Thought For The Week: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Albert Einstein

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Happy Mother’s Day, Mother/Lawyers!

Mother’s Day is right around the corner.  It is the day set aside to celebrate the importance of motherhood, and it is an important day for all families.  For mother/lawyers, it also underscores the challenges of being the mother of young children and ALSO a lawyer.

Work-life balance for mother/lawyers is critical.  That does not make it easy, and it also is not conducive to cookie cutter solutions.  It is a very personal thing and, in part, depends on the type of law those mother/lawyers practice and the degree of child care help available to them.  It means deciding what works best for the woman and her family and for the woman and her career.  It means protecting objectives on both the personal and the professional sides.

I made these arguments in an ABA Journal article several years ago, and the y0ung women lawyers on Twitter were offended to hear my advice about paying attention to both personal and professional lives.  They said that I had no right telling them what to do because they already were doing it and they were very successful.  That made me wonder why they were offended because clearly what I was suggesting was working for them.  But it was the mere fact of being told what to do that offended them.

Those young women lawyers also wrote in their tweets that I must not have children if I was emphasizing being a reliable team player at the office.  They even opined that I had sold out to male management and that I was telling women lawyers not to have children.  Because I do not engage with cancel culture, I did not engage in a dialogue with unidentified Tweeters.  If I had responded, my response would have looked something like what is included in this current Forbes article.

Considerations like setting boundaries, prioritizing tasks, delegating responsibilities, and seeking flexibility  are addressed well in the article.  Pay attention to them.  They are critical to your success and how you look back on your performance as a lawyer and as a mother of small children.

I know a little about this.  I, indeed, do have children.  Two of them, both of them successful lawyers.  And I am very happy with the images in my rear view mirror.

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Thought For The Week: “Pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.” Maya Angelou

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Young Lawyers Need to Understand the Limitations of AI

I am a member of the District of Columbia Bar, and I, therefore, receive a copy of Washington Lawyer magazine six times a year.  I enjoy the stories, and, on occasion, I have an article published there.

The May/June 2024 magazine includes an article titled “The Client Needs You, Not AI” that I wish all of you could read.  There are many applications of AI in the practice of law, some good and some not so good.  For young lawyers, this can be very confusing — and very dangerous.

Not all of you will have access to this article.  For those of you who do, I hope you will read it.  For the rest of you, I have quoted below from the article to highlight some of the things to be wary of when relying on AI.

From the article by Josephine, M. Bahn, associate at Cozen O’Connor, immediate past chair of the ABA Young Lawyers Division:

AI can be a tool for young and new lawyers to strengthen their repertoire, but it should be used with caution.  We’ve heard the horror stories of lawyers using ChatGPT and nonexistent case law, or of attorneys utilizing AI to produce discovery requests without checking local rules requirements.  It behooves young lawyers to familiarize themselves with the technology they want to use — how it works, what others in the field might use it for, and, most importantly, what its potential pitfalls might be.

Adoption of new technology should not replace the human elements of law practice.  Knowing an individual client’s goals and preferences is not something you can readily feed into an AI platform if, for example, the client hates passive voice or will strike any in-line citations. Without knowing the “people” part of the profession, new technology tools may actually hinder young lawyers’ growth.  Remember that you are the reason the client hired you in the first place, not your ability to use AI.  

Lawyering is a technical profession where words matter and delivery may [matter more than] all else.  Our clients can see through discovery requests formulated using AI that fails to consider prior pleadings, specific facts, and the nuances of the case.  Young lawyers must remember that they are the human element needed to bring a case toward a desirable outcome for the client. …. If you remain the clients’ trusted advisor, then you remain indispensable to them. (emphasis added)

It is not often that I quote so extensively from an article.  In this case, it is important to me that you get this information straight from another associate lawyer, who is confronted with these issues in the same way you are.

It is very good advice.  Heed the warnings.

 

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Thought For The Week: “When you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.” Robert Fulghum

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The Importance of Active Listening for Young Lawyers

Good communication skills are very important to lawyers.  We typically think of those skills in terms of good writing skills, good speaking skills, and good advocacy skills.  Although those skills are very important and you should strive to perfect them, another very important communication skill is often overlooked.  That is the skill of active listening.

