Webinar On and For Millennial Lawyers

On November 18, it will be my pleasure to present a webinar on and for millennial lawyers in cooperation with Webinars for Busy Lawyers. Here is a registration link for this FREE webinar: https://www.masslomap.org/webinars-busy-lawyers/ 

The 20-minute program will include discussion of the following topics:

  • Defining the millennial generation and how the millennial generation affects the workplace now and in the future;
  • The societal influencers that helped shape millennials and millennial lawyers and affected their values;
  • The similarity between the values of millennial lawyers and the values of lawyers of the Greatest Generation; 
  • What millennial lawyers want in the workplace; 
  • How law firms needs to change to retain young talent and protect succession plans; and
  • How millennial lawyers need to respond to be successful in private practice.

Many of these topics are covered in my book, What Millennial Lawyers Want: A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers, 2018). If you can’t find time to read the book, here is your chance for an abbreviated version, tailor made for busy lawyers.

If you are a millennial lawyer, this information is for you. If you supervise/manage millennial lawyers, this information is also for you and critical to the future of law practice.

I hope you will join us on November 18, and I look forward to taking your questions during the Q and A.

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

How the Pandemic Has Changed Us

Practicing law — particularly for women with family care taking responsibilities — has always been challenging. I have personal experience with practicing law while raising children and also caring for the needs of an aging parent, and it can be exhausting.

And now the pandemic has put another weighty layer on these challenges. How all lawyers, men and women alike, deal with this will define them in ways that are likely to create career paths they might not have anticipated prior to the pandemic.

The weighty responsibilities of virtual practice, including the need to carve out private spaces to return client phone calls and participate in Zoom sessions, and the responsibilities of home schooling to support virtual learning cannot, it seems, fail to be a constant reminder that our profession is designed for 24/7 delivery of services and for people without other pressing commitments. Fax machines, Blackberries and then iphones started it all, and now availability all the time has become an accepted aspect of practice.

The costs of this kind of availability should be of concern to all of us. Although these costs traditionally have been a subject of discussion between colleagues around proverbial water coolers, these realities are now presenting themselves as particularly poignant and are teeing up a recognition of the importance of addressing the workaholic aspect of our profession and coming up with realistic solutions.

Of particular importance to me is the tension between the need for diversity in the legal profession, which promotes the retention and advancement of women lawyers, and what is sometimes considered to be a related reduction of profitability. In other words, Susan at the office and Susan at home, responding to the needs of family, often are perceived to be in conflict.

In the past, it was easier to separate Susan at the office from Susan at home. But, now, while Susan is in isolation at home, she now lives in her office. She could easily view herself as under a microscope with the requirement to be perfect at being both a lawyer and a mother and, for some, a perfect daughter caring for elder parents under that same roof.

It takes a strong woman lawyer to keep from doubting herself and experiencing a diminution of self worth under these circumstances. And that is a slippery slope.

How do we prevent that? How do we bring greater humanization to the practice of law to avoid such destructive ends? In response, I could address, yet again, the kinds of professional behavior that I would like to see promoted in impersonal Big Law practices, especially, around the country. But I want to think bigger here.

I want us to contemplate the very essence of current professional practices and demands of law firms and what the pandemic has taught us. For example, we have learned that we do not have to be present in professional offices for twelve to fifteen hours a day to deliver excellent legal services.

We have learned that hearing the voices of children in the background during a business call is a mere recognition of the reality that lawyers need to be present in the lives of their children. We have learned that looking at a computer-driven device 24/7 is not good for our mental health.

We have learned that receiving e-mails in the wee hours of the night are very disruptive, and we try not to do it to others. We even have learned that seeing the smiles on the faces of those we love on a more regular and consistent basis makes our hearts sing.

The pandemic has underscored these issues, but it did not cause them. The duality and resulting tension that we are experiencing during COVID-19 is, in reality, nothing more than an extension of age-old habits, and the real culprit is the manner in which we have allowed our profession to run roughshod over our personal lives.

