What Is Up with All the Lawyers in Congress?

The US Congress is made up of 535 members, and a lot of them are lawyers.  So, it seems to me that these lawyers are forgetting how to do their jobs.  They have forgotten the basic principles of the art of compromise. 

The government shutdown is in its fourth week (26 days so far), the longest government shutdown in the history of this country, and people are suffering without paychecks and government services.  Surely, all of those lawyers should be able to strike a deal, especially under circumstances this dire, even without cooperation from the White House.  Looks to me like an end run like that is the only way to get things done.

This is not intended to be a political statement, so, don’t get your political dander up.  Frankly, I am upset with both sides of the aisle.   And a lot of other people are, too.

I have seen many negotiations go south because both sides wanted a whole loaf.  No half a loaf for those folks.  All or nothing was the only acceptable outcome.  Ironically, most of those failed deals were when I was in public service, and politics played a role.  Getting everything you ask for, of course, is absurd — both in politics and in life.  Unless, I guess, you are a member of Congress, who prizes getting reelected and hubris over what is in the best interests of THE PEOPLE.

It particularly rankles me when the obstructionists are lawyers.  They should know better.  It makes me wonder whether we should keep sending them to do the people’s business.  Maybe it would be better to send elected officials, who know nothing about lawmaking, negotiations and compromise, so that we would not have high expectations and would not be so disappointed in the outcomes.  At least disappointment would be predictable that way.

The families of Coast Guard members in Massachusetts are now going to food banks because they cannot afford groceries on NO PAY.  Other furloughed government employees are having to choose between necessary counseling and therapy for family members and paying the mortgage because of NO PAY.  Still others are playing Russian roulette with a variety of other financial obligations while they wait to see when Uncle Sam sends the next paycheck because of NO PAY.  And the money the government owes many people in the form of tax refunds, a basic government service, is on back log because of limited government.

This is a disgrace.  That is not the way we treat people in America.  This is what we criticize foreign governments for.

So, I ask again.  Where are the lawyers?  And do we want them taking up space in Congress?

 

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Women Lawyers Must Retain the Law Profession’s Foundational Values

In case you missed my recent article in the ABA Journal, I am including some of it here.  The content is very important to all women lawyers as women rise in the profession to levels of supervision and management.  They must be cheerleaders for each other, and they must not give into temptation to right the sins of the past leveled by male practitioners against women in the profession.  To do so would be to unwise and shortsighted.  Here is some of what I wrote in the ABA Journal article:

The senior women need to remember the words of former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright when she said, “There is a special place reserved in hell for women who do not support other women.” Remember it and post it in their offices for constant reminder.

But that is not all. The attitudes of women lawyers toward male lawyers also need examining. They are equally as divisive and harmful to the profession.

When senior women lawyers become exclusive in their preferences to work with women over men, it is harmful to the profession. When departments full of women lawyers “freeze out” male practitioners in other ways because of built-up resentments, it is harmful to the profession.

And when that kind of “not-female” exclusion also is targeted to unsuspecting young male lawyers—who have had nothing to do with historical grievances—there is potential for even greater harm.

Most of the female lawyers exhibiting these behaviors are motivated by past gender inequalities. They are still smarting from old wrongs. In their negative and divisive actions toward male colleagues, they are failing to recognize that the excuse of “cluelessness” articulated by past generations of male lawyers to explain wrongful attitudes about gender inclusion is no defense for the exclusionary behaviors of women lawyers today.

Today’s powerful women lawyers are not clueless. They are not naive. They have borne witness to the sins of the past, and they know better than to repeat them.

They know exactly what they are doing to their male colleagues and how harmful grinding the ax of resentment can be. They understand that the oft-heard rallying cry, “We don’t need the men,” is short-sighted, imprudent and potentially harmful to our profession. But they don’t seem to be able to help themselves.

We women lawyers must be willing to examine ourselves and our motives. We must be willing to critique our attitudes and change our behaviors—for the good of all lawyers and the profession.

Recently when I was speaking at a conference of the Federal Bar Association, a senior woman judge told me, “The women lawyers are smart, capable, determined and hungry. They are gaining. Soon the men will decide not to compete and will leave firms for in-house positions or businesses or early retirement.”

