Why Law Firms Should Care about Retention and Advancement of Women Lawyers;
*What to Look for in a Law Firm and How to Succeed;
*The Role of Law Firm Leaders in the Success of Women Lawyers;
*Negative Leadership Behaviors and How They Impact Women Lawyers;
*How to Avoid the Pitfalls of a Male-Dominated Profession;
*Navigating the Gender Issues;
*How to Develop Personal Definitions of Success;
*The TO DO List for Success for Young Women Lawyers;
*The Art of Negotiations — for others and for yourself;
*The importance of Networking and Business Development;
*The Issues Surrounding Leaving the Profession and Re-entry;
*How to Create Balance Between Your Professional and Personal Lives;
*Myths Affecting Women Lawyers;
*How to Avoid the “Golden Handcuffs” of Private Law Practice and Keep Your Options Open;
*Pay Equity For Women Lawyers;
*Implicit Gender Bias and Its Relationship to Effective Leadership for Women Lawyers;
*How to Transition from One Practice Setting to Another.; and
*The Responsibility of Law Firm Leaders to “Lean In” on Retention Issues.
Here is what one audience member has to say:
The Women’s Bar Association of Maryland was honored to host Susan Blakely in September 2010 at the University of Baltimore School of Law to discuss her book. Susan is an interesting and personable woman who took the time to talk one on one with attendees before speaking. She truly is an inspiration to women lawyers – both brand new and seasoned alike – and has some amazing insight into surviving in the legal field. I only wish she had written her book before I went to law school! I would not only recommend it as a must read for any young woman contemplating a legal career, but as an attorney with 10 years of experience and a young family, it spoke to me as well.
The presentations for ALL young lawyers are non-gender specific and address what today’s young lawyers want, how young lawyers and law firms need to work together to meet the needs of today’s young lawyers and the Soft Skills young lawyers need to advance in their careers.
Remarks, Book Launch Event, Kirkland and Ellis, Chicago, February 2019
Speaker, Pro Bono Institute Conference, Washington DC, Spring 2019
Speaker, DC Women’s Bar Association, IP Group, Spring 2019
Speaker, DC Women’s Bar Association, Young Lawyers Group, Spring 2019
Past Speaking Engagements & Events
Speaker, Washington University School of Law, St. Louis, MO, October 2018
Speaker, Charlotte Women Lawyers, Charlotte, NC, February, 2018
Speaker, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher Law Firm, New York, NY, November 2017
Speaker, Oklahoma City Bar Association, Oklahoma City, OK, September 2017
Speaker, Womble Carlyle Law Firm, Washington, DC, April 2017
Keynote Speaker, Federal Bar Association Women Lawyers Conference, Tampa, FL, April 2017
Speaker, American Health Lawyers Association Conference, Baltimore, MD, March 2017
Speaker, Presidential Inaugural Scholarship Summit, Washington, DC, January 2017.
Speaker, Jackson Walker Law Firm, Dallas, TX, November 2016
Speaker, ACI Healthcare LawConference, Boston, MA, July 2016
Speaker, Simpson Thacher Law Firm, New York, NY, July 2016
Panelist, Federal Bar Association Women Lawyers Conference, New Orleans, LA, April 2016
Webinar Featured Speaker, Practising Law Institute (PLI) , March 30, 2016
Speaker, Catholic University Law, Washington, DC, March, 2016
Speaker, University of Baltimore School of Law, Baltimore, MD, March 2016
Guest, Your Working Life Podcast With Caroline Dowd-Higgins, February 2016
Speaker, University of Maryland School of Law, Baltimore, MD, February 32016
Discussion Leader, NewLAWu.s. Legal Market Roundtable, New York, NY, September 2015
Panel Moderator, Georgetown Law Women’s Forum, Washington, DC, February 2015
Speaker, Women’s Business Roundtable, McLean, VA, January 2015
Speaker, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC, December 2014
Speaker, Georgetown University Alumni Career Services Webinar, November 2014
Speaker and Classroom Lecturer, Wake Forest University School of Law, Winston-Salem, NC, October 2014
Speaker, University of Washington School of Law, Seattle, WA, October 2014
Panelist, International Aviation Women’s Association (IAWA), Seattle, WA, October 2014
Speaker, South Carolina Women Lawyer’s Association, Charleston, SC, October 2014
Keynote Speaker, Erie County Bar Association, Erie County, PA, September 2014
Webinar Speaker, Women in Business Superseries (UK), August 2014
Webinar Speaker, Georgetown University Alumni Career Services, August 2014
Keynote Speaker, University of Baltimore Law Women’s Bar Association, Baltimore, MD, April 2014
Webinar Panelist, American Bar Association Copyright and Trademark Section, March 2014
Panelist, WAPLA Pre-Law Conference, Denver, CO, March 2014
Speaker, Polsinelli Law Firm, Chicago, IL, February 2014
Speaker, Baylor Law School, Waco, TX, February 2014
Speaker, William & Mary Law School, Williamsburg, VA, November 2013
Guest, Voice America Radio with Host Chris Efessiou, September 2013
Speaker,Washington Women’s Weekly, Washington, DC, June 2013
Speaker, National Conference of College Women Student Leaders (AAUW), University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD, May 2013
Speaker, Ladies DC, Washington, DC, May 2013
Speaker, Lerch Early & Brewer Law Firm, Bethesda, MD, May 2013
Guest, CBS Radio with Host Bonnie Marcus, April 2013
Panelist, George Washington University Women in Business Conference, Washington, DC, April 2013
Speaker, University of Maryland School of Law, Baltimore, MD, April 2013
Speaker, College of the Holy Cross Pre-Law Program, Worcester, MA, February 2013
Keynote Speaker, Association for Women Lawyers of Greater Kansas City, Kansas City, MO, October 2012.
