Thought For The Day: Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in. BILL BRADLEY

Thought For The Day | Comment

The Trouble with Women Lawyers — OR Is There Trouble?

I have just returned from a reunion with 14 of my college girlfriends.  We get together as often as possible — traveling from both coasts and points in between — to make sure that our friendships remain kindled and that we provide support to one another as our journeys through life ebb and flow.   These times together never disappoint, and we always leave planning the next one.

This is my way of reminding you that I am and always have been an advocate for women, dating back to college when we all needed each other’s support dealing with our new-found independence and all it entailed.  However, along my road from law school to law practice, I have encountered women, who have tried hard to undermine me and negatively affect my professional progress.  And I am not alone.  I have heard similar stories from many of my female colleagues, and I have witnessed this kind of negative behavior among women professionals.

That is why I remind women lawyers as often as possible of the words of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright when she said, “There is a place in HELL reserved for women who do not support other women.”  I have met Secretary Albright and discussed those words with her in the context of women lawyers.  As the mother of women lawyers, she was a quick convert to the cause.

However, recognizing that some women do not treat other women well does not mean that I buy into all of the women bullying women stereotypes.  I know too many wonderful and supportive women lawyers to ever go down that road.  But others have, and it is a slippery slope.

In a recent blog from my friend Andie Kramer and her husband Al Harris, whose Andie and Al blog series addresses issues like gender bias that affect women in the workplace, it was not at all surprising to find Andie taking on other authors on the subject of women’s bias against other women.  Andie is a great supporter of women, and she is a contributor to two of my books in the effort to improve conditions for women lawyers.  The fact that she refuses to buy into alleged female stereotypes about women victimizing other women was predictable, and she does it so well.

Rather than rely on negative messages about the societal or evolutionary or internal antagonism behind distinctive female characteristics of hostility by women against women,  Andie and Al challenge those assumptions and beliefs by focusing on what they believe is the real cause for negative behaviors in the workplace —- the workplace itself.

Here is a sampling of what you will read in the blog:

Women’s and men’s behaviors depend not on distinctive female or male characteristics but on the situations in which they find themselves: what they are asked to do, the conditions under which they are required to do it, and the expectations of how they will perform while doing it. Women’s difficulties with other women in the workplace have little or nothing to do with women’s evolution, socialization, or internalized misogyny. They have everything to do with the dynamics of the environments within which women are working. In other words, it’s not the women, it’s their workplaces.

Women helping women and eliminating the toxicity of legal work spaces are major themes of the Best Friends at the Bar project.  I hope that you will join me in these efforts and that you also will keep up with the Andie and Al on their website  to gain perspective on gender bias and related issues.  And I am sure that their new book on these subjects will be illuminating for all of us.

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

Thought For The Day: Make Yourself Proud. PETER W. SMITH

Thought For The Day | Comment

The High Price of Over Parenting for Millennial Lawyers

I have written extensively about millennials and millennial lawyers, including about how members of the Millennial Generation were shaped by societal influences as they grew to adulthood.  Those societal influences have limited their abilities to fit into traditional workplaces and, in some cases, have lead to anxiety and depression.

Societal influences like rapid advances in technology and social media, the impact of the 2008 recession, which resulted in insecurity and risk aversion, and helicopter parenting that sheltered children from disappointment, interfered with decision making, and put pressure on coaches and teachers to improve outcomes for their children, have taken a toll on our younger generations.  Those influences can be traced to unreasonable expectations and inability to cope with challenges.

Some of you may doubt that premise.  You may prefer to think that Baby Boomer and Generation X parents had nothing to do with it.  But, the research does not support that conclusion.  Research also shows that the children of Generation Z, those who followed the millennials, are experiencing similar limitations from over parenting.  Consider the recent arrests of certain Gen Z parents, who engaged in alleged bribery, fraud and racketeering in schemes to get their children admitted to elite colleges and universities across this country.

Since the release of my book, What Millennial Lawyers Want:  A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers, 2018), I have addressed many audiences about these issues in an attempt to make both young and more experienced lawyers understand the Generational Divide in our profession today.  The divide is real, and the solution must be shared to be effective and lasting.  Understanding and respect are the tools to finding a path to the future to include all members of our profession.

The risks are very serious if we do not.

Law Firm Managers, Law School Educators, Law Students, Practice Advice, Pre-law, Young Lawyer | Comment

Thought For The Day: Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean me first, it means me too. L.R. KNOST

Thought For The Day | Comment

The Intersection of Motherhood and Partnership: What it Means for Women Lawyers

A recent edition of in the London-based Financial Times included a very thought-provoking article that is a must read for all women lawyers and those who lead them.  The sources are both UK and US based and there is no single geographic focus.

