What do RBG and Millennial Lawyers Have in Common?

RBG.  You have to love her!  And I do.  I loved the documentary about her life, and I love how relevant she continues to be.

I first saw Justice Ginsburg speak more than a decade ago when she was addressing an audience of law students and young lawyers.  Yes, her scholarship and her role as a breaker of glass ceilings amazed me, but it did not stop there.  Her sense of humor and her humble way of speaking was surprising for someone at her high perch, and it was heartwarming.  She knows how to get attention without hitting the listener over the head with her opinion and perspective.

So, last week when she was interviewed at George Washington University Law, I paid attention again.  Of course, I was not disappointed.  What I heard from her then that particularly moved me came in response to a question about the Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh.  In her response, she expressed lament that the process is now so partisan, unlike the bipartisan hearings of the past, including her own.

“That’s the way it should be instead of what its become, which is a highly partisan show,” she said. “The Republicans move in lockstep, and so do the Democrats. I wish I could wave a magic wand and bring it back to the way it was.”

Indeed, I think all of us wish we could wave magic wands to bring things back to what they were and the way they should be.  However, the partisan behavior in congressional hearings is only part of the problem.  Other unfortunate behaviors are infecting our society and culture, and it makes all of us yearn for the good old days.

Take the good old days of practicing law as an example.  The loss of respect, cooperation, civility, emphasis on honorable and ethical and professional behavior is addressed in my new book, What Millennial Lawyers Want:  A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2018).  Millennial lawyers are reacting to toxic law firm cultures and yearn for a set of values that will help develop them as the leaders they want to be.  Leaders not only in their profession but also in their communities.

I long have contended that the degradations of law firm cultures and the negative behaviors of practitioners, which have led to disillusionment among lawyers young and old, is reflective of the disrespectful behaviors that have become common in our society at large.  You need not look further than social media and television coverage of controversial topics for proof.

Think Facebook comments.  Think Twitter comments.  Think the behaviors of high level individuals in media interviews.  Think panels of experts freely screaming at each other on cable television.

Think road rage.  Think finger pointing instead of civilized conversation and compromise.  And the list goes on.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see the law profession lead the charge for elimination of these repugnant behaviors?  Wouldn’t it be nice for the law profession to stand up against bullying, disparaging dialogue, character assassination, and the full range of bad behaviors that have become common in our daily lives?  Wouldn’t it be nice to see lawyers take the initiative to address larger societal issues — as lawyers used to do?

The law profession has the opportunity to take up the mantle of living up to the values of past generations of lawyers.  That opportunity would go a long way toward responding to the disappointment of millennial lawyers to a profession gone awry by placing too much value on money and power.  It also would demonstrate that law firm managers can be the leaders they need to be during these transformative times.

What could be more important than bringing back civil behavior and respect for others? 

Like RBG, we only can hope that change is somewhere on the close horizon.  And we can hope that the first ones to take the hill are the lawyers.

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A Young Woman Lawyer Looks to the Past to Inform the Future

I have to share with you the story of a remarkable young woman lawyer.  I do not know her, although I wish I did.  It would be a pleasure and an honor.  Lina Khan is the kind of dedicated and passionate young lawyer who, undoubtedly, will make her mark on this world.

I read her story recently in an article in the New York Times, and it inspired me.  Not because I know anything about anti-trust law.  Not because I have a secret agenda involving busting monopolies.  Just because I admire the intellectual journey and passion of this young woman.

She is a Yale Law School graduate, who, as a law student in 2017, published an article titled “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox” in the Yale Law Journal.  The article challenged current anti-trust principles and dredged up some former applications of law that got people’s attention.  The paper received 146,255 hits — a lot for legal treatises — and Lina Khan became a celebrity in the hallowed halls of government in Washington, DC.

She also has critics, as you might expect.  New discoveries and theories work that way.  But, she pushed forward on her theories with Amazon as the target.  Big target.  Hard to bring down.  She is now at the FTC doing awesome policy work based on her theories, and Politico just named her to its annual list of the people driving the ideas driving politics.

