Time for Law Firms to Have Some Fun

March Madness is upon us once again. It has been a time for celebrating the underdog and the perennial amazement at the performance of the Big Dogs.

I look so forward to this competition every year. I never played basketball, but many of my friends and family did. However, I am a devoted sports fan, and I particularly love watching college basketball and lacrosse. There is a lot of similarity of plan and play, I think.

Law firms also get into March Madness. There are pools and side bets and lots of postering and mock rivalries in the hallways of firms large and small.

This is good. It is needed. It allows lawyers, young and old, to relate on a whole other level and in very different way. They like it — even the ones who know nothing about the game and have a friend or spouse fill out their brackets. They support their undergraduate colleges and universities like they were casting the deciding votes on the Supreme Court. It is important to them. And it is fun.

But, why should this kind of positive and sometimes affectionate interaction be a one-off annual experience? Why shouldn’t law firms aim for this more often and with a variety of events. All work and no play makes not only for dull but also unhappy and disillusioned lawyers.

Young lawyers can make efforts to improve these conditions. A little suggestion here or there and initiative need to come from the bottom. If you have not noticed, the top is preoccupied.

Happy Final Four! I will be watching. Hope to “see” you there — having fun.

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Thought For The Week: “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” Pope John Paul II

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A Time for Women Lawyers to Be Proud

I have been watching the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. I am fortunate to have my office in my home and a relaxed schedule at this time in my career. So, I can take advantage of such opportunities.

What I have heard and seen is a woman lawyer who is a credit to us all and to the profession. She is a class act and conducts herself as a professional for all of us to admire. She is not just a qualified judge, she also is an excellent teacher. She responds to questions about complicated legal theories with down-to-earth examples from cases she has adjudicated and educates all who have open minds to listen.

She also is a class act because she knows “how” to act. She fields all questions with dignity and respect, while at the same time politely drawing lines when it is necessary to maintain the truthfulness of genuine fact-finding roles of the hearings. She conducts herself as a mannerly and charming female, and she is not afraid to be one.

She also is a grand example of a woman lawyer. She does not shy away from her feelings for her family and makes it clear how important they are to who she is as a person and a jurist. Her responses make her more human, and that characteristic is important to the process of assuring that justice is served.

I have watched a lot of judicial confirmation hearings over the years. Never have I seen anyone — that is ANYONE — do a finer job of assuring me that she is the person for the moment. We all knew before the hearings that her nomination was groundbreaking and historic for issues of both gender and race. Now we know that it also is groundbreaking for other reasons.

I am politically independent. I grew up saying that I “vote for the man” and not the party. Today I throw my support to the woman for the moment.

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Thought For The Week: “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” William Shakespeare

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Civil Discourse: The Time for It has Come — AGAIN

I know a little bit about Civil Discourse. Or uncivil discourse in my case.

Although I had written four books for young lawyers, three of those for women lawyers, and countless media articles, including as a monthly columnist for the ABA Journal, last summer I wrote something in one of those columns that some readers did not like. They would not accept that my advice was to protect them and advance them. All they could see was “red” because I had suggested that they protect themselves from the pitfalls that continue to exist on their career paths in a business still controlled by men. They did not want to be told one more thing to do — even if it was for their own good and their future successes. They just wanted to complain about the unfairness of the system and to be mad.

And mad they were. They took to social media in a big way and unleashed their venom. They tweeted and retweeted and hid behind anonymity. Some also took to LinkedIn. They made a mess of things for women lawyers by allowing others to call it a “cat fight.” Even though major media like Bloomberg Law and The American Lawyer pointed out that my advice was correct and warranted, they did not stop.

I admit that I was shocked at first and more than a little bit hurt. I had advocated for women lawyers for more than 40 years, including hundreds of blogs and scores of speeches and media articles after I founded Best Friends at the Bar, and the people I had tried to help were turning on me.

However, in retrospect, I realize that it was a sign of the times. Civil discourse had disappeared, and anger, name calling, character and career assassination, and age shaming had replaced it. When the sentiments of the Tweeters was also taken up by the leadership of our country’s largest law organization, over social media threats, I knew it was serious. And infectious. And dangerous.

It is why you only can read my blogs on this website today. No longer on Twitter. No longer on Facebook. No longer on LinkedIn. They are only available to those who care enough to come on the Best Friends at the Bar website and read them. And comments are no longer allowed. Because they were uncivil. Because they were destructive — not because they did not agree with me but because they attacked the messenger and distorted the message.