There is a reason why people, even lawyers, in other cultures are encouraged to demonstrate greater respect for their family lives and to take month-long vacations to enrich family experiences. It is something we need to think about as we pull out of the pandemic in the coming year and return to practice as usual — OR NOT. I am hoping for NOT.

As we contemplate the financial benefits of working remotely related to the questionable need for expensive brick and mortar practices, let us also contemplate the well-being issues that have become more clear to all of us during isolation during a pandemic.

We owe that to ourselves, to our families, and to the future of our profession.

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

Words of Wisdom

I read a quote from a woman judge recently, and it lines up so well with the advice that I give to young lawyers, both male and female. In the words of Patricia Brown Holmes, former Cook County, Illinois Judge:

Be like Nike and just do it — don’t let anything get in your way.

Of course, you must first go to law school and get the best grades possible — study hard and stay on top of every subject. Then get a job doing what you like.

We are always most successful when we are happy. So have fun as a lawyer. Learn. Explore. Watch. Soak it all in. Network with other lawyers so you develop and build relationships and references. Find judicial mentors. Learn their path as you develop your own.

Then, when the time is right and you have developed the skills, wisdom, judgment, confidence and support — make your move. If it does not happen, try again and again until you make it.

Great advice. Do what you like. Your work does not have to be your passion, but you need to enjoy your work.

Passion is not the same as enjoyment. People have passion for their families. People have passion for their hobbies, their avocations, and their artistic pursuits. People even have passion for their pets. But when people have passion for their work, it usually means that they are ignoring families, things, and pursuits that could expand their lives and make those lives particularly pleasurable.

Workaholics may believe that they have passion for their work, but, too often, they leave trails of lost opportunities in marriages and families behind them. You do not want to be one of them.

My professional experience lines up with this approach. I loved my work as a trial lawyer until I had a family. After that, my priorities changed. I put less emphasis on upward mobility and more emphasis on the quality of my work. I gave up partnership to be able to work part-time and meet the needs of my family. I ultimately gave up private practice and chose public service for the same reasons. And I never looked back or regretted my choices. Eventually, when my children were older and more self-sufficient, I returned to private practice as a partner.

Many women do not have to make those tough choices in today’s private law firms. Part-time lawyers can make partner today. There is far more flexibility in schedules to allow for family time and practice time. But, it may not be enough. Each lawyer has a unique view of job satisfaction, and it is all very personal.

So, be scrutinizing of your work opportunities. Find what you enjoy doing, and do it. Do not settle because you have been in a job for a long time and do not know how to leave. Don’t settle because you do not want to admit defeat. Don’t settle because you are afraid of the way others will perceive you. Figure it out. You will look back years later and be very satisfied with your decision. And you will have taken your best shot at happiness in your work.

It takes bravery and confidence to make tough decisions. But if you want it bad enough, you will reach deep down to pull out those attributes and live up to the promise that you should have made to yourself: Do not let you stand in the way of your happiness.

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

Work-Life Balance and Quality of Life

This is the last in a series of blogs based on information gleaned from a Women in Law Empowerment Forum (WILEF) virtual meeting presented by the WILEF Chicago Young Lawyers Committee to address impacts on women lawyers of practice during the pandemic.  The first installment, published on August 5, 2020, addressed the subject of setting boundaries, the second installment, published on August 20th addressed privacy issues in a Zoom world, and the third installment addressed self-advocacy. Today’s topic is work-life balance and quality of life.

The profession of law has changed a lot since I started practicing more than 40 years ago. Women’s affinity groups, flexible schedules, achieving partnerships on less than full schedules — these are all new developments that have made the profession better for women. There is a lot that has been accomplished, but there is still a long way to go before women and men have the same opportunities in our profession.

Today, some of the issues have changed. Although the challenges for women lawyers are still very much in the spotlight, issues affecting broader diverse populations are now front and center as well. Addressing these issues responsibly takes time — time that affects the balance that is difficult for women in the law to achieve, especially those women with family and children care taking responsibilities. For every hour spent in committee meetings, practitioners have to find another hour in the day to work on client matters.

