Planning is a Big Deal—Especially for Women

I have been a planner all my life.  I make lists, cross out what I have accomplished, highlight in yellow what is really important, and rejoice when everything is crossed off the list—-until the next day when the list starts anew.  I believe in planning ahead and being super organized, as anyone who has read the Best Friends at the Bar books knows.

Throughout the time that I practiced law, I made a list at the end of each day and put it prominently on my desk to greet me the next morning.  Over coffee, I reviewed the list, made priorities for the day and adjusted the list as needed.  It was a good plan, and it worked for me.  I had a personal relationship with my list.  No one came between me and my list.

But, recently, planning has taken on a whole new meaning for me.  I now am planning my daughter’s wedding and a Book Launch Event at the same time.  My fear—the thing that keeps me up at night and is not affected in the least by Ambien—is that I will end up with a book sales table at the wedding and a ring bearer at the book launch!  You laugh…  I am totally capable of that in my current state of mind.  To boot, a man just came to my front door with a load of mulch that I know nothing about!  A BIG load of mulch.

The wedding is a way off and nothing can be done about the mulch man, but the Book Launch Event is right around the corner and you should know about it.  On September 27, 2012 from 6 to 8 PM, Georgetown Law will host an event to celebrate my new book, Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today’s Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business) that was released in July.  The event partner is GlobalWIN (Global Women’s Innovation Network) and the event co-sponsors are Ms. JD and the following law firms to date:  Polsinelli Shughart; Lerch Early; DLA Piper; Cooley; Womble Carlyle; and Walsh Colucci.   As you might expect, I am both delighted and humbled by the enthusiasm for and participation in this event.  I am particularly grateful to Georgetown Law for its generosity in hosting.  We are expecting some special guests, and this is an event that you will not want to miss.

The Book Launch Event is filling up fast, so get on board soon.  If you did not get an invitation, please e-mail my publicist at [email protected] to have an invitation sent to you, and do not forget to RSVP per the instructions at the bottom of the invitation.

If you have never been to the Atrium on the 5th Floor of the Edward Bennett Williams Library at Georgetown Law, you are in for a treat.  It is a beautiful space, and I can tell you that there was nothing like it when I attended Georgetown Law.  I remember a starkly simple single cube of a building that was know as Georgetown Law in my day.  My class was one of the first with a high percentage of women, and finding a woman’s bathroom in those days was harder than passing Income Tax.  The school could have raffled off “First In Line” passes to the women’s bathrooms and made a fortune!

Hope you will join us on September 27th.  You will be in good company, and you will be supporting the mission of Best Friends at the Bar—-raising retention rates for women lawyers and increasing diversity in the profession.

See you there!

BTW, my plan for tomorrow is……………….oh, you really do not want to know!

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Women Lawyers Must Take Advantage of the New Rules for Success

I read an interesting article in the National Law Journal recently.  The March 16th on-line edition included an article entitled “Women’s Successes in School….Bleed Away in Their Paychecks”, which offered some insight from author Anya Kamenetz that lines up nicely with my own thoughts on what women need to succeed in the law profession.

The particular point that interested me most was that girls outperform boys in school from the time they enter kindergarten—-for some very good reasons.  Girls learn to line up neatly, girls are less disruptive and listen better than boys, and girls follow the rules.  As a result, girls succeed in pleasing their teachers, getting recognition and achieving good grades.  That works very well—in fact, it works well all the way through law school—until the game changes.  Suddenly the personal characteristics being valued are not the same.  Suddenly the academic achievement does not translate into higher salaries for women than men—-or even equal salaries for that matter.

True, a lot of this has to do with the time that women take out for child-rearing, but there is more to this.  And it is more that we can control and change.

Instead of compliance, the competitive worlds of business and law want assertiveness and boldness, and those behaviors are the most rewarded in the new models.  So, as I have been saying in my books and speeches all along, women lawyers must step up to the plate and play the game that is popular at the moment and that leads to success, recognition and upward mobility.

Women lawyers must learn to be assertive, take credit for their accomplishments, and become comfortable with business promotion and networking.  They must learn to insist on quality work and fight for it.  Put those skills together with women’s natural and often superior communication and management skills, and it is a winning formula.  Ignore it, and you do so at your risk.

But, that is not all.  The NLJ article confirmed another of my major themes:  This will not happen without a lot of mentoring from senior women lawyers and a lot of planning by young women lawyers.  Structural changes in law firms—like the availability of flexible schedules and the advent of part-time career paths—-alone will not bring the results women attorneys want and need today.  Yes, those things are necessary and valuable, but it is really up to the young women to plan their careers with these things in mind and the more seasoned women lawyers to provide the mentoring and the support that is critical to positive results.  In fact, the NLJ article notes a survey by Catalyst that found that women with mentors saw their salaries rise 27 percent higher than women without mentors.  That’s significant.