This is not just the “same old same old” you have read in the past.  Yes, the statistics will be recognizable because the percentage of women equity partners in law firms has not changed in recent history.  But there is much beyond those statistics for you to chew on and some new approaches that you may or may not agree with.

The article starts by taking on a giant, specifically the Center on the Legal Profession at Harvard Law School, for the way that it frames the answer to the question, “Can you be a mother and a senior law firm partner?”  The Center’s emphasis on factors that are impossible to change is disputed on the basis that it fails to recognize the impact of unconscious bias and the effect of that bias on the upward mobility of women lawyers.

The issue of quotas for women partners is also discussed in a very balanced way, giving equal time to the pros and cons of that approach.  Although many women object to that kind of mandate and how it disadvantageously profiles them in the partnership, others argue that less radical approaches have proven unsuccessful.  You will have to decide where you fall on that spectrum.

Also included are some practical steps that firms can take to work out the maternity leave issues with women lawyers, who demonstrate the kind of talent and leadership skills valuable at the management level, and efforts that firms can take to keep women on maternity leave functioning as part of the team during that period of time.

The role of in-house general counsel and clients in reaching a more acceptable percentage of women at the top of law firms also was discussed.  This quote got my attention, “Those who until now have expected to be able to reach lawyers at any time of day or night need an understanding of what requests are urgent and what can wait until morning.”  This alone evidenced a new world order!

You also will see some interesting comments on the position of salaried partners, the marginalization that often results, and the critical role of achieving diversity at the top.   According to one source, “I’ve never heard of a balanced or diverse partnership underperforming.”  Amen to that.

Particularly interesting to me was the emphasis in the article that the issues addressed are not just all about women.  It is also about the new generation of young lawyers (millennial lawyers and the generation of lawyers to follow), who have embraced work-life balance issues that require a new approach.  With the additional emphasis in my work on issues related to millennial lawyers, I applaud the recognition of the broader view of what is needed to reform our profession.

I recommend this article for you and for you to share with the leaders in your firm.  The train is leaving the station, and we all need to get on board.

 

 

 

Law Firm Managers, Law School Educators, Law Students, Lifestyle, Practice Advice, Pre-law, Young Lawyer | Comment

Thought For The Day: And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul. JOHN MUIR

Thought For The Day | Comment

Young Lawyers Guide to Dealing with Stress

I read an article the other day on “Stress Free Law Practice.”  I laughed out loud.  There is no such thing.

Lawyers are professionals.  They have a lot of responsibility, and they should anticipate stress in their work lives.  From sole practitioners to law firm lawyers to in-house counsel, stress is part of the job.  Stress from client expectations.  Stress from managing other lawyers.  Stress from making budget.  Stress from the judicial process.

Even if you made widgets instead of practicing law, there would be stress.  How many widgets to produce?  How to make your widgets unique and competitive in the market place?  Is it time for a new version of the widget — say Widget 2.0?  So many widget worries.

How much stress is too much stress is another issue. Millennial lawyers know that they do not want the same degree of stress as their parent/lawyers experienced.  That much stress led to illness and drug and alcohol dependencies.  Young lawyers don’t want to go down that same road.

There is no way of totally eliminating stress from our work or personal lives, but there are ways of reducing the stress.   So, I give credit to the article for identifying some stress reducers for lawyers.  The ones I give the most value to are the following:

  • Write things down.  I really can relate to this.  When I am lying awake at night thinking of important stuff I do not want to forget, I get up, grab my phone and write myself an e-mail.  Sounds crazy, but when that e-mail has been sent, I can sleep like a baby.  No more worries.  It will be waiting for me in the morning.
  • Exercise.  You all know that exercise is a great stress reliever, so why are you not doing it as a routine?  Because you do not have time?  Pshaw!  You have time to obsess over stressful things, but no time to exercise to relieve the stress.  Makes no sense.  Plus, you get all the extra benefits of the endorphins to make you happier.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.  They are addictive.  Enough said.
  • Enjoy the out of doors.  Take a few minutes each day to get outside and breathe the fresh air.  Take deep breaths.  Walk a little.  Stretch your legs.  No back-lit screens allowed.
  • Focus on your accomplishments.  You can count on the fact that others will find fault with you.  It is human nature.  Don’t you be one of them.  Herald your good works.  Take some time to look at your life in the rear view mirror and pat yourself on the back for all that you have accomplished.  Law school was no walk in the park and neither was passing the bar.  Don’t forget how far you have come.  Count your blessings.
  • Meditate.  I admit to knowing nothing about this.  Never did it.  But, I know others who cannot live without it.  So, it is worth exploring.

Stress is a killer.  Make these small changes in your life to avoid being the next victim.  Start early so that the changes become habit.  It is the gift you can give yourself.

 

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