What Women and Millennial Lawyers Need to Know — Courtesy of Bast Amron in Miami

Last Friday I was a panelist at a Business Advantage Forum hosted by the Bast Amron litigation and business law firm in Miami. What a treat!  The day-long program provided candid and refreshing conversations about the state of business and law in the age of #MeToo and multi-generations in the workplace.  I enjoyed the opportunity to meet and dialogue with dynamic business leaders and attorneys in the Miami area, and I learned a lot — always an important criterion for a successful program.

What made this experience so unique was the recognition by firm leaders that a culture of assisting clients, collaborating with colleagues and giving back to community is a winning combination.  It did not surprise me to hear that on Monday mornings the lawyers and staff at Bast Amron meet to review last week’s work and give recognition for work well done.

Bast Amron clearly knows that best practices includes building a powerful and welcoming workplace, which encourages growth and gains an edge on the competition.  The folks at Bast Amron also are master marketers, who know how to engage clients and audiences on cutting edge issues.

Here are some of the subjects addressed by the panels:

  • Why more women are succeeding as entrepreneurs and business leaders;
  • Why hiring and advancing women in leadership roles attracts top talent and improves company and law firm cultures;
  • Why inter-generational team building is valuable for recruiting and also leads to creative solutions for complex problems; and
  • The importance of social responsibility and community involvement by law firms and companies and how those roles enhance business.

Although I was a panelist in the discussion about millennials and inter-generational team building, you can image that I also took a deep dive during audience participation for the panel addressing women in the workplace.   The discussion of issues surrounding #MeToo and appropriate treatment of women were especially lively and lead to an improved understanding of the responsibilities of all parties, including the responsibility to call out bad behaviors.  I also enjoyed the comments by panelists about how women succeed by turning disadvantages into advantages —- very valuable lessons to learn early in careers.

The program concluded with a presentation by an expert on Predictive Index Behavioral Assessment as a tool for determining behaviors and assisting in hiring.  It was fascinating until I had to run to catch a plane back to DC.

Thank you, Bast Amron for a thought-provoking day and the opportunity to engage with progressive minds.  Keep up the good work!

 

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Thought For The Week: The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. Douglas MacArthur

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Thought For The Week: Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will. Mahatma Gandhi

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Are Civility and Respect Gone from Our Profession? Can Young Lawyers Make a Difference?

If you have read my new book about and for millennial lawyers, you know how much emphasis I put on civility and respect in law practice.  I believe that it is at the core of what sets us aside as professionals, and we have a responsibility to protect it.

Sadly, we have seen a lot of civility and respect sacrificed on the altar of money and power in the last decades, and law practice has changed.  Those changes are critical to who we are as professionals and what society thinks of us.  They are also important to who we want to be as people.  How we want to live our lives.  What we want to think of ourselves.

As I wrote in What Millennial Lawyers Want:  A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2018), I see a pathway back to the days of greater civility and respect, and young lawyers have a critical role in achieving that goal.  It was a bit of an epiphany when I discovered that the values of millennial lawyers are a mirror image of the values of Greatest Generation lawyers of mid 20th century America, who were my role models.  And it gave me hope.  It is why I wrote the book, and it is what I spend a lot of time explaining to law firm leaders and other audiences.  It is hard to disregard the teachings of the Greatest Generation.

Take a look at this post on Above the Law for more on this subject.  Hopefully you will remember the anecdotes shared there and delete the behaviors described from your lawyer repertoire.  It is not necessary.  It is not civil.  It is not respectful.  And it does not dignify you.

That post made me think about a conversation I had with my Dad, a Greatest Generation lawyer, when I was in my first years of litigation practice.  I described to him my difficulty in scheduling a deposition because opposing counsel was being so uncooperative.  My Dad was dumbstruck.  His questions were so fundamental.  Why should that be a problem?  Can’t you just agree on a day and get a court reporter there?  Are you sure there is not some misunderstanding?

Nope, Dad.  No misunderstanding.  Now everything is a power struggle.  And we don’t go to lunch together afterward either.

Push back has become a major league sport in the law.  Yelling, too.  And, as pointed out by the writer in the ATL post, it rarely changes the outcome.

What it changes is us.  It makes us less human.  It makes us less professional.  And it makes us less likely to respect ourselves.

 

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Why Young Lawyers Need Business Plans

As a young lawyer, a business plan may be the farthest thing from your mind.  Billing hours, making your numbers, trying not to look stupid to the partner and, well, just surviving in law practice in the early years are what occupy you.  I understand and remember.

But, don’t dismiss having a business plan as some other-worldly exercise that is not worthy of your time.  It is more than worthy.

