Happy International Women’s Day! Here’s an Interview for You

The celebration of International Women’s Day is a great time to also celebrate women lawyers.  Women lawyers have come so far since I started Best Friends at the Bar for them almost 20 years ago.

Here is an interview that I think that you will find interesting and which includes the achievements for women lawyers and the challenges that remain.  It is a really pragmatic approach to succeeding as a woman lawyer.




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My Mom, The Lawyer

I just read a book that you all need to know about —- to read and to recommend to all of the lawyers in your lives.  By “all” I mean both the female lawyers and the male lawyers in your orbits.

The book, My Mom the Lawyer, by Louisville, KY lawyer/mom Michelle Browning Coughlin, hits all the marks of my own Best Friends at the Bar project for women lawyers.  Like me, Michelle and her project, Mothers Esquire, are devoted to increasing retention and promotion rates for women lawyers.  And, like me, Ms. Coughlin also extends her project to male lawyers, who are parents and caregivers.

Here is a description of Mothers Esquire from the website:

We are Moms. We are Lawyers. We are Master-Negotiators and Multi-Taskers — at work and at home. We are the Equity Partners at the office and the Team Coach at school. We drive mini-vans to depositions and to carpool line. We read briefs by day and Goodnight Moon by night. And we are bringing women together to Disrupt the “Motherhood Penalty” in our profession.

My Mom the Lawyer is written for young children to explain what mommy does when she is not acting like mommy to them.  A book like this could have been written by me for my children and some day can be written by my daughter for her children.   That is the way it is these days — mommy the lawyer and grandma the lawyer — but that does not make it easy for young children to understand.  This book makes it easier.

There are examples of law student moms, law partner moms, trial lawyer moms, transactional lawyer moms, in-house counsel moms, solo practitioner moms, politician/legislator moms, remote office lawyer moms, law professor moms, and moms who are judges.  It’s all there.

Other themes include the leadership potential of women lawyers, the importance of childcare/parenting sharing, the reasons why home time sometimes becomes office time, and the pains of relocation for job reasons.  Even very young children can get a sense of what lawyer/moms do.

Diversity is one of the strengths of this book.  The lawyer moms and their children are from diverse cultural backgrounds, and the simple but vibrant illustrations underscore the messages of diversity.  

Congratulations to Michelle Browning Coughlin for the book.  I enjoyed the read.  So will you and your children.

Information for book purchase can be found on the Mothers Esquire website.


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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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It Is NOT OK For Women Lawyers to Cry at Work

If you have followed my writing for the last ten years, it will not surprise you that I do not advise crying at work — unless it is behind closed doors and the telltale hints of crying are erased before you re-enter the office common space.  Or unless you are facing some devastating personal loss.

So, when I saw the articleIt’s Okay To Cry At Work” on Above the Law recently, I had a visceral reaction.  Visceral because I am trying to help you become the most competitive and highly competent and regarded professionals possible — and crying at work is not the way to reach those goals.

The question of whether you should cry is different from whether you have a right to cry.  Your “right to cry” is firmly established.  You have a right to cry because there is a lot that women lawyers have to cry about.  They are outnumbered by men in a profession that is also hugely male dominated.  Only 20% of the partners in law firms today are women and that leaves a lot of management and leadership that does not understand the challenges to women lawyers and/or does not care about them.  Women lawyers with children and family responsibilities are pulled in so many different directions that they are sure their limbs will become detached at any moment.  And there is still far too much gender discrimination and implicit bias running rampant in the profession that it stretches the causes for optimism, even on a good day.

Yes, there is a lot to cry about. But, don’t do it.  It makes you look weak — as recognized by Kathryn Rubino, the author of the ATL article.  Why would you want to look weak in a shark tank?  That just does not make any sense.  The fact that women have traditionally been the criers does not change that result either or establish the wisdom of weeping openly in the workplace.  In fact, in a profession as challenging as the law, where criticism comes from all directions, including the client, the senior counsel, the opposing counsel, the managing partner, and the judge, why on earth would you want to look weak???

Apparently the men have figured this out.  I have been a lawyer for almost 40 years, and I have yet to see a male lawyer cry in the workplace over stresses related to the job.  Yes, I have seen tears in male eyes on 9-11 and at the images of Sandy Hook Elementary, and I would expect that.  But, I do not expect it for the reasons suggested by the ATL article.

And I am not interested in the health benefits of crying in this context.  Although I generally am interested in women lawyers paying attention to their psychological and physical health, this is not one of those times.  You will find yourself in a much more “healthy” state if you safeguard your professional future.  Job security trumps endorfins every time.  Trust me.

Your job always should be to keep communications open, and crying will shut down a conversation in a nanosecond, especially if the person on the other end of the conversation is a man.  Men do not feel comfortable seeing women cry, and they will do everything possible to wiggle out of the discussion.  So will a lot of women.  The reason for that is that shows of emotion like crying are personal and — as a rule — do not belong in communal settings.  Sure there are exceptions, but do not strain your brain looking for them and trying them out.  There is a law of diminishing returns associated with academic exercises like that.

