“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
Snow, snow, go away. Come again some other day!
I live in the DC area. Get the drift?????
Women equity partners in law firms lag behind female representation at the top of other industries. According to Harvard Business Review, as recently reported in Above The Law, women are underrepresented in most senior-level leadership positions, and, specifically, women make up “less than 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs, less than 15% of executive officers at those companies, less than 20% of full professors in the natural sciences, and only 6% of partners in venture capital firms.”
The American Lawyer also has chimed in and reports the following figures, among others, for women in leadership positions in a variety of industries:
Note well: The percentage of women equity partners in law firms got edged out by women CPA partners — yes, the green eyeshade people. Edged out, not by much, but still, edged out. Come on. That hurts.
What has led to this result? Here are a few of the reasons offered in the ATL article:
There may be other causes. For instance, I believe that women underestimate their competencies and do not compete for leadership positions effectively. That is hinted at in the ATL article, but I think it plays a larger role. I also think that women lawyers fail to take the long view and to keep themselves “in the game” until the time when they can compete with gusto — that time after family members are less dependent on them for caretaking. Women leave or check out of the leadership pipeline too early to eventually become effective leaders and managers.
Tell me what you think. We may not be able to agree on the specific causes, but we can agree on one thing: The statistics cited above are not acceptable. They are unfair, and they need to be remedied.
Start to think of yourself as part of the solution and not part of the problem. It will take all of you to solve the problem and positively affect the retention and advancement of women lawyers.
What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul.
I started practicing law in the late 1970’s. Yes, that long ago. My books are full of anecdotes about the poor treatment of women lawyers in those days by senior lawyers in law firms (almost all men) and judges, as well. Clients didn’t treat us so well either.
I believe that we have come a long time since those days when some of the lawyers in my firm thought that I should use the professional name “S. Smith Blakely” because it could just as easily be associated with a male attorney. FYI, I did not do that, but I knew it would not have bothered them if I had.
I also remember the outrageous comments by male lawyers and judges that were clearly gender slurs, but that was long before there was any legal protection for gender bias and workplace discrimination, all of which came nearly a decade later. Judges calling me “little girl” and telling me to act like a man in the courtroom would not happen on a regular basis today, and I do not hear those kinds of stories reported by the hundreds, if not thousands, of women lawyers I interact with every year. If I was hearing it, you would be hearing it from me.
Now, Above the Law is dredging up some of those memories in a blog called “The Pink Ghetto.” Apparently it was so popular as a one-time blog that the editors decided to elevate it to feature status. The behaviors reported are pretty outrageous, and it shocks even me that this continues today.
But, I guess that is the point. Does it? Are these anecdotes true, or is this an opportunity for ATL readers to have some fun with exaggeration and creative writing. After all, the submissions are anonymous. I guess you could write anything with impunity. Right? I also wonder if these are current experiences. If they are not, that needs to be clear. Women have enough problems in our profession without throwing suspect fuel on the fire.
What do you think? Decide for yourself:
Here’s what’s new — a great interview by Bloomberg News of Susie Lees, GC of Allstate Insurance. She nails the subject of part-time work for women lawyers, who need workplace flexibility for childcare and family reasons. She has been there and done that. She did it when it was a concept that was very hard to sell, much harder than it is today when it is not unusual for companies and law firms alike to have part-time lawyers within their ranks.
I particularly like this quote from Susie Lees about her conversations way back when with employers about part-time work — all of which is still true today. “At the time, I thought, ‘Well, what the heck. I’m not going to ask for more money. I’m not asking to be paid as a full-time lawyer. … You pay me based on what I do, and we all win, so what’s the big deal?'”
Isn’t that the point? And how about this quote from Lees? “What’s wrong with working part time? If you’re a good lawyer and you’re good at client service, you can do that 20 hours a week.”
Lees has been at Allstate for almost 30 years and has risen to the General Counsel position. Yes, she is in charge of 70 Allstate offices around the country. What is the key to her success? Clearly she is talented, but she also stayed in. Here is how she explains it:
“[F]or those folks — whether it’s women or minorities or men — who drop out for whatever reason to raise their families, how do they get back in? I don’t think they can. I think when you drop out, you’re out. There’s not an easy way to get back in. I would be very interested in the numbers of women who have dropped out, because the big firm lifestyle didn’t fit with their family needs — would they go back if given the chance? If someone took the time to retrain them, and offered them an opportunity, would they go back?“
And, perhaps that has made the difference for Susie Lees. She did not try to work part-time in law firms. She has spent her remarkable career in the corporate world.
My experience was different. I graduated from law school more than ten years earlier than Susie Lees, and I took the law firm route. Eventually, after my children came along, I tried to work part-time in that setting. Although I sold the concept to law firms as early as 1984, part-time law firm practice was not a satisfying experience. It was too soon, and law firms were not ready for it. Eventually I ended up in public service to stem the tide of my children’s early years, and later I returned to law firm practice. However, I saw resistance to the part-time concept even then, and I think it continues to be a hard sell, especially in the current employment market. Not impossible, but hard. You have to be smart about the way you play your cards to make part-time work in a law firm.
Another thing I loved about the Susie Lees interview was how her proven loyalty to her employer was so obviously derived from the company’s willingness to give her a chance with an untested concept. It is a continuing theme of Best Friends at the Bar that employers should not underestimate the loyalty of women who are treated fairly. It pays off in spades.
So, sit back and enjoy reading the interview. It also touches on other subjects about how to improve law practice that Susie Lees knows well from her GC perch. Be happy that Ms. Lees is a board member at the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL). She has so much value and experience to share.
Here, again, is the link: https://bol.bna.com/allstate-gc-part-time-lawyers-why-not/
Have you seen the results of the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) most recent Annual Survey on the progress of women lawyers? At first blush, it’s pretty discouraging — as it has been for the previous eight years. I am especially disappointed with the reporting on the gender compensation pay gap. Equal work should mean equal pay. These figures appear to be affected by a lot of gender bias and failure to recognize that men and women approach work differently. It should not all be about billable hours. Regrettable to be sure.
However, I recommend that you keep an open mind when you read the results of the survey. Ask yourself whether this report is measuring progress for women lawyers with a yardstick that matters to you. There is a difference between measuring how many women advance to partnership and management positions in law firms and measuring how many women lawyers stay in the profession and have satisfying careers.
For many of you, who are not able to push forward to partnership without interruptions from family and caretaking responsibilities, the important thing is that success is not a series of snapshots at predetermined career markers. Success is a spectrum of moments and years of keeping a career alive and finding a balance that works for you.
So, here are the highlights from NAWL’s Ninth Annual Survey, as recently reported by Above the Law:
For more perspective on this subject, see this article in The American Lawyer://www.americanlawyer.com/the-careerist/id=1202740896546/Women-in-Big-Law-Are-Losing-Ground?mcode=1202616610377&curindex=1&slreturn=20160014134635.
Let’s hope that “10” will be the lucky number for this survey. Wouldn’t that be nice for women lawyers?
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.