Thought For The Day

In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.

Theodore Roosevelt

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Favorite Quotes from the NAWL Mid-Year Meeting

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the NAWL Mid-Year Meeting:

“Every time I was called the B word, it is because I was winning!

“To be an effective leader, you must act like you are the knight who has come to win the castle.” 

“Be in it to win it.”

“Effective leaders must learn that authenticity is being true to yourself, finding your courage and tolerating your fears.”

“When it comes to leadership, being respected is so much more important than being liked.  Being liked is not a commodity that can be traded.  Being respected can be shared;” and

“Lift [those around you] as you lead.”

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Thought For The Day

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.


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More Practice Nuggets from the NAWL Mid-Year Meeting

In the PM session of the NAWL Mid-Year Meeting last week, the subject was “Power — How to Get It and How to Use It.”  The topic was set against the background that striving for power is not traditionally what nice girls do.  The consensus of the panel discussion was that we need to put an end to that myth!

That conclusion takes on added significance and gravitas when you consider that the panel was made up of a federal judge (Honorable Anna Blackburne-Rigsby, DC Court of Appeals), a law firm managing partner (Anastasia Kelly, Co-Managing Partner, DLA Piper LLP), and two general counsels (Kim Keenan, General Counsel of  NAACP; and Denise Keane, General Counsel of Altria).  The panelists were joined by Michele Roberts, Partner, Skadden Arps, who instantly became the moderator extraordinaire and remarkable role model for every woman litigator in the room.  So what did this panel have to say?

The question out of the box was what does it mean to be powerful?  Here are some of the nuggets from the panel:

  •     Being allowed to have your own voice, to speak up and to speak out.  When you feel that you are not heard, you can perceive yourself as losing power.  Don’t go there;
  •     Making good judgment calls, including recognizing the value of your hard work.  Pronounce your opinions, do not question them;
  •     Being open-minded and brave enough to hear and consider contrary opinions and views;
  •     Owning your mistakes as well as your successes;
  •     Knowing when to be nurturing and when to be tough (women are particularly adept at this); and
  •     Asking for help when you need it —- just as you have to ask for work when you want it.

The follow-up question, of course, was how do you get power?  Here are some of the answers:

  •     Make your own choices on what kind of power you want in both your professional life and your personal life.  Don’t let others make those decisions for you.  Consider your own personality, psyche and temperament and how it fits into the various leadership opportunities.  Be yourself not someone else;
  •     Be independent and seize opportunities;
  •     Figure out who you want to be like and model that behavior;
  •     Make it known that you want more responsibility to demonstrate your competency;
  •     Actively seek out mentors and sponsors;
  •     Do not magnify and harp on your mistakes.  If you make a mistake:  Own it, fix it, and move on;
  •     Avoid excess emotion on the job.  If you cry, make it clear that yours are tears of anger not tears of sadness or weakness;
  •     Understand that effective leadership is hard work and expect it to be.  Effective leaders make it look effortless, but it is not; and
  •     Recognize the privilege that you have as a lawyer and as a woman in this country and in the world. Use your privileged status to improve the human condition.  Women may have to work twice as hard to get power, but that will change as more women get it.

And, then came the age-old toughest question for women lawyers:  What will it take to change law firms to create environments where more women can become leaders?

I was not surprised at the answers.   Several years ago I was on an ABA panel, which had been designed around the Best Friends at the Bar project and addressed the same question.  Here is how the NAWL panel answered that question:

  • Clients will change law firms.  It is the power of the purse.  Clients will demand more diversity on their legal teams for the following reasons:  Because it has been proven that diverse teams get better results; because clients want a continuing relationship with a firm that has institutional knowledge of the client and professionals that they value and trust (and losing talent is not consistent with that goal); and because, based on their own experiences in law firms, many female general counsels advocate for female and minority lawyers;
  • Law firms can affect leadership and training opportunities for women lawyers by taking them on client pitches and letting them demonstrate their competencies with the clients.  This is a commitment that must start at the top.  If clients value contributions from the women lawyers, the road to partnership, management and leadership will be much easier;
  •     Accomplished women lawyers will have to “lean back” to recognize the talents of other women lawyers.  Not enough women do it.  Women need to find good practice opportunities for other women to enhance their skills; and
  •     Senior women must give constructive feedback to junior women in an attempt to teach them and to elevate them.