You are a professional, and you are expected to act professionally.  I have a rule of thumb that is appropriate here:  If you would not exhibit certain behavior in the courtroom before the judge or jury, don’t do it in the workplace.  It is an easy rule to apply.


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A Good Message for the New Year


“I succeeded in a man’s world.  I am not afraid to be a woman.”  How about that for the start to a new year where the sky is the limit for us as women?

That is the message that appeared in a photo ad that I did recently for my all-time favorite jeweler.  I. Gorman Jewelers of Washington, DC and the Gorman family have been a part of my life for a long time.  They deal only with cutting edge jewelry designers and artisans from around the world, and their inventory is breathtaking.  I have spent many hours gazing at those jewel-filled cases and wishing I could have it all — or at least one from each case!

But, I was not prepared for the call I got last summer asking me to participate as a model in their new ad campaign.  In a genius manner, they had decided to use several of their own clients, not professional models, to showcase their jewelry.  But, me?  That seemed impossible.  I never had done anything like this before, and my first thought was that it was not for me.

The Gormans can be very convincing, however, and I also saw the benefit of spreading the Best Friends at the Bar message to a larger audience, an audience beyond women lawyers, an audience of all professional women.  My name would not be on the ad, and that was very important to me.  It is the message that is important, and the ad would be as much about the future for women as about drop-dead gorgeous jewelry.

So, I agreed to sit for the photo session, and I had the greatest Cinderella and Queen for a Day experience of my life.  Quite simply, it was a ball!

The ad ran in the November issue of the Washingtonian magazine and on the sides of metro buses in DC throughout the Fall!  I even saw myself on one of those buses, and I nearly stopped traffic in the middle of DC.  My husband chased one of those buses for two blocks to get a photo.  It was fun.

Above is a picture of me at the Washingtonian 50-Year Anniversary Gala in October beside a poster of the ads featuring me and three fantastic and beautiful women.  I am the one in the lower right-hand corner.  The message reads, “I succeeded in a man’s world.  I am not afraid to be a woman.  I wear I. Gorman.”

This is the message of Best Friends at the Bar.  The jewelry is a plus but not  necessary to be a Best Friend at the Bar.  Be confident.  Know your value.  Be proud of being a woman and everything that comes with it.  Have a Personal Definition of Success.

Remember it and know that I will never let you forget it!

Thanks to I. Gorman for an unbelievable and unforgettable experience — and to the photographer Gary Landsman, who definitely knew how to make me look better than my best.  Bravo!



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Winning and Losing for Women

I hope that you have heard about the new book, Top Dog:  The Science of Winning and Losing by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.  Better yet, maybe you have read it.  From what I have read so far, the concepts are fascinating.  The book explores the differences between winning and losing performances and why are we not always up for the challenge.  It gives insight into how we all can become better competitors and uses scientific evidence and wisdom gained from politics, finance, genetics, neuroscience, psychology, military training, sports, economics, and education to help readers identify their competitive styles and make game-changing decisions on the way they compete.

Although the book addresses competition in both sexes, there is so much here for women.  With so many women in the workplace today, including in law practice, the competition is keen between men and women, but, as you will read in the book, that does not mean that men and women compete the same way.  They don’t.

According to the research included in Top Dog, women and men choose competitors differently, differ in their approaches to winning or not losing, judge circumstances differently, approach risk differently, and choose who they will compete against differently, to name just a few distinctions.  These distinctions definitely amount to differences that can be outcome determinative in settings like job interviews, board meetings, managing and mentoring.

The authors urge women to be more competitive in their work environments and explain why it is important for women to play to win and not to be so dependent on calculating odds of success before trying something new.  They downplay the importance of coalition building and encourage women to speak up without being invited into the conversation.  Raising your hand and waiting to be acknowledged can short circuit your opportunities to make valuable contributions.

I often have made the sports analogy between the behavior of men and women in business in my books and in my programs.  And, here it is again in Top Dog.  You will read there that men approach their careers like sport—they play hard and they are prepared for both victory or defeat.  Women, however, are much more cautious and want more assurances before they get in the game and “leave it all on the field.”

It reminds me of that great quote from Dwight Eisenhower that I posted as a Thought For the Day recently:  “What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.” In Top Dog, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman reveal the size of the fight in all of us and help us to take it to the next level.

I absolutely cannot wait to read more of this book.  I am jumping on a plane later this week with book in hand.  Stay tuned to see if my high expectations are met.  I also am following up on a recent program at Georgetown University where author Merryman spoke about the book.  Unfortunately, I was not able to attend, and I have inquired about any recording of the program that may be available.  When I get that information, I will pass it on to all of you.

Until then, what are you waiting for?   Take a risk.  Speak up and do not wait to be invited into the conversation.  Play hard to win, and be confident.  Make people notice you by your confidence and your willingness to take on new challenges and move out of your comfort zone.  Get in the game!


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Be Sure to Thank a Vet Today (and Have You Thought about Service in the JAG Corps?)