She had setbacks, but she soldiered on.  Just months before she was to assume a clerkship on the prestigious 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the judge who had hired her died suddenly.  So, she quickly changed course.  I think she grew up knowing it is what you do.

Take a few minutes to read the story.  It may inspire you as it inspired me.  All of us will not take journeys involving this kind of commitment, but we can marvel at the journeys of the ones who do.

What drew me to this story was Lina Khan’s notion that the past can help rescue the future.  “These are new technologies and new business models,” Ms. Khan said. “The remedy is new thinking that is informed by traditional principles.”

And the reason this resounds with me so emphatically is that it is the same thought process that runs throughout my new book, What Millennial Lawyers Want:  A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers, 2018).  The past can help rescue the future.  The remedy for an arguably failing law profession is a new way of thinking that is informed by traditional principles.

Being informed by the past to rescue the future is the bridge that millennial lawyers have been looking for without even knowing it.  It is the bridge that one bright and shining Yale Law student, turned millennial lawyer, took.  It is a journey of passion.

Bravo to Lina Khan wherever her passion leads her.  I hope I run into her on the streets of DC to witness her commitment and passion.  It would be a pleasure and an honor.

 

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Women Lawyers Are Not Equal

Women lawyers are not equal — at least not in the private sector.  Plain and simple.  I know that you do not expect to hear this from me nor do you want to hear this from me, but it is true.

Equality is defined as “the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities.”  If you compare private sector female lawyers to private sector male lawyers on issues of status and opportunities, you begin to see the inequality.  (“Rights” are derived from constitutional law and legislation and are not addressed here.  But, if you want a history of women’s rights in America, watch RBG.) So, let’s talk status and opportunities:

  • On status:  Women have the babies, and tradition and implicit bias too often drive the conclusion that it is the woman’s responsibility to be the primary care taker of her children.  As the result of health considerations for women and their newborns, women lawyers typically take the maximum allowable maternity leave after childbirth.  More likely than not, when she returns to work, the woman lawyer is treated differently from her male colleagues because implicit bias drives the further conclusion that young mothers are no longer dedicated to, committed to, and serious about their jobs. And because this attitude prevails, many young women lawyers are denied equal consideration for partnership, thereby doing irreparable damage to their professional status.
  • On opportunities:  Repeat the above.  Once law firm management and leadership presumptively conclude that a young mother/attorney lacks dedication and commitment to her career, the opportunities for advancement dissolve.

So, what can be done about it?  A lot, according to a recent article in The American Lawyer.  This article is a group effort of the young lawyers editorial team at the magazine, and it is very ambitious in terms of the recommendations to law firms.  However, it includes some excellent starting points for firms to consider and implement.  Although I do not realistically expect that firms will implement all of the recommendations at once, most of them are possible over time.

Law firms need to take these issues very seriously for some very good reasons.  In fact, the title of the article, “Law Firms Benefit by Showing Attorneys that Family Matters” implies benefits to law firms from instituting the recommended policies.   Benefits not only for reasons of retention of talent, competition in the market place, and related self-serving profit motives, but, more importantly, because we are a profession that was founded on issues of fairness, respect and honorable behavior.

Simply stated, it is not nice to punish women professionals for having babies.

 

 

 

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New Book for Best Friends at the Bar Project

Read excerpts from the new book, What Millennial Lawyers Want:  A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers, 2018), to be released on September 1st, in the July/August 2018 Best Friends at the Bar Newsletter:

https://bestfriendsatthebar.com/newsletter/2018/08/30/julyaugust-2018-newsletter/

Millennial Generation lawyers are the future of the law profession, and current leadership needs to know how they think and how to develop them into effective leaders.

The emphasis is on respect, civility, honorable behavior, reaching out helping hands to communities and those less fortunate …  and more.  Those themes — very much in the national conversation today — are driven home by stories from a day when the underlying values were paramount in law practice.  The hope is that they will become part of our own experiences today.

