Thought For The Day: It’s OK to have an unexpressed thought. JOHN KENNEDY, CURRENT US SENATOR

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Millennial Men and Gender Bias

So what’s up with millennial males and gender bias?  For years, we have been hearing that millennial men (those born between approximately 1980 and 2000) are very attuned to equality between the sexes.  And, it makes sense if you know anything about the values of millennials.  (And if you do not, I recommend that you read my book, What Millennial Lawyers Want: A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice, Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers, 2018.)

The value of respect is very high on the list of millennial generation values, and it also is at the heart of gender equality.  Gender researchers have contended for almost a half century that every generation has become more egalitarian — right up to the millennials.  And that would make sense, not only because of millennial values but also because comfort between the sexes in business seems to be on the rise.

So, I was surprised to read a recent article by Chris Haigh on the blog citing evidence from a variety of studies and polls to conclude that “discriminatory gender stereotypes and biases are just as pervasive and influential — if not more so — among Millennial men as they were among the men of earlier generations.”  Although the authorities cited were not as current as I would have liked, it was disturbing to read.

The author based his findings on research showing that, “Most people believe they are unbiased and egalitarian.  But when forced to confront specific situations and express their actual preferences, people’s implicit biases typically come out” and on a poll taken by Harris as early as 2014 showing that “young men are less comfortable than older men with women holding positions of power in traditional male fields.”  Accordingly, the author concluded that, “Expecting the pervasive biases against women to fade away as younger generations take control of our major organizations is foolish at best and counterproductive at worst.”

Whew!  That is not what I expected — after spending a considerable amount of time studying millennials and millennial lawyers and their values and behaviors — and I was hoping for more from the male lawyers of that generation.  I still am, in fact.

But, I also know from the young women lawyers I interface with on a regular basis, including the superstar variety who are on the fast track to partnership or have already arrived there, how implicit bias continues to play out in the workplace and interfere with their career advancement.  And I also know that it is not just about scheduling meetings early in the morning or late in the day, which disadvantages women lawyers with young children.  And it is not all about staging promotional and client events that are centered on testosterone-driven activities that give male lawyers a leg up in client development.

It is also about assigning detail-oriented projects to female lawyers because they are “so much better at details” than their male colleagues — while, at the same time, assigning strategic and conceptually-centered tasks to the male lawyers — disadvantages women and leaves them behind the power curve when it comes time to evaluate them for partnership.  And that is a really big problem.

It goes something like this:  “Oops.  Sorry.  She was so mired down in the details that she never got that highly-prized deposition and motions practice experience, and we just don’t think she is ready for prime time.”  Sorry indeed.  That’s a lot to be sorry for.

We must do better.  Implicit bias is insipid.  We need to begin by educating our sons — and our husbands and our fathers.  Research shows that most males do not think that implicit bias even exists.  Ask the men in your life.  See if they can even come close to being able to define it — or even if they care to try.

So, we have our work cut out for us.

Darn.  I thought those millennial males were going to save us the trouble.






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Thought For The Day: Promise yourself to be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own. CHRISTIAN D. LARSON

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Thought For The Day: Turn your wounds into wisdom. OPRAH WINFREY

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Thought For The Day: Find the good—and praise it. ALEX HALEY

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The College Admissions Scandal and the Importance of Values to All Young Lawyers

The current college admissions scandal.  How awful.

Not that we did not suspect lack of fair play in college admissions.  We all are aware of the legacy preferences and how the issues of societal inequities play out in this setting, but the magnitude of the alleged criminal behavior and its impact on applicants nationwide is nothing short of disgusting — and very predictable.  It was only a matter of time before the misplaced motives of helicopter parents reached such a low.

Coincidentally, my new book addresses the erosion of values in the legal profession, specifically the current toxic cultures of many large law firms.  In What Millennial Lawyers Want: A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers, 2018, I discuss the respectable values that have been lost or seriously ignored in our profession for too long and the resurgence of those values in the most recent generations of lawyers.  I also discuss the destructive behavior of helicopter parents.

This recent scandal confirms my suspicions that the lessons of that book have a larger application beyond the profession of law.  The values discussed in What Millennial Lawyers Want include honor, respect, compassion, and service to others, values that are resurfacing in the Millennial Generation and in millennial lawyers today.  The recent scandal should serve to increase an awareness of the importance of those values.

Fortunately, the behaviors involved in the college admissions scandal are not typical of any generation.  The players in this scandal are from a tiny segment of society that most of us will never know.  They are from a small pocket of elitism and entitlement that most members of society do not identify with and cannot even imagine.  The behaviors are selfish and destructive on multiple levels and have so many offensive and reprehensible layers, including the layer of betrayal of what it means to be compassionate, honorable and responsive to the needs of others.

And now, as if to add insult to injury, students at Stanford and other schools with alleged connections to this scandal, have filed suit claiming that their educational experiences will be devalued by the scandal.  That somehow they are the injured parties instead of opportunists jumping in to take advantage of any benefit they see for themselves.

These new litigants have lost their way and display the same selfish attitudes as those caught up in the scandal.  They are not the harmed, but their attempts to portray themselves in that manner expose the degree to which the values in our society have eroded.

We must reclaim the positive values that once were the bedrock of our society.   We hear that message in the political arena on a daily basis, but too often we feel powerless to do anything about it.  But powerless in the political arena is different from being powerless in our own lives and professions.

So, let the effort to reclaim proven values begin with the lawyers, whose ethical considerations and cannons of behavior once meant something.  Let it begin with the lawyers, who are required to study ethics in law school and are tested on ethical behavior on bar exams because truth and admirable behavior is what we should expect of ourselves.

There is no need in our profession for devising an effective code of behavior.  We already have one.  All we have to do is dust it off and live up to it — and require that same commitment by our law firms and institutions.

Don’t waste your time on the super elite and entitled.  The criminal justice system will take care of them — at least until the next time.

There is plenty of work for all of us right here below the stratosphere.

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Celebrating Sisterhood

I am a proud member of Delta Gamma sorority, an international fraternity that celebrates its founding on this day each year.  Founded on March 15, 1873 by three visionary students at a women’s college in Mississippi, the mission was identified as “rendering service to others.”

That mission drew me to the group when I was a student at the University of Wisconsin so many years ago.  The Omega chapter at UW was one of the first chapters of Delta Gamma and still is going strong today.

Proof of the lasting effect of sisterhood, I will gather soon with more than 15 of my dearest friends from my Delta Gamma days at UW for our annual “women only” retreat.

Although sororities do not occupy the same place on many college campuses today, that is understandable.  Times change.  Attitudes change.  Needs change.

But support for women by women does not change, and it is not limited to sororities.  It can be found in a variety of settings, and it still is extremely important in our profession and in society at large.  That message is key to my writing and speaking as part of the Best Friends at the Bar project, and I believe it is fundamental to our successes as women in all aspects of our lives.

Quite simply, women supporting women is something we all can and must do.

Here’s to the women of Delta Gamma.  Thanks for the important part you play in my life.

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Thought For The Day: The first duty of love is to listen. PAUL TILLICH

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