Today is Veteran’s Day, and I hope you all have taken out time to thank someone who served or is serving our country in a military capacity.  I know I have.  I am privileged to live with a former Marine, so it is easy and natural for me.  You don’t have to look far either, so make sure you do.  Veterans are all around you, and they really would appreciate the acknowledgment today and every day.

In thinking about Veteran’s Day, I am reminded that service to your country as a lawyer is something that some of you may want to think about.  I am the daughter of a military lawyer, who served in the European Theater during WW II, and my husband also served as a JAG officer in the Marine Corps Reserves after active duty during the Vietnam War years.  This makes me proud, and it also makes me think that being a JAG officer would be very interesting and rewarding.

Really, you say, but I am a woman.  Not so fast.  There are many women lawyers serving in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps today, and THE Judge Advocate General of the US Navy—-THE top lawyer in the Navy— is a woman.  I have met Vice Admiral Nanette De Renzi, and she is a very impressive naval officer and a very lovely woman to boot.  According to those who work with her, Nan is tough when she needs to be and every bit the woman when she wants to be.  That’s my kind of professional woman!

Each branch of the armed forces—the Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy and Coast Guard– has a Judge Advocate General.  The Judge Advocate General officer is in charge of all judge advocates and is responsible for all legal matters affecting that branch of the service.

The Free Legal Dictionary defines the JAG Corps and a JAG officer as follows:

“Judge advocates are attorneys who perform legal duties while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. They provide legal services to their branch of the armed forces and Legal Representation to members of the Armed Services. In addition, judge advocates practice international, labor, contract, environmental, tort, and administrative law. They practice in military, state, and federal courts. A judge advocate attorney does not need to be licensed to practice law in the state in which he or she practices because they are part of a separate, military system of justice. …

A judge advocate is admitted to the armed services as an officer. Because the Uniform Code of Military Justice is different from civilian law in many respects, a judge advocate undergoes an orientation and then education in Military Law. The U.S. Army’s JAGC school, for example, at Charlottesville, Virginia, provides a ten-week academic course for new JAGC officers to learn about the mission of the corps and to receive an overview of military law.”  www.legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com

For a first-hand account of experience of a female intern in the JAG Corps, consult Ms. JD at ms-jd.org/navy-jag-corps.  Although the numbers have changed since this 2007 post, it is a good source of general information about the JAG experience through the eyes of a female law student.

So, if you have not yet thanked a veteran today, you still have plenty of time.  There is sure to be one on your train or your bus going home tonight or one at the local food market or one just down the street in your neighborhood.  They might be easier to spot on a day like today when some of them will be wearing little American Flags in their lapels.

Veterans are proud of their service, and we are proud of them.  We thank them for their sacrifice and for helping to keep us safe at home and abroad.  We know that they are young and old, black and white, red, brown and yellow and that they serve their country out of love and dedication to freedom.  We appreciate their bravery and their willingness to put themselves in harm’s way for our sake and the sake of our country.

Happy Veteran’s Day and THANK YOU to all the vets!


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Book Launch Event a Big Success

We celebrated women lawyers in style—-oh, yes we did!

The Book Launch for my new book, Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today’s Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business, 2012) on September 27th at Georgetown Law was a huge success.  Almost 100 guests filled the Atrium of the Edward Bennett Williams Law Library at Georgetown Law to celebrate the new book and to meet some of the lawyers who made the night possible.  Lawyers from the sponsoring firms, Polsinelli Shughart and Lerch Early & Brewer, mixed with lawyers from honorary sponsors Cooley, Womble, and DLA, and they all were delighted to meet so many women lawyers who have contributed to the Best Friends at the Bar books.

Contributors like Kathy Tighe, Inspector General of the US Department of Education, and Mary Gately, partner at DLA Piper, clearly enjoyed discussing their participation in the books and encouraging the young lawyers to take advantage of the many mentors who have contributed to the books.   The video chronically the project debuted at this event and met with rave reviews.

Matt Calise, Director of Alumni Affairs at Georgetown Law gave welcoming remarks on behalf of the law school, and Assistant Dean Markeisha Miner of the University of Detroit Mercy Law School delivered key notes.  My remarks were focused on thanking the many people who worked so hard to make the evening a success.  Special thanks are due to the event partner, GlobalWIN (Global Women’s Innovation Network) and to media partner, Ms. JD.  I hope that many of the guests took my advice and hurried to sign up for the Ms. JD She Leads Annual Conference on October 5th at Washington College of Law, American University, in Washington, DC.  I will be participating in that conference, and I know what an excellent learning experience it will be for young lawyers.

Most of the guests walked away with signed books and ready to spread the word further about the Best Friends at the Bar project.  It was a great night, and I could not be prouder of what we have accomplished in raising awareness of the challenges to women lawyers and in providing the tools to help young women lawyers make realistic career choices and plans to fit their personal circumstances.

Bravo to all who supported the event and who accept the mission.  We have demonstrated that we are making a difference!

Keep an eye out for pics from the evening on the Best Friends at the Bar Facebook page.  Maybe you will see yourself there!

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