Effective communication is about more than expressing thoughts and opinions.  It often determines how we receive information and interpret the messages of others, and it is necessary to a deeper understanding of another’s thoughts and demonstrating empathy and building connections.

Active listening is critical in many legal practice settings, from interviewing witnesses to negotiating billion dollar deals.  It requires attention to what others are saying — really focused attention — in order to gain information and to develop relationships with the speaker that can benefit you in myriad ways.  When you give your full attention to a speaker, you send a message that what is being said is important and worthy of  your time.

In a recent article, “Unlock the Power of Active Listening,” the writer, Tomer Rozenberg, suggests that active listening also includes involvement with a speaker without judgment and which goes beyond simply hearing words. Active listening also can improve problem solving, by ensuring that you fully comprehend what you are hearing, and can lead to more effective solutions.  And it can cut down on misunderstandings that often are very time consuming.

Recall how annoying it is to be in a conversation with X, who is not listening and is concentrated on other things and other people.  X is scanning the room over your shoulder, clearly not engaged with you, and likely anticipating a next conversation before completing the conversation with you.  Chances are that you form harsh opinions about X, the kind of opinions that you would not want others to form about you.

To avoid that result and develop active listening skills, start your conversations by maintaining eye contact, avoiding interruptions, and responding by paraphrasing what has been said.  An occasional nod or favorable facial expression also can go a long way toward achieving active listening.  My guess is that you are an active listener in conversations with your supervisor or manager because you think your job depends on it.  And you may be right about that.  Most managers and supervisors do not relish repeating themselves because someone is not listening.

Practice active listening in your personal life and move on to conversations in your professional life.  Active listening has no downsides and can be very important for career success and satisfaction.  And don’t you want to use all of the skills available to you to achieve those objectives?

 

 

 

 

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Thought For The Week: “The higher we soar, the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly.” Friedrich Nietzsche

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Balancing Lawyering and Caregiving

Being a woman lawyer still presents challenges — even in 2024.  And being a lawyer/mother ups the ante on those challenges.  But, consider how much harder it must be for lawyer/mothers of special needs children.

I recently read an article that addressed those challenges in a way that especially resonated with me.  The title is “Balancing Lawyering and Caregiving in the Sandwich Generation — A Woman’s Perspective.”   As  the  second article in a series, it focused on tips for lawyering and parenting a special needs child.

Even if you do not have to struggle with issues related to caretaking for a special needs child, I encourage you to read the article because of the good, solid practical advice about trying to balance your personal life with your professional life.

In this article, you will not read complaints and testimonials from young women lawyers, who believe that the challenges for lawyer/mothers is the responsibility of employers to solve.   You will not read about lawyer/mothers, who believe that they are entitled to work only between 9 and 5 with no further responsibilities after 5 at night and until 9 the next morning.  You will not read complaints that make you wonder whether those women lawyers understand that the practice of law is a personal services business with the emphasis on client service — because that is the way the profession of law works.

To be clear, I understand the challenges that women lawyers face, but I am confident that women lawyers, including lawyer/mothers, can overcome their challenges without relying completely on others to come to their rescue.  To do that, women lawyers need to be realistic about their responsibilities and know how to take the long view.  They need to access help when they need it to fashion good solutions.  They especially need to remember and respect that they are women — and women have always leaned into the issues and relied on their remarkable flexibility and talent for problem solving.

Don’t get me wrong.  This kind of advocacy from women lawyers does not relieve employers from the responsibility of working with women lawyers toward more flexible schedules and other solutions to make caretaking and lawyering more compatible.  Meeting those challenges will require communication and cooperation and a recognition that both the women lawyers and the law firms have reasonable concerns.

This article includes the kind of advice that helps young lawyers persevere and take tremendous pride in their accomplishments.  It is the same kind of advice that you will find in my books for women lawyers and is at the core of my many speeches to law schools, law firms and law organizations, and it represents the essence of the Best Friends at the Bar program.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

By embracing flexibility, building a solid support network, prioritizing self-care, advocating for us and our children, delegating tasks, seeking professional guidance, and staying committed to our goals, we can thrive both in and outside our careers. Finally, also remember that our dedication and strength also make us role models for other women navigating similar challenges, which can prove both rewarding and encouraging as we continue to navigate our own paths.

Now, that makes a lot of sense.

 

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