Thought For The Day: An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail. EDWIN LAND

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What do RBG and Millennial Lawyers Have in Common?

RBG.  You have to love her!  And I do.  I loved the documentary about her life, and I love how relevant she continues to be.

I first saw Justice Ginsburg speak more than a decade ago when she was addressing an audience of law students and young lawyers.  Yes, her scholarship and her role as a breaker of glass ceilings amazed me, but it did not stop there.  Her sense of humor and her humble way of speaking was surprising for someone at her high perch, and it was heartwarming.  She knows how to get attention without hitting the listener over the head with her opinion and perspective.

So, last week when she was interviewed at George Washington University Law, I paid attention again.  Of course, I was not disappointed.  What I heard from her then that particularly moved me came in response to a question about the Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh.  In her response, she expressed lament that the process is now so partisan, unlike the bipartisan hearings of the past, including her own.

“That’s the way it should be instead of what its become, which is a highly partisan show,” she said. “The Republicans move in lockstep, and so do the Democrats. I wish I could wave a magic wand and bring it back to the way it was.”

Indeed, I think all of us wish we could wave magic wands to bring things back to what they were and the way they should be.  However, the partisan behavior in congressional hearings is only part of the problem.  Other unfortunate behaviors are infecting our society and culture, and it makes all of us yearn for the good old days.

Take the good old days of practicing law as an example.  The loss of respect, cooperation, civility, emphasis on honorable and ethical and professional behavior is addressed in my new book, What Millennial Lawyers Want:  A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2018).  Millennial lawyers are reacting to toxic law firm cultures and yearn for a set of values that will help develop them as the leaders they want to be.  Leaders not only in their profession but also in their communities.

I long have contended that the degradations of law firm cultures and the negative behaviors of practitioners, which have led to disillusionment among lawyers young and old, is reflective of the disrespectful behaviors that have become common in our society at large.  You need not look further than social media and television coverage of controversial topics for proof.

Think Facebook comments.  Think Twitter comments.  Think the behaviors of high level individuals in media interviews.  Think panels of experts freely screaming at each other on cable television.

Think road rage.  Think finger pointing instead of civilized conversation and compromise.  And the list goes on.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see the law profession lead the charge for elimination of these repugnant behaviors?  Wouldn’t it be nice for the law profession to stand up against bullying, disparaging dialogue, character assassination, and the full range of bad behaviors that have become common in our daily lives?  Wouldn’t it be nice to see lawyers take the initiative to address larger societal issues — as lawyers used to do?

The law profession has the opportunity to take up the mantle of living up to the values of past generations of lawyers.  That opportunity would go a long way toward responding to the disappointment of millennial lawyers to a profession gone awry by placing too much value on money and power.  It also would demonstrate that law firm managers can be the leaders they need to be during these transformative times.

What could be more important than bringing back civil behavior and respect for others? 

Like RBG, we only can hope that change is somewhere on the close horizon.  And we can hope that the first ones to take the hill are the lawyers.

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Thought For The Day: We must become what we wish to teach. NATHANIEL BRANDEN

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Thought For The Day: No legacy is so rich as honesty. WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

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A Young Woman Lawyer Looks to the Past to Inform the Future

I have to share with you the story of a remarkable young woman lawyer.  I do not know her, although I wish I did.  It would be a pleasure and an honor.  Lina Khan is the kind of dedicated and passionate young lawyer who, undoubtedly, will make her mark on this world.

I read her story recently in an article in the New York Times, and it inspired me.  Not because I know anything about anti-trust law.  Not because I have a secret agenda involving busting monopolies.  Just because I admire the intellectual journey and passion of this young woman.

She is a Yale Law School graduate, who, as a law student in 2017, published an article titled “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox” in the Yale Law Journal.  The article challenged current anti-trust principles and dredged up some former applications of law that got people’s attention.  The paper received 146,255 hits — a lot for legal treatises — and Lina Khan became a celebrity in the hallowed halls of government in Washington, DC.

She also has critics, as you might expect.  New discoveries and theories work that way.  But, she pushed forward on her theories with Amazon as the target.  Big target.  Hard to bring down.  She is now at the FTC doing awesome policy work based on her theories, and Politico just named her to its annual list of the people driving the ideas driving politics.

She had setbacks, but she soldiered on.  Just months before she was to assume a clerkship on the prestigious 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the judge who had hired her died suddenly.  So, she quickly changed course.  I think she grew up knowing it is what you do.

Take a few minutes to read the story.  It may inspire you as it inspired me.  All of us will not take journeys involving this kind of commitment, but we can marvel at the journeys of the ones who do.

What drew me to this story was Lina Khan’s notion that the past can help rescue the future.  “These are new technologies and new business models,” Ms. Khan said. “The remedy is new thinking that is informed by traditional principles.”

And the reason this resounds with me so emphatically is that it is the same thought process that runs throughout my new book, What Millennial Lawyers Want:  A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers, 2018).  The past can help rescue the future.  The remedy for an arguably failing law profession is a new way of thinking that is informed by traditional principles.

Being informed by the past to rescue the future is the bridge that millennial lawyers have been looking for without even knowing it.  It is the bridge that one bright and shining Yale Law student, turned millennial lawyer, took.  It is a journey of passion.

Bravo to Lina Khan wherever her passion leads her.  I hope I run into her on the streets of DC to witness her commitment and passion.  It would be a pleasure and an honor.

 

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Thought For The Day: Passion is one great force that unleashes creativity, because if you’re passionate about something, then you’re more willing to take risks. YO-YO MA

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Thought For The Day: Courtesy is a small act but it packs a mighty wallop. LEWIS CARROLL

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Women Lawyers Are Not Equal

Women lawyers are not equal — at least not in the private sector.  Plain and simple.  I know that you do not expect to hear this from me nor do you want to hear this from me, but it is true.

Equality is defined as “the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities.”  If you compare private sector female lawyers to private sector male lawyers on issues of status and opportunities, you begin to see the inequality.  (“Rights” are derived from constitutional law and legislation and are not addressed here.  But, if you want a history of women’s rights in America, watch RBG.) So, let’s talk status and opportunities:

  • On status:  Women have the babies, and tradition and implicit bias too often drive the conclusion that it is the woman’s responsibility to be the primary care taker of her children.  As the result of health considerations for women and their newborns, women lawyers typically take the maximum allowable maternity leave after childbirth.  More likely than not, when she returns to work, the woman lawyer is treated differently from her male colleagues because implicit bias drives the further conclusion that young mothers are no longer dedicated to, committed to, and serious about their jobs. And because this attitude prevails, many young women lawyers are denied equal consideration for partnership, thereby doing irreparable damage to their professional status.
  • On opportunities:  Repeat the above.  Once law firm management and leadership presumptively conclude that a young mother/attorney lacks dedication and commitment to her career, the opportunities for advancement dissolve.

So, what can be done about it?  A lot, according to a recent article in The American Lawyer.  This article is a group effort of the young lawyers editorial team at the magazine, and it is very ambitious in terms of the recommendations to law firms.  However, it includes some excellent starting points for firms to consider and implement.  Although I do not realistically expect that firms will implement all of the recommendations at once, most of them are possible over time.

Law firms need to take these issues very seriously for some very good reasons.  In fact, the title of the article, “Law Firms Benefit by Showing Attorneys that Family Matters” implies benefits to law firms from instituting the recommended policies.   Benefits not only for reasons of retention of talent, competition in the market place, and related self-serving profit motives, but, more importantly, because we are a profession that was founded on issues of fairness, respect and honorable behavior.

Simply stated, it is not nice to punish women professionals for having babies.

 

 

 

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