What Millennial Lawyers Want:

  • Expands the Best Friends at the Bar audience beyond young women lawyers to ALL young lawyers and those who lead them;
  • Presents extensive research about millennial lawyers and by millennial lawyers; and
  • Regales readers with inspirational stories of lawyers from a generation past to demonstrate a healthier path forward for a profession in transition.

With a Foreword and in-book endorsements by leading lawyers at some of the world’s most prestigious law firms, this book has been recognized as a game-changer for the legal profession.  The message is that bad habits and toxic environments are not beyond repair if we listen to the voices of a new generation of lawyers and help them — and us — find a better way forward.

Available soon on Amazon.  Get it and read it NOW!

 

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Women’s Equality Day

I know that I am coming in a little late to alert you to Women’s Equality Day.  It was celebrated YESTERDAY, August 26th, but I have a good excuse for missing it by a day.

Yesterday, August 26th, would have been my Mom’s 103rd birthday.  She died in 2017 at 101 years young, and I was absorbed yesterday with thoughts of her.  As excuses go, I think it is a good one.

My Mom would have loved Women’s Equality Day.  She graduated from college in 1937 when most women did not go to college.  She worked hard to support herself as a teacher before she married my Dad, she was devoted to improving her community through volunteer service, and, up until the last days of her life, she was asking how she could “help out” at the assisted living facility she called home.  Whether it was folding towels or showing up for Bingo just to be a good sport and raise spirits, she did it all.

Today, women have come a long way beyond the kinds of opportunities available to my Mom and her contemporaries.  We are lawyers, doctors, bankers, board members, business executives, and government and elected officials, to name just a few.  We have learned to use our voices and have our voices heard.  As someone once sang, we bring home the bacon, and we fry it up in a pan!

But we still have a long way to go for total equality.  Keep at it.  Make sure YOUR voice is heard.  Do not settle.

Happy Women’s Equality Day!

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See You in September!

Great song. Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons.  For those of you who did not — shame on you—catch Jersey Boys on stage, there is always YouTube to get the flavor of great music of bygone years.

But, I digress! 

As some of you may remember, August and December are the times when I step back from blogging to focus on family.  So, you won’t be reading my blogs again until September — when I will return to help move the needle forward for women in law.  However, when I see a tidbit that you need to focus on between now and then, I will make sure you can find it on the Best Friends at the Bar Facebook page.

But it will not be all fun and games for me this August.  I will be spending a lot of time promoting and marketing my new book for ALL young lawyers.  What Millennial Lawyers Want:  A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers) goes to print next week and will be released on September 1st.  I am very excited about the possibilities of this new book, so please watch for it.  It is a quick read and one that I know will interest the young lawyers in my orbit — and hopefully the seasoned lawyers who reside where change begins.

Best wishes to all of you for end of summer bliss.  Take time off for yourself and friends and family while work is slow.  Remember the importance of balance. 

And have some fun!

 

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Perfect Pitch for Women Lawyers

Are you musical?  Have you had experience singing in a choir?  If so, you probably are familiar with the concept of “perfect pitch.” 

For the rest of you, perfect pitch is the ability of a person to identify or re-create a given musical note without the benefit of a reference tone.  Perfect pitch results in great vocalists, who can land a note on the musical scale exactly and in a way that is pleasing to the ear, leaving the listener with the desire to hear more.

Oddly, perfect pitch works the same in business — and especially for lawyers.  Delivering the perfect pitch for legal services to a potential client can be a great asset to a career.  In many businesses, the perfect pitch involves a physical product that speaks for itself.  The widget, for example.  But, it is different for lawyers.  The perfect pitch to your potential client will have no physical product to make the case, and you will have to depend on the power of your words and your delivery.

The pitch happens when you have the opportunity to communicate your professional worth to a would-be client, and the best pitches are in person and verbal.  Hopefully, you will have mentors who will include you on client pitches long before you are expected to pitch alone.  But, that presumes good mentoring, and we cannot assume that these days.  So, I have found you a helpful resource.

