In Praise of Mommy/Lawyers

We have a new baby in our family!  Our daughter gave birth to our first grandchild earlier this week.  A beautiful baby girl, and we are over-the-moon in love with this precious little bundle.

So I have mommy/lawyers on my mind today.  My daughter — the mother of the precious bundle — is one of them, and so am I.  My mommy/lawyer days date back thirty-plus years, and I understand the challenges.

I had to give up partnership at my first law firm because I needed to work part-time after my baby was born — and because law firms made no provisions for new mothers in those days and generally were averse to part-time work of any kind.  Fortunately challenging sacrifices like that are essentially a thing of the past.

But plenty of other challenges still remain.  I have written about them many times before.  Schedule flexibility, remote working arrangements, appropriate on-site accommodations for nursing mothers, on-site day care, avoidance of inappropriate stereotypes about what new mothers are capable of on the job … and the list goes on.

And today, in this current depressed economy, there are new challenges.  Research demonstrates that women lawyers will be vulnerable to reduction in force efforts, especially part-time women lawyers.

We have seen this before.  Most recently, it happened in the recession of 2008, and it will happen again.  It is a function of the costs of doing business.  Bricks and mortar are expensive places of business, and traditional businesses like law firms still operate this way.  Part-time workers only occupy office spaces part of the time, but full-time overhead expenses apply.  It is not the most efficient use of revenues.  Although we are seeing a movement away from all bricks and mortar by law firms, as addressed in my recent article in the ABA Journal, it may not happen soon enough for some of you.

Maternity leaves also are expensive for law firms.  Federal law mandates maternity leave for most women employees, and law firms typically go further these days and offer paid maternity leave.  But recessions include circumstances that can be used by employers, who are not favorably inclined toward paid maternity leave, to furlough or terminate young women lawyers and accomplish their desired outcomes without violating the law.

So, you mommy/lawyers may find yourselves in circumstances where you have to fight for your jobs.  Do it well.  Advocate effectively for yourselves.  Recognize your value and communicate it with confidence.  Be flexible about the work you are willing to do.  Challenging times require creative solutions.

Most of all, please know that you will win some of the battles, and you will lose others. Your losses will not be life defining. I speak from experience.  Sacrificing partnership was disappointing but it was only a detour.  Part-time practice allowed me to care for my baby the way I wanted to —- and that same baby just blessed me with my first precious grandchild.  My early investment in the future of my baby has paid off again, again and again.  Partnership came to me a little later as well — and I got it because I deserved it, and I argued effectively for it.

Good luck to all of you mommy/lawyers. Keep a clear focus on reasonable expectations and priorities. 

Be who you are.


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

Thought For The Week: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” Rabindranath Tagore

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My Recent Article in the ABA Journal: Lessons from the Pandemic

This pandemic has challenged the law profession in many ways.  As disruptive as it has been, there are important lessons that law firm leaders can learn from the COVID-19 experience to positively shape the future of their organizations.

Associate lawyers and young partners also can use these lessons to prepare themselves to be effective leaders in a legal world that is rapidly changing.

Learn things like:

  • The”face time”myth is exposed;
  • The telecommuting debate is over;
  • The team approach is being recognized for its true value;
  • What have become “women’s issues” will now be recognized as issues affecting all the workforce;
  • Five ways for law firm leaders to be on the right side of the values challenge; and much MORE.

It may seem like an odd proposition, but we must recognize that most challenges present opportunities to positively shape the future.  The coronavirus challenge is no different.  The lessons law firms take from the way business is being done at this time may determine the true value of the organization for years to come.

Read my recent article in the ABA Journal:

Be an effective law firm leader or learn how to become one.  It is up to all of us to grab the brass ring!

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Thought For The Week: For every life that we couldn’t save, we are called to honor that life. And the only way we honor that life is to continue fighting even when it seems like everything is lost. If we don’t, it would be a lack of respect to those who lost their lives. Carmen Yulin Cruz

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Law Day

I plead guilty.  I was asleep at the switch and missed the observation of Law Day on May 1st.  Let’s call it a symptom of brain warp after weeks of isolation!

Law Day is held on May 1st every year to celebrate the role of law in our society and to cultivate a deeper understanding of the legal profession.  In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower established Law Day as a day of national dedication to the principles of government under law, and, in 1961, Congress designated May 1 as the official date for celebrating Law Day.  The commemoration continues today and has expanded to many countries around the globe.

If you are not familiar with Law Day, I want you to be.  Law Day is important for many reasons —  to stress the importance of the rule of law, to promote respect for the law profession, and to recognize the role that the legal profession has played in the history of our country, to name just a few.  Some riffs on the general theme have followed, and one of them has very special significance for me.

