How to prepare for and participate effectively at meetings with superiors and clients is another topic touched on at the recent National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) Annual Conference in NYC last week. You know from my writing and speaking that I believe preparation, confidence and asserting yourself and your position are critical to career success and satisfaction, and all of that was touched on and more. Here are a few of the comments from panel participants on these subjects:
- When you are at the meeting table, BE AT THE MEETING TABLE. Do not be intimidated when you ask a question or make a remark. It is a confidence game, and you have to be confident and own your ideas.
- Be deliberate about building an executive presence. That includes developing your personal brand and creating talking points for your strengths.
- You must have gravitas, which is poise under pressure. Be prepared. Be in control of yourself. Be calm. Create the image of someone who should be taken seriously.
- Always have an agenda, formal or informal. Know what you want your listeners to take away from the meeting and present it well.
- Remember that a different point of view is helpful in developing your own ideas and positions and that superiors often are trying to assure your professional growth by “pushing back.” Develop a comfortable way of dealing with contrary views, including co-opting opinions of others when you are expressing your own.
- You can’t know every answer to every question you may be asked. If you do not know the answer, acknowledge it and offer to research it and respond later to the questioner.
- How you deliver information that people don’t want to hear is very tricky. Think about how you are going to phrase the message. Think about whether you are the best person to deliver the message to keep everyone at the table and talking. If not you, who? Adopt the vocabulary of people you admire in similar situations.
- Always end the meeting by recapping what was accomplished and what remain as open action items and assigning follow-up responsibility for the open items.
Put these skills to work and become proficient at the meeting table. Soon you will be noticed as having leadership potential. That is WHAT YOU WANT!
Last week I was at the NAWL (National Association of Women Lawyers) annual conference in NYC. It was good to see so many old friends and to make many new friends. As always, I would like to share some of the messages that I deem most important from that eventful day. So, here they are. As you advance in your career, I hope that you will become involved in your local bar association, including your Women’s Bar Association, and that you also will join NAWL and participate in their activities. There is a great opportunity for findings mentors and networking there. And, you know how important those things are for your future success and advancement in the law.
So, here are some of the messages that came out of the discussion of what Millennials want out of law practice.
- Extending the practice outside of the office: This is a combination of the work-life/flexibility issues/telecommuting discussion. Lawyer/moms need the flexibility to work from home on occasion to meet the needs of their children and family responsibilities. There is no perfect answer, but we must be creative in solutions. We also must understand that flexibility puts pressure on the institutions and the culture where people are used to interacting face-to-face. If flexibility is stretched too far, it will stretch the institution too far. We need to be cognizant of the cultural nostalgia of Baby Boomer lawyers for the good old days when there was lots of interaction in the hallways and around the water cooler. Be sensitive to everyone’s perspective.
- Compensation integrates with these issues as well. If women lawyers have wage and income parity with the male practitioners, they will be able to afford more help at home and will be able to be in the office as much as the institution needs them to be.
- The success of telecommuting will depend on full attention to work when you are working — whether that is at the office or at home.
- Millennials are more inclined to move around in the practice of law than we might have imagined. Studies show that Millennials do not embrace change easily, but the surveys show that 66% of Millennial lawyers say that they expect to leave their jobs in the next five years. We have to question why that is true. I think that it has to be related to the quality of practice and the training that young lawyers are getting today. These are important things to contemplate and the reason that I wrote my last book, Best Friends at the Bar: Top Down Leadership for Women Lawyers (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers, 2015).
- Although we want law firm leadership and management to be sensitive to the needs of Millennials, there is always a threat that whatever they say and try to pursue as solutions will end up on legal blogs and social media the next day. That has a chilling effect. Think about it. Respect the challenges.
Tune in for more from NAWL next week. Lots to share. Try it at the water cooler!
“The highest reward for man’s toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it.”
Two weeks from today, around the country, newly-graduated lawyers will be taking bar exams. It happens every year at this time. The ultimate right of passage for all lawyers.
It is a very challenging test, and it is a very stressful time for them. They know more than they think they do by this time, but they are having trouble sleeping and controlling those vexing dreams. The bar exam is an all-consuming experience, and some times they forget to eat. Every minute counts.
I could give them all the encouragement in the world, and I would love to do that. As a matter of fact, I know a thing or two about bar exams, and I have taken (and fortunately passed) two of them. But, they will not be reading my encouraging words. They are using their time wisely to memorize every list, exception and odd fact that the bar examiners can throw at them. They are concentrating on some issues of state law that they did not study and hardly understand. They are doing everything they can to keep their cool under fire. My unread words of encouragement in this blog would be in vane.
But, your words of encouragement are different. Choose a few close friends, who you know are facing this daunting task, and e-mail or text message them. Short and sweet and supportive — remember, they do not have much time to read your e-mails either. Just let them know that you are thinking of them.
So little means so much.