Speaker, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, Detroit, MI, October 2012.
Panelist, Ms. JD National Conference, Washington College of Law, American University, Washington, DC, October 2012.
Speaker, National Conference of Women’s Bar Associations Leadership Summit, Chicago, IL, August 2012.
Speaker, National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (AAUW), University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD, June 2012.
Speaker, Whiteford Taylor Preston Law Firm, Washington, DC, March 2012
Speaker, Washington and Lee University School of Law, Lexington, VA, November 2011
Panelist, American Bar Association Air & Space Law Conference, Washington, DC, October 2011
Speaker, University of Miami School of Law, Miami, FL, October 2011
Speaker, Holland & Knight Law Firm, Miami FL, October 2011
Speaker, Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Miami, FL, October 2011
Speaker, St. Thomas University School of Law, Miami Gardens, FL, October 2011
Panelist, George Mason University Law School, Arlington, VA, September 19, 2011
Speaker, DLA Piper Law Firm, Washington, DC, July 2011
Panelist, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, April 2011
Speaker, Seton Hall University School of Law, Newark, NJ, April 2011
Speaker, Marquette University Law School, Milwaukee, WI, April 2011
Speaker, University of Wisconsin Law School, Madison, WI, April 2011
Speaker, Georgetown Law, Washington, DC, March 2011
Panelist, University of Maryland School of Law, Baltimore, MD, March 2011
Speaker, University of Virginia School of Law, Charlottesville, VA, February 2011
Speaker, Paul Hastings Law Firm, Chicago, IL, December 2010.
Speaker, Polsinelli Shughart Law Firm, Chicago, IL, December 2010
Speaker, George Washington University Law School/DC Women’s Bar Association Joint Program, George Washington University Law School, Washington, DC, November 2010
Speaker, National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) Teleconference, October 2010
Speaker, University of Detroit-Mercy School of Law, Detroit, MI, October 2010
Speaker, University of Baltimore Law School/Maryland Women’s Bar Association Joint Program, Baltimore, MD, September 2010
Speaker, Virginia Women Attorney’s Association, Alexandria, VA, June 2010
Speaker, Crowell & Moring Law Firm, Washington, DC, March 2010
Keynote Speaker, Roger Williams University School of Law, Bristol, RI, March 2010
Speaker, American University Washington School of Law, Washington, DC, February 2010
Speaker, DLA Piper Law Firm Book Reception, Washington, DC, December 2009
Panelist, American University Washington College of Law Lawyer Re-Entry Program, American University Washington College of Law, Washington, DC, November 2008
Lawyer Monthly Women In Law Award, 2016
Ms. JD Sharing Her Passion Award, March 2015
Books by Susan Smith Blakely
Best Friends at the Bar: What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business/Aspen Publishers, 2009)
Best Friends at the Bar: The New Balance for Today’s Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business/Aspen Publishers, 2012)
Best Friends at the Bar: Top-Down Leadership for Women Lawyers (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business/Aspen Publishers, 2015)
What Millennial Lawyers Want: A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers, 2018)
All books are available for purchase on this web site and through Amazon Books.