At the Women in Law Day observation in March 2010, I delivered my first address on the subject of women lawyers and the importance to law firms of retaining and advancing females in the profession.  That speech was delivered at Roger Williams University School of Law, and it followed on the heels of my first book, What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers, 2009).  It served as the launching point for a decade of writing, consulting and speaking on subjects related to both young women lawyers and all young lawyers, as the Best Friends at the Bar project was expanded.

My recollections from that experience are still very vivid and very meaningful.  The Women in Law Day speaker the year prior had been Sarah Weddington, who argued on behalf of Jane Roe at the US Supreme Court in 1973 in the landmark case Roe v. Wade.  I felt humble and grateful to be following her as a keynote speaker.

I also was very impressed with the high quality program that law school administration had planned and executed for observance of Women in Law Day as well as the introduction of me and my remarks by the Dean of the Law School.  Dean David Logan not only introduced me, but he stayed for the entire program, including the Q and A.  That kind of respect for and dedication to law students and legal education is exemplary, and it still stands out in my experience more than a decade later.

Since my participation in that first Women in Law Day, I have had the pleasure of speaking at prestigious law schools, law firms and law organizations throughout the country.  The most important settings are the ones where organizers and attendees are interested, attentive, engaged and ask probing questions.  That is when I understand the true significance of my past:  Once a teacher, always a teacher.

This year, I did not participate in a Law Day or a Women in Law Day program.  COVID-19 does not respect law and order.  But I look forward to jumping back into those celebrations in 2021.  If you are looking for a speaker to celebrate with you then, contact me.  I would love to be a part of your program.

However it is not too late for you to celebrate being a part of a profession that should make us all proud.  You can Zoom with your law school and lawyer friends and raise a glass of bubbly — from the comfort of your home, of course.  Stay safe.  Stay well.  Stay home.

Help defeat this menace so that we can come back stronger in 2021 — to celebrate Law Day, Women in Law Day, and many other accomplishments in the law.

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

Thought For The Week: Your attitude towards problems, difficulties, and adversities is the most important factor in overcoming them. Napoleon Hill

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Happy Mother’s Day to all the lawyer/mothers out there. I am one of you, and I know what it takes to succeed at both. Bravo!

Career Counselors | Comment

Promo Strategies for Women-Owned Law Firms

A lot is changing in the law profession today.  The legal websites, blogs and periodicals are following all of it, and I have an article coming out soon in the ABA Journal addressing what law firm leaders can learn from coronavirus.  I will share a link with you when I have it.

Technology has rapidly changed law practice during the isolation we all are experiencing, and there is well-informed speculation that these same technological applications will be just as valuable post COVID-19 as they have been during mandatory working from home.  The need for expensive brick and mortar offices will be highly scrutinized during the economic downturn, especially, and it is very likely that they will not be justifiable in the future to the degree that they have been for the first 200-plus years of the profession.

For women lawyers, the lessons learned during the age of coronavirus may present particularly important opportunities.   The value of working from home no longer has to be explained and justified as in the past, and the work-life benefits of remote practice will be particularly advantageous for women, who are the primary caregivers for children as well as for aging and compromised family members.

Women lawyers most certainly will be among those who are furloughed during the economic downturn, and they will begin to recognize the value of banding together with other women to form women’s law firms and create environments where they can support each other and continue their careers.  The new technologies will be key to the success of these practices, not only to support work-life aspirations but also to facilitate lower billable rates and be competitive.  The use of programs like Zoom and Teams will maximize time and allow for more affordable delivery of services.

These new business ventures will need to include business development plans that are innovative and create value.  Hosting legal education programs that showcase clients and encourage networking is just one of the ways to respond to this need and give women-owned law firms advantages in competing for business.

In this context, I am reminded of a law firm program I contributed to recently and the very positive impression it left on me and other contributors and attendees.  In that case, it was not a women-owned law firm, but the model I experienced is easily transferable to other settings.

Here’s how it worked.  The law firm identified a theme that would be interesting and valuable to current and prospective clients and created a program around that theme.  The program consisted of panel discussions, which included clients and guest experts like me, and law firm lawyers as featured speakers.  The goal was to familiarize attendees with the law firm expertise and specialties but also to provide takeaways in terms of updated legal information and connections to enhance the business ventures of the client attendees.

It is a magical combination.  Throw in coffee, pastries, and a little lunch, and you have a winning formula.  Most women are capable of planning these kinds of programs in their sleep, and the result is business development that is effective and fun.   

Try it.  You’ll like it!  It is the kind of creativity that is going to be invaluable as the law profession morphs and evolves to meet the challenges and needs of a rapidly changing world.  

Be flexible.  Be creative.  Be the women lawyers you were meant to be.



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