And clients also have become involved, too. Some clients are very proactive about how matters are staffed and are demanding more and more transparency on issues related to diversity. Clients scrutinize bills to see how the team actually functions and demand that diverse lawyers, who are assigned to the matter, actually work on the matter and are not just window dressing to secure the representation.

All of these varied responsibilities make it hard for lawyers to balance work life with home life. Some of the panelists described themselves as overwhelmed and in need of managers, who understood their need for boundaries and their aversion to false deadlines. They described the importance of learning to prioritize to meet even the true deadlines, and how much harder it has been during COVID-19 with kids at home and spouses working out of the same space. Some of these women found themselves turning to lawyer assistance programs, behavior therapy, and even medication to keep them in the game. One of them left practice. These measures all may seem extreme, but they are realistic. The law is a tough taskmaster.

The panelists all agreed that you have to do what is right for YOU. Law practice is not for everyone, and it may not be for you. Be honest about it, explore alternatives, and get the help you need.

Careers can be very long these days. Choose well, and remember that you don’t always get it right the first time. Be true to yourself, and let happiness be your goal.

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

Women Equality Day

I hope you will join me by celebrating Women Equality Day today. Maybe you celebrated it with your work friends or in your family earlier today. I not only think of all of you today and the struggles of women throughout the ages to claim equal treatment, but I also think of my mother.

Today my mother would have been 105 years old. She lived to be 101, and hers was a life to be celebrated. But it was not an easy life. She witnessed her own mother die in the Spanish Flu pandemic when my mother and her sisters were only 2, 3 and 4 years old. They learned to be strong very early in their lives. They were blessed with a loving father and stepmother with a shared value in education, who made certain that those three women attended and graduated from college.

My Mom graduated from the University of Wisconsin in the 1930’s where she met my father, who was in law school during her undergraduate years. I am sure my father was attracted to her not only because of her beauty but also because she was a smart and independent woman, who would be an asset to his career. And she was. She taught high school English and Spanish until her first child was born, and she gave countless hours to charities throughout her life. At 95 years old, she was still editing the church newsletter, tutoring a friend’s grandchild in English composition, and correcting my grammar at every opportunity!

She was a force, and my father relied on her counsel and excellent instincts throughout his life. She vetted his employees, and she weighed in on the trustworthiness of some of his clients and opposing counsel. Dad always sought out the Ginny Seal of Approval.

These blessings fell to me. The example of a strong woman is one of the most important things we can give to our children. Not just our daughters but also our sons —- the ones we want to respect strong women and find a strong woman to enrich their lives. I have passed this example on to my daughter and my son, both of whom make me proud every day — not just as young lawyers but also because of their staunch independence and remarkable strength and perseverence.

And now I have a precious granddaughter and more work to do. It will be my pleasure to be an example of strength and competence and compassion to her as well. It is how we, as women, fight for our equality and the equality for all women to follow.

We still have a way to go. Women are not treated equally in all settings and for all purposes. But, we are making strides. This month we celebrated 100 years of women’s right to vote in America, and, more recently, we have made great strides toward equal pay, paid maternity leave, and advances for women in the areas of politics, medicine, law and business.

Let’s not forget our achievements, and let’s celebrate the amazing women in our lives. Every day and everywhere. And let’s not take any of it for granted.

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

Privacy Issues in a Zoom World

This is a continuation in a series of blogs based on information gleaned from a Women in Law Empowerment (WILEF) virtual meeting presented by the WILEF Chicago Young Lawyers Committee to address impacts on women lawyers of practice during the pandemic. The first installment, published on August 5, 2020, addressed the subject of setting boundaries, and today’s topic is dealing with privacy issues in a Zoom world.