Here is the link to an article that gives me hope — hope that we can regain some of what has been lost. Hope that the younger generation understands the power and value of civil discourse. Hope that it will open up important discussions and that it will be safe again to express a variety of opinions. Below is an excerpt from the article to whet your appetite and support for civil discourse.

 “Before she took the civil dialogue seminar, Lowenkron might have been content to let everybody scream. “I don’t think I would have seen much value in conversation,” she says. Now she sees a practical benefit. “It sometimes helps to see if people are on the same page,” she says. “Because if they are, fundamentally, we can work with that.”

I have advocated for young people, especially young women, all of my life. I hope that what I am seeing is yet another way that young people will help save our society. I pray.

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Thought For The Week: “Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” Albert Einstein

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What is the Responsibility of Lawyers as Defined by War?
In a Notice and Comment blog by David Lat and published on March 8, 2022, addressing whether Big Law should drop their Russian clients and close their Russian offices, he voiced issues and made arguments that I believe are worthy of your attention. I have written about this before since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and it is still a great concern for me. Below is what David Lat wrote for your consideration:

“On Monday, in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Deloitte and EY announced plans to pull out of Russia. In doing so, they joined the other two Big Four accounting firms, KPMG and PwC, which announced on Sunday that they’d be withdrawing from Russia. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, major multinational corporations like Apple and Exxon [and now others] have announced the suspension or termination of their operations or sales in Russia. But Biglaw firms trying to resist pressure to withdraw from Russia might argue that as providers of professional services, law firms owe duties to their clients that are greater than the duties that companies like Apple or Exxon owe to their customers. The retreats from Russia of accounting firms, fellow professional-services firms with deep client relationships, are harder for Biglaw to distinguish away—and significantly increase the pressure on law firms to depart from Mother Russia.

What have law firms done so far in terms of their Russian offices and clients? Not much. The most common response by firms to media inquiry is that they’re in the process of “reviewing” their Russian operations and client rosters.As of yesterday, per Law360, only a handful of Global 200 firms have announced plans to shutter their Russian offices, most notably Linklaters, Norton Rose Fulbright, and Kennedys. As for clients, around a half-dozen law firms have announced plans to sever ties with at least some of their Russian clients—but for most of these firms, it appears that they’re actually required to terminate these representations because of sanctions. And some of these firms might be cutting ties with Russian entities not out of any noble desire to support Ukraine but because they’re worried about getting paid, now that Russian banks have been banned from the SWIFT international payments network.

This brings us to today’s topic for Notice and Comment: what should law firms do vis-à-vis Russia? Here are some questions to discuss and debate:Should firms with offices in Russia shut them down? What should firms do regarding their Russian clients?
For firms that decide to drop Russian clients, how far should they go? Should they drop all Russian clients, or only those clients subject to sanctions, or only those clients with significant ties to the Russian government (whether subject to official sanctions or not)?Are law firms that leave the Russian market and Russian clients really punishing or pressuring the Putin regime? Or are these firms just making themselves feel better (and look better in the eyes of public opinion), while actually weakening the rule of law in Russia?What do I think?

My current view: Biglaw should get the hell out of Russia. But I admit that this is more of a gut reaction, fueled by the outrageousness of the Russian invasion, and I haven’t thought through all the angles. So allow me to play devil’s advocate for a moment.Is my “get the hell out of Russia” position inconsistent with my general view that even the worst actors are entitled to legal counsel, and lawyers shouldn’t be held responsible or punished for the misdeeds of their clients? Consider this discussion by Dan Packel of the American Lawyer, based on correspondence he had with Peter Kalis, former chairman and global managing partner of K&L Gates: Kalis believes it would be repugnant if firms turned their back on [Russian] clients in the face of social opprobrium, citing the presumption that lawyers should see their engagements through, as long as ethical and legal ground rules don’t indicate otherwise.“I would rather have Russian clients properly advised by leading US and UK firms than see them blowing by sound counsel,” he wrote….Kalis suggested that firms balance their representation of Russian clients with pro bono representation of Ukrainian refugees and relief organizations.And there’s an argument that not all Russian clients are equally problematic. As Professor William Burke-White of Penn Law told Packel, “It’s one thing to not work for Russian state-owned enterprises; it’s another thing to think about what it means to abandon that market. I hope firms will think about how to disentangle themselves from elements of the Russian government but not completely abandon a country that depends on building the rule of law for its future.”

There is a lot to think about there. I hope that you are able to sort it out because it is likely to come up again in reference to our national security and also the responsibility of lawyers in war time.
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Thought For The Week: “There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a third power stronger than both: that of women.” Malala Yousafzai

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