Mary Ann Mason, a University of California (Berkeley) law professor is quoted in the article with this to say about mentoring and planning:  “I’d like to see Life Planning 101 as a college course.  Young women are unaware of how difficult it becomes fitting childbirth into your career plans.  But…if you think in advance, it becomes easier.”

If you have heard me speak or have read my book and prior blogs, this is not the first time you have heard this.  But, it is very much worth repeating.

For the full text of the National Law Journal article, see,www.nationaljournal.com/njonline/no_20100508_1960

 

 

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How Does She Do It?

Some times I am sure that you think I am a broken record.  Work-life struggle, work-life challenge, work-life issues…………..  Well, I agree about the repetition, but the subject of work-life does happen to be the biggest impediment to women in the law, and you need to know as much about it as possible.

Last week I attended a program sponsored by the DC Women’s Bar Association at Jenner & Block in its Washington, DC office.  Hat’s off to the DCWBA—where I have been a proud member for 30 years—and to Jenner & Block for the wonderful programs and dedicated folks that bring these programs to us.  This particular program was titled—you guessed it—“How Does She Do It?” and was part of the Working Parents Forum. CONTINUE READING >

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Looking Forward in 2012

Yes, I am going to play this “New Year” theme out as long as I can!

Looking forward in 2012, what are the changes that we can expect in law practice and law education?  Much of this hinges on an improved economy, so I am boldly going to assume that for the moment.  Although there was a rally in the stock market earlier in the week, it was followed by a flattening—probably the result of continuing concern about what is happening in the European economies.  I think that you will agree that it is time all countries got their acts together and we became more prosperous together.

For the purposes of discussion, let’s recognize that it is a long year, and let’s assume that the economy stabilizes and generates more business growth.  What would that mean for you and for the law profession?

For starters, it should mean a return to more law firm hiring.  Perhaps we will get back to not only more associate hiring but also a return of the summer associate programs.  As fluffy as some of those have been in the past, they do provide a window into the law firm for prospective hires.  If those programs are handled right and actually provide some quality legal experience and leadership training, they can be good things.  Let’s applaud a return to good things!

It also should mean more women applying to law school.  Although the numbers tend to hover around 48% for most schools and that is not shabby, the percentage of women attending law school has fallen off since 2002, and we need to see those numbers come back up.  Yes, there are some scary things going on in the law profession these days, but it is still an honorable profession with interesting and stimulating work.  The challenges, especially for women, are very real, but they are just that, challenges.  They can be met and the obstacles can be overcome.  It is all in the way the challenges are addressed and the level of expectation.  You cannot expect to win every point and to have an easy path.  Very little in life that is worth having is easy to get.  The law profession has lots to offer for men and for women alike, and the economy—there’s that word again!—is making two incomes more valuable than ever for most young couples and their families.  More women in law school means more women lawyers, and that is good for the women, the employers and the profession.  Just saying…..in case you did not hear it the first 1000 times I said it.

As for the law firms, I hope that 2012 brings some significant changes there as well—or, at least, the beginnings of some significant changes.  Law firms are slow to change, so we have to cut them some slack.  Law firms need to be rethinking the billable hour as the only way to charge clients for services, and they need to become creative about alternative billing models.  That does not mean that alternative billing will become the rule rather than the exception—-after all, we are still in the Real World, right?—but it does mean that there should be negotiated fee arrangements for certain kinds of cases and that there will be other criteria for lawyer review and advancement in addition to the number of billable hours.  This is not just a woman thing.  It is a gender-neutral thing in many respects.  Male attorneys are also interested in quality of life and flexible time, and we women should embrace them as allies in this cause.  Together, we might be able to make a difference.

Law schools also will have to start rethinking—or continue rethinking—their curricula and how it relates to the real practice of law.  There needs to be more emphasis on practice-ready skills, and much of the pressure for those changes will be coming from law firms with clients that refuse to pay for first and second year associates— who take four hours to research the wording for a service of process certificate, for example.  The relationship between law firms and law schools is very synergistic, and this can be a good thing in bringing about positive change.

So, hat’s off to 2012 and all of the possibilities.  These are only a few.  Hopefully we will discover many more as the year progresses.   As you address these challenges and changes, make it your job to be a part of the solutions instead of the problems.  That will be a great way to start out the New Year.

 

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Do Women Lawyers Today Have It Harder Than Past Generations?

I encourage you to read the article in the on-line Huffington Post titled “Why Today’s Mother’s Can’t Follow in Pelosi’s Footsteps”.  It is interesting to note that during the discussion with reporters recently while Nancy Pelosi was responding to questions about how she had five children and went on to be the Speaker of the House of Representatives, it was her daughter who interrupted to point out that Ms. Pelosi was a stay-at-home mom for most of the years when her children were young.  In fact, as pointed out by her daughter, Ms. Pelosi did not run for public office until her youngest child was out of high school.

Ms. Pelosi’s response was very telling, “I don’t have any ideal of how people have kids and jobs,” she stated, making it clear that she did not face that challenge and dilemma.  So what does that mean for the current generation of women lawyers? CONTINUE READING >

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