Although Zoom and its competitor programs have become de rigueur during the COVID-19 isolation and working from home, these new technologies are not wholly satisfactory substitutes for our needs to interact for the purposes of business. Most of us will agree that allowing business colleagues and clients into your home with a full front view of your lifestyle in this virtual world is a little daunting. It conjures up issues like how much of your private life do you want to expose and what is your comfort level with these new “meeting” formats? Sure, you can elect a substitute background to make it appear that you are on a beach in Tahiti instead of in your rather modest living room, but that strikes some people as a little disingenuous and not quite as transparent as they would like. But getting into a competition about whether your wall art is up to the challenge, which inevitably becomes a topic of conversation, is a useless waste of energy.

So, what is the compromise position? Although it may be fun to see the way your colleagues live and have them share your home surroundings, the visuals also come with some audios of the cat or the dog or, yes, the kids. As I have noted before, telling the kids not to disturb daddy because he is on an important call usually works. But, it does not work with mommy, who is presumed to be available 24/7 and to have no other purpose in life than to satisfy the every need of her family. It is not clear whether seeing these more intimate aspects of your life at home matters, but certainly comfort levels will differ from one person to another. It is your job to identify whatever suits you and make it happen.

And what about client calls? That surely ups the ante. Most of us are not comfortable having clients know too much about our personal lives lest they take advantage of breaching the privacy barriers whenever they experience a particularly compelling need. So, the suggestion of making client calls while walking the dog, as suggested by one panelist, made sense to me. If you don’t have a dog, borrow one or power walk without one. The effect is the same — unless Fido gets into a puppy brawl and blows your cover.

The bottom line is that you need to find your comfort zone and stick to it. I attend all of my virtual Zoom meetings from my office with the door locked! (Even my husband has been known to “storm the Bastille” in need of something he identifies as urgent, and that is unacceptable — unless of course the house is burning down or we have run out of wine). So I lock the door and throw away the key for the duration of my virtual call or meeting. It works for me.

Next up: The Critical Need for Interaction with Colleagues During a Pandemic

Career Counselors, Law Students, Lifestyle, Practice Advice, Young Lawyer | 1 Comment

Young Lawyer Well-Being

The subject of lawyer well-being is front and center during these days of COVID-19. The effects of the isolation that is being experienced by so many lawyers working from home is one of the topics most often addressed during discussions of well-being, but it is only one of the many aspects of well-being that should get your attention.

Topics of lawyer well-being were discussed earlier this week in a Women in Law Empowerment (WILEF) virtual meeting presented by the WILEF Chicago Young Lawyers Committee. I hope that some of you were present in the audience to hear the panel of lawyers, including law firm partners, a law firm associate, and a law firm Director of Well-Being. Panelists were from Kirkland, Mayer Brown and Bryan Cave, and their remarks were both personal and candid. Topics included establishing boundaries, privacy issues in a Zoom world, the importance of interaction with colleagues during isolation, how practice has changed for women over the last 25 years to address well-being, and the importance of mentoring for young lawyers.

If you have an opportunity to access the recorded program, I encourage you to do that. For the rest of you, I will be addressing the topics discussed there in a series of blogs starting with this one.

Today’s topic is establishing boundaries, especially during COVID-19. Creating physical boundaries, meaning separate work spaces, is absolutely essential when more than one person is occupying the home space, but keeping a work-like routine and separating work functions from home functions is equally important to establishing boundaries. Setting up regular work hours helps to accomplish those goals.

Appearance also plays a role in establishing boundaries. Although it might have been fun to hang out in sweats all day at the beginning of the “working from home” ritual last Spring, the panelists agreed that having the right approach to professional work ultimately means looking the part as well. Personal grooming and more formal work clothes helps to establish the necessary boundary between work and home and also improves appearances for the daily Zoom meetings that have become part of the COVID-19 world . The panelists agreed that, after 6 PM, sweats are more than A-OK!

For those women lawyers with children, the clear message was that establishing boundaries and sticking to routines can “go up in smoke” unless you are willing to be flexible. Stuff happens, and things change. To keep yourself from being disappointed when you cannot maintain the established schedule, build in some flexibility and give yourself a break. This is especially important for those with school age children, who have the added responsibility of homeschooling and teacher-imposed homework deadlines. This may mean foregoing the law firm virtual happy hours that have become so important during isolation, but it is a matter of essential and non-essential tasks where kids are concerned.