What a day!  And there was more.  Don’t miss the next NAWL Conference that comes your way!  If such outstanding and accomplished panelists can take their time to discuss these important issues, so can you.  Be there!

(But if you can’t make it, read the Best Friends at the Bar books.  It is all in there, too!)






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Thought For The Day

The world is a great mirror. It reflects back to you what you are. If you are loving, if you are friendly, if you are helpful, the world will prove loving and friendly and helpful to you. The world is what you are.

Thomas Dreier

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The NAWL Mid-Year Meeting Provides Leadership Nuggets for Young Women Lawyers

Last week I made my yearly pilgrimage to the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) Mid-Year Meeting.  As always, there was a lot on the program to benefit all of you, so I will dedicate this week’s blogs to the teachings of NAWL.  Better yet, those of you already in practice should start to attend the NAWL conferences and to get involved.  It is a great organization and one where you will learn the things that will determine success or lack of success in your career.

Most of what I heard was like hearing an echo in the room.  I have covered these same topics in my books, blogs and speeches.  However, it is good to hear it again from these oh-so accomplished women.  I know many of them personally, and I always am delighted to be in their presence.

Deborah Froling, the President of NAWL, made us all aware that the results of the annual NAWL survey are still dismal in terms of retention of women lawyers and the number of women lawyers in positions of partnership, leadership and management. That set the stage for the themes of the conference, which centered around leadership and power — what it is and how you get it.

The breakout session on “Developing Lawyers as Leaders” was especially informative.  Although many law firms spend significant resources on substantive and business development training for lawyers, there is a continuing lag in leadership training at law firms in general.  The panelists addressed why that is the case and what can be done about it?

Barbara Wall, Vice President and Senior Associate General Counsel of Gannett Company, Inc., talked about the early days of women lawyers dressing like the men and “experimenting with little neckties” in efforts to be successful like the men.  I remember it well, and so will you if you have read my books.  As Barbara pointed out, that was not an authentic approach then and certainly would not be now.  Although there was a time when women had to  “swallow their own voices,” today we need to find our own voices and create our own authenticity by seeking out leadership roles.  Barbara emphasized making sure that you are practicing leadership skills for those below you and around you as well as above you to assure that someone “has your back” as you are climbing the leadership ladder.  Great advice.

Tamika Langley Tremaglio, Principal, Deloitte Financial Advisory Services Practice and both a lawyer and an MBA, talked about Deloitte’s proven methods for developing talent in women as an important part of identifying the next generation of leaders.  It is widely accepted that Deloitte has been a leader in the promotion of women and is considered to be a model for law firms, so Tamika’s perspective is a keystone to understanding developing women leaders and managers.  Tamika explained that the Deloitte approach involves planning and execution, strategy, communicating effectively, and building capacity in individuals to take your place as you move to the next level of responsibility.  It also involves a strategic effort to identify and utilize sponsors, which is too often left to trial and error in law firms.  Tamika said it all comes down to the “PIE” analysis.  Good leadership is about:   Purpose, Image and Experience.  Write that down!

Lisa Horowitz, the founder of Attorney Talent Strategy Group, stressed that leadership requires empowerment, including positive and effective body language, and she cited to Amy Cuddy’s TED talks on the subject of non-verbal behavior.   She also stressed that leadership can be both natural or learned, but she noted that women often are not perceived as leaders because they do not look and act like the leadership selectors.  She advised young women lawyers to attend as many leadership programs as possible (even though it is not billable time) and read about leadership on resources like the Harvard Business Review to overcome those perceptions.  As an attorney and a talent manager, Lisa has a lot to say on the subject.

