Women Lawyers Go Back On-Ramp

On-Ramp could be viewed as a hackneyed phrase in our business by now.  It all started with the Syvia Ann Hewlett’s book, Off-ramps and On-ramps:  Keeping Talented Women on the Road to Success (Harvard Business School Press, 2007), as discussed in Best Friends as the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Aspen Publishers/Wolters Kluwer).  Since then, the discussion has been “ramped up,” if you will, and has resulted in a lot of talk about the benefits/detriments of women lawyers returning to practice after hiatuses from law practice.  Many of those hiatuses, as you know, are the result of work-life struggles that became too much for the woman and too much for her family.

As many as five years ago, before the publication of my first book, I was a panelist at the American University Washington College of Law Lawyer Re-Entry Program.  Low retention figures and re-entry potential was a problem then, and it is a problem now.  For the fourth year in a row, the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) reported that the number of midlevel and senior woman lawyers has dropped, highlighting the “leaky pipeline” in law firms.  Not a lot has changed—except that the number of women lawyers wishing to return to practice has increased, as reported last summer in a NY Times article on women opting back into the workforce.  It has pretty much been business as usual.

Until now, that is.

It now appears that some real progress may be on the horizon.  Not only are we continuing to talk about the on-ramp issue, but now some folks actually are starting to do something about it.  Enter the On-Ramp Fellowship launched last week to provide women attorneys a re-entry platform.  Tune into my next blog for all of the details of this new and exciting on-ramp program brainstormed by Caren Ulrich Stacy and including a successful partnership with major international firms.

Until then, think positively about the on-ramp potential and thank your lucky stars that some people just don’t give up on a good idea.


Career Counselors, Law Firm Managers, Law School Educators, Law Students, Lifestyle, Practice Advice, Young Lawyer | Comment

Thought For The Day

The quote below seems particularly appropriate today as we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and the “I Have a Dream” legacy:

We are designed with a dreaming brain and a hopeful spirit; it is our nature to envision the life of our dreams. And while dreaming comes easy to us, we must never forget that it takes strength, dedication, and courageous action to bring that dream to life.

Steve Maraboli

Thought For The Day | Comment

Thought For The Day

Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant.



Thought For The Day | Comment

As Quoted on Above The Law

ATL’s “Quote of the Day” on November 14, 2013, featured an excerpt from my comments about the linkage between positive attitudes and successful law careers, as included in an article in a recent edition of the National Jurist.

Here’s the quote:

“Complaining openly and presenting a negative persona is not a good strategy for the office or most places, for that matter. Even if you have every good reason to complain, people do not want to hear it.”

The ATL post also included my recommendation to young women lawyers to demonstrate “true grit” in the workplace, as I further address in Best Friends at the Bar: The New Balance for Today’s Woman Lawyer, and the explanation that women must avoid making victims of themselves.

You wonder why I am just getting to this.  Well, all I can say is that it has been a busy holiday season, and apparently my Internet search engines are failing me. Note to self:  Do something about that!

Several of the comments to the ATL feature failed to focus on the word “openly” which is key to the quote.  Complaining openly and indiscreetly in the corridors of the workplace is different from having a private conversation with a superior or supervisor.  The latter is definitely encouraged where the facts are in your favor — but never in a whiny manner or as a victim.

Women lawyers are professionals, and they need to act like professionals at all times.  You should plead your case to a superior or a supervisor the same way that you plead your case to the judge.  Do it professionally and advocate for yourself in the same manner that you would advocate for your client.

Thanks to Staci Zaretsky of ATL for the shout out.  For more on this discussion, see the full reference on page 14 of the November issue of the National Jurist.


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

More on Professional Branding

Professional branding was the subject of Tuesday’s blog.  Here is more that can help you understand professional branding and achieving it.

To begin with, it is important that you understand the basics of building a brand and that you also understand that there can be a very long lead time for professional branding to pay off. Patience is a necessary part of any marketing plan.  It may be years before you get a call from the person you met at a conference five years ago, but it could be the call that changes your practice and your life.

Knowing who you are and what you are passionate about is essential to building a brand.  Knowing who you are takes introspection about your strengths and your weaknesses.  We all have both in abundance, but it is not enough to identify them.  You must get very familiar with your strengths and weaknesses so that you can emphasize your strengths and keep your weaknesses in check.  Once you play to your strengths, you will develop the confidence you need to identify what you are passionate about and build your brand around your passions.

It also is important to identify your values, which will tell you a lot about yourself.  List the values that are most important to you and try to work those values into a marketing plan.  If you are successful in communicating your passions and your values to others, you will find them coming to you to solve their problems.  Then they are called clients.  As lawyers, your entire business plans revolve around clients, and you always should want more of them.  Building your professional brand will help make that happen.

Social media can be an effective place to start building your professional brand.  Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn can be excellent marketing tools if they are handled correctly and very professionally.  Attending networking sessions and professional gatherings and conferences also is very important to the success of professional branding and building a successful marketing plan.  Even if you do not know one other person in the room, you must force yourself to join conversations and introduce yourself.  You will be amazed to find that some of the people you meet also are a bit uncomfortable in networking settings and are grateful to have the company.  And, who knows, they might remember being rescued, which can lead to relationships that will benefit your practice in the future.

It also is important that you consult fellow practitioners, who have experience in building professional brands and marketing, and ask for their help.  Most successful lawyers love to talk about their successes, and you need to take advantage of mentoring motivations that can be both altruistic and self-centered.  Whatever the motivation, make it work for you.   If you do not ask, you will not receive.

I always love it when I hear others speak favorably about how I have built the Best Friends at the Bar brand.  At first, I did not know that is what I was doing.  For me, it was sharing my passion and just old-fashioned marketing—putting your best foot forward, networking, and building trust with the people you meet.

If I can do it, you can do it.  Build a brand that is a source of pride for you and your colleagues and one that will launch your professional future.  Go for it!

Career Counselors | Comment

Thought For The Day

And that is how change happens. One gesture. One person. One moment at a time.

Libba Bray

Thought For The Day | Comment

Build Your Professional Brand

“Building your brand” has become a popular way of describing marketing yourself as unique from your competitors.  It is tossed around liberally by the MBA crowd, but it also can be very useful in a law career.  It is the logical companion to networking, and you know that networking is critical to becoming successful as a lawyer.  Here’s how professional branding works.

A professional brand is necessary to gain the trust and business of clients and to establish relationships among colleagues.  It is that “sine qua non” that will set you apart from the competition.  It is the easy conversations that you have with people that make them believe that who they are and what they have to say truly interests you.  That will not be achieved if you are looking over their shoulders to see who in the room might be more advantageous for you to meet.  It is the connections with people that you willingly make and which send the message that they are valuable people to know and that you can be trusted.  It is the time that you spend talking about a colleague’s case without asking for a billing number.  It is the little things that mean a lot.

All of these things paint a profile of a person who others want to spend time with and do business with.  Your brand becomes a positive one, and it will set you apart from so many of the negative brands of those who provide the same services.  Soon your phone will start ringing with prospective clients and colleagues, who want to collaborate on a case or offer a referral.  Your efforts at professional branding will pay off in spades.

More on professional branding in the next blog.  Be there!


Career Counselors, Law School Educators, Law Students, Practice Advice, Pre-law, Young Lawyer | 2 Comments

Thought For The Day

Maybe who we are isn’t so much about what we do, but rather what we’re capable of when we least expect it.

Jodi Picoult

Thought For The Day | Comment