She said this as if it would result in improvement for the profession. She stated it as a wise, aspirational goal. She said it in a way that made me believe she thought it was what I wanted to hear.

But it did not strike me that way. It struck me as very shallow and unfortunate. It struck me as a way of evening the score, and I could not help but wonder whether that is what we want.

Do we want a reorganization of the profession that will send us back to majority class rule and little in terms of empathy and respect for the other foundational values of our profession?

Do we want a reorganization of the profession based on divisive behaviors and unwillingness to pull together as women and men working toward mutual goals?

I don’t think so, but we need to be careful.

Our lack of professionalism and petty natures may be showing.

For the complete article:  http://www.abajournal.com/voice/article/gaining_in_influence_women_lawyers_must_be_careful_what_they_wish_for/?fbclid=IwAR0AlXQ19-tU2GqlQ24zL93yCh-h9aebHq54tQIvaYtCRsCy8drWgQafsVI

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Let’s Hear It For The Women Lawmakers

Hallelujah!  A record 42 women will be sworn into the US Congress today.  That is something to celebrate.

Congress needs all the help it can get to overcome the partisanship and the log jams that have been created.  Log jams that are delaying the business of the people and taking a toll on Americans in significant ways.  The current government shutdown is an example of the kind of harm that should be avoided at all costs, and it should not be supported by any elected officials.  Essential government workers continue to serve the people without pay — living up to their obligations while the government is not.

So, let’s hope that the women in Congress can make a difference.  That remains to be seen, but we do know this.  Those women will bring the same excellent skills to the function of governing that women bring to the business of law.  Skills like:  A willingness to compromise when it is necessary; excellent soft skills that enhance communication outcomes; an ability to negotiate skillfully and effectively on behalf of others; and empathy and compassion for the less fortunate.  These skills have been missing in Congress in the near terms, and the result is deadlock.

However, women lawmakers cannot turn it around themselves.  It will take the cooperation of the male members of Congress to make that happen.  All the women can do is set good examples and hope that those examples will establish a trend in effective lawmaking.  If they do that, they will be doing the jobs they were elected to do.

And wouldn’t that be refreshing.

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Changing the Model of Big Law …. for Women Lawyers and Millennial Lawyers

I just listened to a podcast on Law.com that every young lawyer and law firm leader should hear.  It will confirm what young lawyers know they do not like about Big Law, and it will serve as a tutorial for law firm leaders.

The interviewee is Mitch Zuklie, who has been the chairman of Orrick for the last five years.  I have been following his leadership for a portion of that time, and that is why the podcast caught my attention.   The podcast also validates the messages of my new book, What Millennial Lawyers Want:  A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice.

The theme of the interview is this quote from Zuklie, “If we are going to convince the best talent to choose and stay in Big Law, we need to change the model.”  The changes that he identifies include:

  • Create a great place to work through training and identifying and inspiring talent;
  • Create models for early responsibilities as decision-makers;
  • Create increased interest in career paths and earlier promotion;
  • Create team-oriented problem solving and entrepreneurship models;
  • Increase flexibility to accommodate the needs of young families;
  • Increase periodic feedback and get away from the annual-only review model;
  • Increase the firm’s pro bono commitment; and
  • Increase diversity and inclusion by being mindful of the effects of bad policies and implicit biases.

There is a lot to think about there.  So, if you are wondering why you are not happy in Big Law, you likely will discover it by listening to the podcast.  And if you are wondering why so many associates are leaving Big Law and your law firm, in particular, you law firm leaders will probably discover it by listening as well. 

I hope so.

 

 

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For All Women Lawyers and Those Who Lead Them

As you leave your offices and homes to travel to the places where family and friends will gather on this Thanksgiving Day, I share with you this video.  It is worthy of your attention, both in giving thanks to those who support you and in giving thanks that the journey is made easier by their efforts.

The video was sent to me by a young woman lawyer friend of mine earlier this week, and I was so pleased to respond that I know the speaker, Alan Bryan, who is an enthusiastic supporter of Best Friends at the Bar.  I was present to hear him deliver these remarks at the National Association of Women Lawyers conference several years ago, and, like so many others in the audience, I was inspired by his words.  I know that you will be also, and I encourage you to watch the video.