Ellen Moran Dwyer, Managing Partner of Crowell & Moring LLP, had sage advice — as you would expect.   She stressed that women, who aspire to leadership, must overcome the reluctance to delegate (often based on their need for perfection) to free themselves up to achieve greater things. Ellen also said that women must learn to take risks and that reluctance to take risks is often based on women’s lack of self confidence and the fear of “being found out” to be phony or incompetent.   Ellen encourages women to work to improve their self confidence and willingness to stretch themselves to the next level so that others will perceive them as leaders.  She used her own example to say that sometimes it means asking for a title to increase the focus on what you are accomplishing.  I love it!  Ask for a title!  It worked for Ellen, who rose from associate to managing partner at Crowell.  Now, that’s a title worth talking about!

The panel moderator, Ellen Ostrow, Founding Principal of Lawyers Life Coach LLC, did a masterful job of challenging and steering the panel, and she also contributed her own memorable nuggets.  Her comment that women are typically relationship-oriented and natural leaders, who can be strategic without being seen as opportunistic, particularly resonated with me — and you have heard it from me before.  She also stated that becoming a leader can be an identity change and an uncomfortable transition, which involves navigating unfamiliar social and political waters.  That transition is made easier by enhancing communication skills, expanding roles as motivator and influencer, understanding new professional environments, building alliances, cooperating with others, and effectively utilizing Emotional IQ skills.  She also noted that all of these skills are the same ones that are needed to develop a book of business, something you also must learn to do.  So, put your efforts toward doing both and get a positive double whammy!

Lots to think about!  Stay tuned for more nuggets from NAWL in my next blog.



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Thought For The Day

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

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More on Grit and Mindset for Women Lawyers

If you read my last blog, you know that the current issue of the Women’s Law Journal includes an article called “Grit & Mindset:  Implications for Women Lawyers.”  You also know that I have been talking about true grit for women lawyers for years now, and I shared some examples of true grit from a chapter in my book, Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today’s Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012).  If you keep those messages in mind and add the following messages from the Women’s Law Journal article, you will be off to a good start in developing a positive and helpful approach to grit and mindset for you and your law firm.

In discussing grit and mindset, the authors of the Women’s Law Journal article, Milana Hogan and Katherine Larkin-Wong, describe those two factors as noncognitive traits —- the ones that an individual has complete control over and which can be altered at an individual level.  In other words, these are the factors that you are able to improve to positively affect your future success as lawyers. So far, so good.

The article relies on a definition of grit as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals” and a definition of growth mindset as seeing one’s “abilities as flexible entities that can be developed through dedication and effort.”  I certainly buy into those definitions and have been addressing both through my books and blogs and speeches since I launched the Best Friends at the Bar project in 2006.  Again, so far, so good.

What is new in this article is the research behind these definitions and the applicability of grit and mindset in the messages to law firms.  It starts with the good news that grit and mindset can be learned and developed given the right conditions and then challenges law firms to create those “right conditions” to improve opportunities for success for women lawyers.  I really like that.  Here are some of those challenges to law firms:

  • Law firms need to teach lawyers to handle and learn from failure;
  • Law firms need to teach lawyers how to receive criticism;
  • Law firms need to praise efforts, not outcomes;
  • Law firms need to positively reinforce lawyers and teach lawyers to be realistically optimistic;
  • Law firms need to help lawyers identify what they are passionate about and encourage them to pursue those passions; and
  • Law firms need to educate lawyers about the traits that lead to practice success.

That is a flavor for the article, but there is more, so get yourself a copy and read it.  For some of you, it will appear to be pie in the sky, and maybe that’s because you are not thinking positively enough to believe that law firms will take the time and effort to do all of those things.  I will leave that for you to ponder.

For me, I enjoyed the article, and I hope for the best.  In the interim, I will not be abandoning my own messages about true grit.  I feel a little more confident in the true grit and the positive mindset that the individual lawyers control, not those that are dependent on the good will of the law firm.  Call me jaded, if you will!

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