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.

Career Counselors, Law Firm Managers, Law School Educators, Law Students, Lifestyle, Pre-law, Young Lawyer | Comment

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.

Career Counselors, Law Firm Managers, Law School Educators, Law Students, Lifestyle, Practice Advice, Pre-law, Young Lawyer | Comment

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!

 

Law Firm Managers, Law School Educators, Law Students, Lifestyle, Practice Advice, Pre-law, Young Lawyer | Comment

LSAT Haters: Listen Up

Everyone hates the LSAT, and that is the way we like it.  Hating people is not good — in fact it is very, very bad — but hating tests is OK.  So many former LSAT takers are very happy hating this ridiculous test (which only predicts success in the first semester of law school), and we want our bad memories left in tact.

But, now we are told that the LSAT has a benefit beyond giving some people an edge toward law school acceptance.  The benefit approach is just plain not fair or productive in the hating process.

Here’s the scoop.  A recent article cites research to support that the LSAT can actually make you smarter.  Yes.  You read that right.  Smarter.  Apparently neurons start firing better and more effectively when studying for and taking the LSAT, and response times are reduced while answering the many annoying questions during the test and test review.

You would think it would be just the opposite and that the neurons would just doze off and try to sleep through the entire miserable experience.  These researchers must be looking at some really tough or really bored neurons.

So, all you LSAT haters need to listen up.  You may need to mend your hating ways.  In fact, if you want to get really smart, study for and take an LSAT several times each year.  Even if you are already through law school and practicing law.  You either want to get smarter or you don’t.  No pain, no gain.

Study those fact patterns 24-7, and see how smart you get.  The results will be so impressive.  You will walk taller, talk smarter, and feel superior to almost everyone.  You may even want to have a t-shirt made with your highest LSAT score and your IQ printed on both the front and the back.  That way, no one will miss this important message.

Of course, be ready for the dark side.  Really smart people are not that much fun to hang with.  So, your friends, who do not want to indulge in deductive reasoning while sitting at a jazz bar, will abandon you.  You no longer will be invited to join the gang at sporting events because they will remember you screaming “The answer is definitely the inverse” the last time when everyone else was cheering “Go Bears.”

And, it does not stop there.  Your family will forget the “family first” policy, and there will be no chair for you at Thanksgiving dinner.  And the people at the office … well, they thought you were weird to begin with, so no hope there.

Or you could be satisfied to be an LSAT hater.  For ever and ever.  The percs are great.  Fun people.  Fun times.  Fun life.

Career Counselors, Law School Educators, Law Students, Lifestyle, Pre-law, Young Lawyer | Comment

Women-Owned Law Firms As Practice Options

Have you considered the option of a women-owned law firm?  Even if it is not appropriate for this time in your career, you should file the information away for a time when it might make more sense.

I have written about women-owned law firms before, especially in my second book, Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today’s Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers, 2012).  In that book, I devoted part of the discussion about alternatives to traditional law firms to the concept of women-owned firms because I recognized the importance of that option to those women who found traditional law firm practice unmanageable for their life styles.  I wrote then, “If you can’t beat them, band together and beat them better.”  And that is exactly what some women need to do and are doing.

It was obvious to  me then that a women-owned law firm could be an attractive alternative because it gives women some of the flexibility they need for home and family and provides back-up from colleagues who understand the work-life struggle.  Those colleagues are all in the same boat, and they “get” the challenges.  Whether it is flexibility to deal with sick children, flexibility to pick up kids from school, flexibility to attend children’s programs and teacher meetings, flexibility to deal with aging parents, or just plain flexibility to unwind a bit, mothers “get” other mothers.  Or at least they should.

Now, years later, it appears there are more reasons than work-life that make women-owned firms appealing.  According to a recent article,  a growing number of women are establishing women-owned firms more for reasons of frustration with gender inequality in the profession than for reasons associated with raising children or having more time for family.

One of the founders of a women-owned firm is quoted in the article as saying, “If women were feeling valued, were getting properly rewarded for their efforts, were getting their fair share and it wasn’t a constant struggle to get your origination credit, and feel you are part of the team — then you would stay.” Makes perfect sense.

As evidence of the growth in women-owned law firms, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council reports that 16 per cent of newly-certified law firms in the recent five-year period are women-owned.  Similar statistics are reported by other trade associations, including the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Firms.

New rules are a part of these new firms.  The emphasis is on fair compensation, equal promotions, full inclusion and better career development opportunities.  The option of a women-owned law firm also allows “Big Law refugees” to have control over their lives, pursue entrepreneurial business ideas, and be compensated properly for their contributions.  According to one woman partner quoted in the article,  “They get control over their practices, treat their clients how they want to treat them, make more money, while also gaining some flexibility for work-life balance.”

There was a particular emphasis in the article that I loved — that lawyers’ outside lives must function well enough for them to do their best work at the office.  Bravo!  It is so fundamental.

There is much more in this article for you to chew on.  Check it out.  File it away.  It may  become important to you one day.

 

 

 

Career Counselors, Law Firm Managers, Law School Educators, Law Students, Lifestyle, Practice Advice, Young Lawyer | Comment

In Praise of Lawyer Moms

I am a lawyer/mom.  Although my children are grown now and have become lawyers themselves, the memories of struggles as a lawyer/mom are still very vivid for me — as well as the joys and the successes.  It is not an easy “row to hoe” as my own mom would have said.

CONTINUE READING >

Career Counselors, Law Students, Lifestyle, Practice Advice, Pre-law, Young Lawyer | Comment

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.

 

 

 

Career Counselors, Law Firm Managers, Law School Educators, Law Students, Lifestyle, Practice Advice, Pre-law, Young Lawyer | Comment

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!

 

Career Counselors, Law Firm Managers, Law School Educators, Law Students, Lifestyle, Practice Advice, Pre-law, Young Lawyer | Comment