Be sure you watch and listen all the way to the end.  It is there that Alan talks about his aspirations for his daughter, then a two-and one-half-year-old bundle of energy and determination.  You will be cheating yourself if you skip it.

This is my gift to you on Thanksgiving Day 2018.  I wish you and your families and friends well, including safe travels, tasty food, and love all around.

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Be Aware of Warning Signs of Instability in Young Lawyers

The facts shared this week via an open letter from the widow of a Sidley lawyer were shocking and heartbreaking.  The suicide of a 42-year-old partner in the LA office raised many issues of our responsibilities as lawyers to our colleagues.

It was discovered too late that this suicide victim suffered from a form of perfectionism that created so much pressure, anxiety and insecurity that the only way out seemed to be to take his own life.  If those facts came as a complete shock to everyone around him, that would give those of us in the profession some relief.  It would give us comfort to know that no one could have known.

But, that does not appear to be the case.  It has been reported that his behavior at the office had changed.  He had stopped laughing, he became more isolated, and he was showing outward signs of extreme stress.  Yet, no one looked further than to wonder about his behavior.  No one brought it to the attention of management to get him the help he needed.  No one understood the gravity of the situation.

And that is not to blame them.  It is just to say that they did not understand that it could end so badly.

We all must keep our antennae up for changes in behavior that could evidence deep-seeded and potentially harmful problems among those we work with and those we live with.  Ours is a stressful profession, at best, and most of us learn to deal with the stress. But that is not the way it works for some people, particularly young lawyers, who view getting help with issues of mental health and addiction as shameful and threatening to job security.  Stress is an insidious actor that brings out the worst in people.  We all need to be aware of our own well-being and the well-being of those we value.

It is because cases like this have become more common in our legal spaces that the American Bar Association recently identified an initiative centered on addressing mental health and addiction issues in our profession.  All law firms and law organizations should take advantage of the research and resources to raise awareness and be prepared to help those at risk among us to the greatest extent possible. 

We need to work together for a time when finding out too late is not the only option.

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Women Lawyers and Millennials Among Big Winners in November 2018 Election

Women and millennials were some of the big winners in congressional and gubernatorial elections yesterday.  Record numbers of both women and millennials participated at the grass roots of campaigns and added energy to the political process that has not been seen in recent elections.  They organized, they knocked on doors, they canvased, and they showed up at the polls.  It was exciting — no matter what side of the aisle you support.

And at least 30 women were elected to congressional seats for the first time.  Similar to millennials, the newly-elected women lawmakers, display very diverse backgrounds.  There are women of color, women of varying religious and cultural backgrounds, a native American woman, the youngest woman ever elected to the House of Representatives, and at least one lesbian.  In addition to these future congresswomen, women made historic strides in gaining governorships throughout the country.

In all, more than 115 women won their races out of the 276 women on ballots handed out to voters at polling stations yesterday.  Ninety-five of those 115 will be seated in the House of Representatives in January 2019.  Eleven of those women won seats in the Senate, and nine of them won gubernatorial races.  That is a lot of woman power!

And some of these newly-elected women also are lawyers.  Jennifer Wexton gained a seat in the House of Representatives in my own district in Virginia and was joined by other first-time lawyer/congresswomen in Michigan, Kansas, New Mexico and Oklahoma.  They will add to the approximate 38% and 57% of the House of Representatives and Senate, respectively, who also are lawyers. And women/lawyers also were elected governors in Michigan, Maine and New Mexico.

A legal education is an excellent foundation for lawmakers.  Not only do lawyers understand the legislative process, but they also are very effective advocates for the less fortunate and the wronged.

That is why women lawyers make great leaders in Congress and in Governor’s mansions and in state legislatures.  Bravo to all of these women.

And bravo to the millennials, young people who have discovered that they can make a difference — and are doing it.

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New Article Published in Corporate Counsel

See my article about MILLENNIAL LAWYERS published recently in Corporate Counsel.

Here is the link:  https://www.law.com/corpcounsel/2018/10/25/what-millennial-lawyers-want-a-bridge-from-the-past-to-the-future-of-law-practice/?slreturn=20180926090755.

Millennial lawyers are going to like this, and senior lawyers are going to learn a lot!

 

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