I have been preaching — yes, preaching — to young women lawyers about the importance of career plans for over a decade, and business plans are the same thing.  All of you, male and female lawyers alike, need to have them.  It is pretty simple:  Where do you want your career to go, and how do you intend to get there?

Over the years I have emphasized creating career plans based on values.  You have to identify the things that you value and do not want to sacrifice on the altar of a workaholic lifestyle, for example.  Those values include questions about family, children, making a difference in your community, and doing work that interests you.  Your plan needs to contemplate what legal setting works best with your values.

Your career plan — or business plan — is not going to look like anyone else’s.  It is unique.  It reflects who and what you are, and having it gives you confidence.  It will be tweaked many times over the years, and that is the beauty of a plan that allows for flexibility and change.  Once you have it, put it aside and concentrate on being the best lawyer you can be.  That will give you valuable bargaining chips down the line.  And from time to time revisit your plan and revise it as needed.  Nothing is written in stone.

Now, my preaching is validated in an article that I want all of you to read.  It is part of a series of articles by Lateral Link.  As the name implies, the professionals there specialize in lateral movement among lawyers.  But, even if you are not looking to switch jobs, the concepts addressed in the article are worth reading about.  Here are some of those concepts:

  • Why a good business plan takes time;
  • How your business plan can be designed to highlight a key skill or specialty;
  • The role of substance and business development skills in your business plan; and
  • Uses for your business plan — now and in the future.

These are all important things to think about.  Sure, the objective of the article is to attract young lawyers to the Lateral Link mantra, but the advice can be used more widely to get you in the right mindset for taking your career seriously.

Planning is just that.  It is not taking action.  It is planning for action and getting all your ducks in a row to act in your own best interest and protect your future.  It is serious business, but it does not have to be taken seriously to the point of creating stress.  Relax and start to think about your future in a strategic way.

Have fun with it.

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Thought For The Week: Vision is the true creative rhythm. Robert Delaunay

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A Case of Outrageous Advice for Women In Business

Consider this advice for women in business:

Women’s brains absorb information like pancakes soak up syrup so it’s hard for them to focus.  Men’s brains are more like waffles.  They’re better able to focus because the information collects in each little waffle square.

Surely this would be from some gender-insensitive and stereotype-infused speaker or handbook of yore.  That is what you would think.  And you would be wrong.

And then imagine me as so completely shocked, dismayed and outraged when I read this quote in a recent article in Huffington Post Business that I let out a primal scream.   For over a decade now, I have labored under the belief that accounting firms like Deloitte and EY continue to lead the way on issues of diversity and opportunities for women.  After all, that is the way it was when I started the Best Friends at the Bar project in 2008 and when I routinely used practices at those firms as examples for law firms to follow.

Well, let me be clear, what you will read in the article is nothing that any law firm should follow or model.  Not by a long shot.  And certainly not today in the 21st Century when the subjects of gender bias , harassment and discrimination have been so thoroughly vetted that business leaders should know which subjects are definitely off limits.

Instead Ernst and Young chose, in 2018, to offer a program for its employees on the proper attire and behavior for women employees — specifically how to dress and act nicely around men — with some of the advice couched in terms of the negative influence of improper female attire and behavior on male employees.

Those poor, poor men, who cannot pay close attention unless women’s skin is completely covered.  Rather than debunking the harmful stereotypes about women, female employees at Ernst and Young were being asked to learn how to live with those stereotypes.

No, I am not going to spoil the read for you.  It is too unbelievable and therefore delectable to do that.  I want you to savor each nugget of bad judgment on your own and, at the same time, wonder at the ineptitude of the mostly male leaders of business today.  We only can hope that this particular affliction does not find its way into the hallowed halls of law firms — or that someone with real brains and business acumen will recognize it for the bad idea it is.

Shaming and blaming women is so yesterday.  Continuing to make women the scapegoats for the shortcoming of men is something that is exhausting even to contemplate.  Let’s get on with creating effective business and law firm leaders and using the talent of the males and females among us without the distraction of this kind of nonsense.  Honestly, I thought I had heard the last of something so antiquated and harmful.

But, without being a spoiler, I do want to shed light on the defense that Ernst and Young raised when confronted with knowledge of the program contents.  Typical responses were that quotes and facts had been taken out of context.  Although that sometimes happens, all you have to do is read the following to dismiss the defense as inept.  How many opportunities for misunderstanding can there be to the following quotes?

  • Don’t flaunt your body — sexuality scrambles the mind (for men and women); and
  • If you’re in a conversation with a man, cross your legs and sit at an angle to him.  Don’t talk to a man face-to-face.  Men see that as threatening.

And there was plenty of other red meat in the 55-page presentation.

Shame, shame.  And not on women.

 

 

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Thought For The Week: Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. Mark Twain

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