It was agreed that flexibility is not the easiest thing for Type A lawyers, but it can go a long way towards reducing frustration levels and improving outlooks. And panel members emphasized that one of the positive results of working from home during the pandemic is a recognition that things are not perfect and that we all have to learn to deal with unanticipated change.

A particularly interesting aspect of the discussion centered on clients also needing boundaries, and the panelists reported an improved understanding between lawyers and clients about the realities and challenges of each other’s lives. That alone is progress!

Next topic: Privacy Issues in a Zoom World and the Importance of Interaction with Colleagues During Isolation.

Stay tuned.

Career Counselors, Law Firm Managers, Law School Educators, Law Students, Lifestyle, Practice Advice, Pre-law, Young Lawyer | 3 Comments

Keeping A Grip on Your Lawyer Self

You know that I am a lawyer. 

But what you probably do not know, unless you have read my bio, is that my husband also is a lawyer. He and I have practiced law separately and together over the last 40-plus years, and, at this particular time in our careers, we both have our offices in our home.  Yes, in the same house. Fortunately, there is enough space.

That does not mean, however, that we always respect those spaces.  It also does not mean that our worst lawyer selves do not rear their ugly heads from time to time in discussions (read that as arguments) about issues of our personal lives, our children, politics and, of course, money.  It is because we are human, but it also is because we are uniquely able to take each other on.  We are trained in the skill of advocacy and argument — which includes jumping on unfortunate word choices, finding the weakness in any position, distinguishing EVERYTHING, and relishing the victory.  Human, yes.  But a little werewolf-ish also.

As a couple, we have survived.  This year we will celebrate 50 years of marriage, and we consider that a success by anyone’s measure.  But, we have had to learn to identify the werewolf and send him or her packing back to the forest.  Without that, there likely would have been a different result than a golden wedding anniversary.

The adversarial gene likely was dominant in both of us before law school or, as a recessive gene, it was teased out into dominance during law school.  How else would we have prevailed during Moot Court?  How else would we have survived the first years of private practice, and how else would we have advanced to partnerships in a profession that so highly regards being unpleasant in the eyes of others so much of the time?

But, over time, we have learned that strutting our adversarial and argumentative selves does not work well outside the law school and law practice settings.  Specifically, it does not work between couples and in social settings.  To the contrary, it can end marriages and significantly reduce social networks.  So, we needed to learn to reign it in, and so do you.

We all need to understand how easy we can fall victim to becoming our training. We need to be aware that the sharp elbows we have developed in our negotiations and trial experiences can make us appear obnoxious and unpleasant to others. Disputing EVERYTHING may make us heroes to our clients, but it will make us pariahs to our families and friends.

And it can happen so easily. I remember as a young lawyer discovering two neighborhood boys building a fort in the woods on our land. I told them that they did not have our permission to build the fort, and I asked them to remove it. I explained to them that my husband and I could become responsible for harm that might befall visitors to the fort, but they were not persuaded. So, I chose to explain to twelve year olds the law of attractive nuisance, and, in return, I got an earful from the father of one of the boys. Did I really have to lawyer-up to kids, he asked? Instead of gaining cooperation on the basis of our relationship as neighbors, I had demonstrated what a jerk I was. Not my most shining moment.

Waxing into legalese and taking the argumentative and combative approach is generally not good for social interaction or personal relationships. And, for sure, it is not good for marriages.

So, learn to leave the lawyer at the office. Set different expectations for your professional behavior and your personal behavior. Especially if you want to be celebrating your 50th wedding anniversary some day!

Here’s an article to help you further understand the pitfalls of your inner adversary unleashed and how to avoid destructive behavior.  Our well-honed argumentative responses run deep and have merit in our legal careers, but it is risky to let those responses seep into our personal lives.  

Just because you are a lawyer is no excuse for acting like one all of the time.  Your friends and family do not expect it, and most of them resent it. Especially those who are not lawyers.

And most of us realize that non-lawyers make some of the best friends. 

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