Articles by Susan Smith Blakely
ABA Journal, “Women Lawyers Must Be Careful What They Wish For,” http://www.abajournal.com/voice/article/gaining_in_influence_women_lawyers_must_be_careful_what_they_wish_for, December 20, 2018
ABA Business Law Today, “Good Law Firm Business: Protecting Millennial Talent,” https://businesslawtoday.org/2018/11/good-law-firm-business-protecting-millennial-talent/, November 15, 2018
Law360, “Losing Law Firm Talent at Both Ends,” https://www.law360.com/articles/1094538/protecting-law-firm-talent-at-both-ends-, October 30, 2018
Corporate Counsel, ” What Millennial Lawyers Want,” https://www.law.com/corpcounsel/2018/10/25/what-millennial-lawyers-want-a-bridge-from-the-past-to-the-future-of-law-practice/?slreturn=20180926090755
Lawyer & Statesman, “Flexible Work Models Should Improve Law Firm Culture,” , National Jurist, March 21, 2017
DC Women’s Bar Association Raising the Bar, “Recent Developments on Gender Pay Equity,” Raising the Bar, December 2016, http://www.wbadc.org//Files/Newsletters/2016-2017/WBA_RTB_2016-2017_Issue4_NovDec.pdf
Corporate Counsel, “Is Work-Life Balance a Hopeless Goal in the Legal Profession?,” September 2016, and reprinted in DC Women’s Bar Association Raising the Bar, October 2016, http://www.corpcounsel.com/id=1202760663523/Is-WorkLife-Balance-a-Hopeless-Goal-in-the-Legal-Profession-?slreturn=20160810140531 (archived and only available through Nexis Lexis)
Corporate Counsel , “What Millennial Lawyers Want,” October 2018, https://www.law.com/corpcounsel/2018/10/25/what-millennial-lawyers-want-a-bridge-from-the-past-to-the-future-of-law-practice/?slreturn=20180926090755
University of Michigan Website, “The Law School Decision,” https://careercenter.umich.edu/articles/popular/writing-better-bullet-points?…60…
Law 360, “Protecting Law Firm Talent at Both Ends”, October 2018, https://www.law360.com/articles/1094538/protecting-law-firm-talent-at-both-ends-
NALP Handbook for Pre-Law Advisors, “Special Challenges for Women Lawyers,” Book Chapter, , 2015
Noted and Quoted In:
Book Review: Above The Law: Review in Two Parts of “What Millennial Lawyers Want: A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice;” https://abovethelaw.com/2018/11/what-in-the-world-can-be-done-about-millennial-lawyers/, November 29, 2018 and https://abovethelaw.com/2018/12/millennial-lawyers-what-you-need-to-know-to-succeed/, December 13, 2018.
University of Wisconsin Alumni Magazine, Fall 2018, Goodreads, https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/43204524-wisconsin-alumni
American Assoc of Law Librarians – Book Review: https://aallspectrum.wordpress.com/2010/05/17/book-review-best-friends-at-the-bar/
Women’s Law Journal (WLJ) published by NAWL: Book 3 Review in Vol 101, No 1, page 32 (2016)
American Bar Association — Cites BFAB: http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/litigation/materials/2014_sac/2014_sac/lean_in_for_lawyers.authcheckdam.pdf
Examiner Newspaper: /www.examiner.com/article/best-friends-at-the-bar-author-susan-smith-blakeley-says-women-can-have-it-all
Forbes Woman, www.forbes.com/sites/shenegotiates/2012/07/20/your-bff-at-the-bar-would-like-to-have-a-few-words-with-you/
Her Campus — How to Get Into Law School — http://www.hercampus.com/life/academics/how-get-law-school
Intern Queen: Speech Review: https://www.internqueen.com/blog/2015/02/people-inspiring-us-2015
LA Daily Journal: https://issuu.com/elizabethblakely/docs/dailyjournal
Law Insider: www.thelawinsider.com/insider…/five-things-women-can-learn-from-sheryl-sandberg
Lawyerist — Book Review — https://lawyerist.com/52562/best-friends-at-the-bar-the-new-balance-for-todays-woman-lawyer-book-review/
National Jurist: http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/cypress/lawyerstatesman2016/#/16
Daily Muse –— Why Do Women Leave the Law: A Q and A: https://www.themuse.com/advice/why-do-women-leave-the-law-a-qa-with-susan-smit…
Huffington Post — Advice for Women Lawyers: www.huffingtonpost.com/susan-smith-blakely/women-lawyers_b_2155906.html
Law Bank – Book Review: law-bank.com/three-tips-for-women-in-law/
Law Society of Upper Canada: www.lsuc.on.ca/uploadedFiles/…/career_advancement_lawyer_August_2012(1).pdf
Litig8or – Advice for Women Lawyers: blog.litigatortechnology.com/…/best-friends-at-the-bar-an-interview-with-author-susa..
Media Bistro: http://www.mediabistro.com/fishbowldc/book-party-best-friends-at-the-bar_b83709
PR Underground: www.prunderground.com/women-lawyers-leaving-profession-in-record…/007379/
TimeSolv: Book Review: https://www.timesolv.com/traversing-the-legal-world-as-a-female-attorney
Women’s Law Journal (WLJ) published by NAWL: Book Review of “Best Friends at the Bar: What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law” in Volume 95, No. 2 (2010)
The Best Friends at the Bar Newsletter is published by subscription only. To be added to the mailing list, please e-mail [email protected] or subscribe through the website. The newsletter updates readers on issues affecting lawyers and law firm leadership and includes articles from guest contributors.