Jezra Kaye is a friend of mine.  Her website, Speak Up For Success, demonstrates how  she has made a career of helping speakers and presenters hit all the high notes.  She also is musical, a former jazz singer, so maybe that is why she considers pitch so important.  Her recent blog, “The Three Rules of Great Pitching”, is a valuable resource for you.  The analogy there is to baseball, but, knowing Jezra, I prefer the music metaphor.

Here are some highlights from the pro (as always with my interpretation):

  • The pitch is not about you.  Yes, you want to communicate credentials about yourself, briefly, but the focus should be on discovering what the potential client needs;
  • Focus on solving your prospect’s problem.  What is the goal?   What are your ideas and approaches to problem solving?  How do you get to a solution?  Let your skill, experience and creativity show.
  • Be relaxed and have fun.  Deliver your messages with confidence.  Be likeable, and use humor whenever possible.   Yes, humor.  Clients are looking for competent counsel, to be sure, but the attorney/client relationship is a whole lot more enjoyable if parties look forward to each other’s company.  So be engaging, have a chat, look for common ground, and LISTEN to what the other person has to say.  (Check out my new book, What Millennial Lawyers Want:  A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice, to be released by Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers on September 1, 2018, for more on these subjects.)

Jezra’s blog also takes the pressure off by making it clear that you can’t control the outcome of some pitches.  Pitches often fail for reasons that have nothing to do with the effectiveness of the pitch.  Inside politics.  Budget considerations.  Timing.  Negative risk assessment … nothing to do with the pitcher.  

So stand tall, throw your shoulders back, smile, and have fun with the pitch.  Remember that it is just a conversation.  And practice makes perfect. 

Make sure the perfect pitch is in your future!

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Truth Telling About Law School Debt

Law school student loan debt.  Just the mention of it can cause most newly-minted lawyers to break out in cold sweats.  It is always on their minds.  It is always standing in the way of getting on with their lives.

My children both are lawyers, and the amounts of their student loan debt is shocking.  Fortunately, our family is in a position to help them pay down a large portion of that debt.  But, many young lawyers are not in that position, and I feel so bad for them.

Bad because they are in situations where they cannot follow their dreams.  Bad because of the stress that it imposes on their lives.  Bad because they have worthy goals that must be put on the back burner so that they can do boring and unfulfilling work that pays the most.

  • There is the recent law grad with a dream to work in the civil and human rights areas.  But, not so fast.  What about those student loans?  Have to take a higher paying job to even make a dent in them.
  • There is the mid-level associate who would like to start a family or purchase a house to fulfill some important goals.  But, not so fast.  What about those student loans?  Forget qualifying for a mortgage when the student loan debt is significant.
  • There is the young lawyer under so much stress from student loan debt who seeks medication for anxiety and depression to relieve the harmful physical and psychological effects of stress.

And the stories go on and on and on.  Read about them in a recent Law 360 article.  Be prepared to identify with these stories, but take heart that you are not alone.  Read the charts and see where you can expect to be in terms of student loan debt in your future.  Know that the stories have no real happy endings unless you win the lottery.

It was not supposed to be this way.  If I had seen the costs of law school skyrocketing like this, I am not sure I would have smiled on my children’s decisions to follow their parents into the law profession.  Yes, I love the law, and I am very proud of my children for their hard work and persistence in a challenging profession.  And, yes, I am pleased at what I have been able to accomplish for myself and others through a career in the law.  But, loving the law may not be enough today.

Somebody has to do something or we will continue to discourage the talent that is the future of our profession.  Enough time has passed to know that a more robust economy is not the solution.  Enough time has passed to know that the people and institutions benefiting from these dire circumstances must be called out.

Who is the somebody who will stand up and call out?  The ABA through the certification process?  Law schools through their policy decisions?  Congress through the legislative process?  Just who?

I wish I knew.  For your sake.

 

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