YouTube Videos,”Susan Smith Blakely” channel
Video of Presentation at Womble Carlyle, http://www.mondaq.com/unitedstates/x/592612/Recruiting
There are more female managing partners and women at leadership levels in law firms today than ever before, and many of the young women lawyers climbing the ladder of success behind them show promise for leading law firms of the future. Although progress in the retention and advancement of women lawyers has been slower than expected and gender parity in the practice has not been achieved, there is a lot to applaud.
Women lawyers must keep a focus on what matters most for them and for their profession as they advance in their careers. Female lawyers need to be reminded that they will have the greatest positive impact if they:
• Use their skills to advance not only their own careers but also the careers of other women lawyers.
• Work to create an inclusive profession for all lawyers, both male and female.
This sounds fundamental, and it is. But, there is great room for improvement by women lawyers on both counts.
Support for women by women is critical to achieve positive outcomes in law firms today. Too many senior women lawyers do not take enough interest in young women colleagues because of old school attitudes about what it took in the day for women to succeed in law practice before the advent of paid maternity leave, schedule flexibility and telecommuting opportunities. These “queen bee” lawyers refuse to acknowledge the work-life challenges for women with families, and they have influenced a follow-up generation of women law leaders, too many of whom now model that same kind of withholding behavior.
As pointed out in a recent article by Vivia Chen in The American Lawyer, the positive message that women in a variety of industries (including law) “watch out for each other and push progressive agendas” and that they are “more sensitive, more honest and just all around better people” because of these altruistic attitudes, is not true of enough women today.
If we want our profession to survive and prosper, and we know that survival is dependent upon the more than 50 percent of law school graduates today who are women, female lawyers must embrace attitudes of women supporting women with enthusiasm, purpose and resolve.
Women lawyers need to be positively invested in the careers of other women lawyers, women lawyers need to become mentors to other women lawyers, and senior women lawyers need to be content that they have made it in the profession and move over to share the spotlight and opportunities with junior women.
The senior women need to remember the words of former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright when she said, “There is a special place reserved in hell for women who do not support other women.” Remember it and post it in their offices for constant reminder.
But that is not all. The attitudes of women lawyers toward male lawyers also need examining. They are equally as divisive and harmful to the profession.
When senior women lawyers become exclusive in their preferences to work with women over men, it is harmful to the profession. When departments full of women lawyers “freeze out” male practitioners in other ways because of built-up resentments, it is harmful to the profession.
And when that kind of “not-female” exclusion also is targeted to unsuspecting young male lawyers—who have had nothing to do with historical grievances—there is potential for even greater harm.
Most of the female lawyers exhibiting these behaviors are motivated by past gender inequalities. They are still smarting from old wrongs. In their negative and divisive actions toward male colleagues, they are failing to recognize that the excuse of “cluelessness” articulated by past generations of male lawyers to explain wrongful attitudes about gender inclusion is no defense for the exclusionary behaviors of women lawyers today.
Today’s powerful women lawyers are not clueless. They are not naive. They have borne witness to the sins of the past, and they know better than to repeat them.
They know exactly what they are doing to their male colleagues and how harmful grinding the ax of resentment can be. They understand that the oft-heard rallying cry, “We don’t need the men,” is short-sighted, imprudent and potentially harmful to our profession. But they don’t seem to be able to help themselves.
We women lawyers must be willing to examine ourselves and our motives. We must be willing to critique our attitudes and change our behaviors—for the good of all lawyers and the profession.
Recently when I was speaking at a conference of the Federal Bar Association, a senior woman judge told me, “The women lawyers are smart, capable, determined and hungry. They are gaining. Soon the men will decide not to compete and will leave firms for in-house positions or businesses or early retirement.”
She said this as if it would result in improvement for the profession. She stated it as a wise, aspirational goal. She said it in a way that made me believe she thought it was what I wanted to hear.
But it did not strike me that way. It struck me as very shallow and unfortunate. It struck me as a way of evening the score, and I could not help but wonder whether that is what we want.
Do we want a reorganization of the profession that will send us back to majority class rule and little in terms of empathy and respect for the other foundational values of our profession?
Do we want a reorganization of the profession based on divisive behaviors and unwillingness to pull together as women and men working toward mutual goals?
I don’t think so, but we need to be careful.
Our lack of professionalism and petty natures may be showing.
Susan Smith Blakely is a lawyer and founder of LegalPerspectives, an umbrella organization for her writing, speaking and consulting on issues affecting women lawyers and women in business. She is the author of the Best Friends at the Bar book series for women lawyers. Her most recent book is What Millennial Lawyers Want: A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice.