Last week I was in New Orleans participating in the Federal Bar Association (FBA) Conference on Women in Law. I loved meeting so many remarkable women lawyers and judges — almost as much as I enjoyed the sights and sounds and FOOD. It was a wonderful trip … but I digress!
The membership in the Federal Bar Association consists of lawyers who practice before the US Federal Courts. The New Orleans chapter of the FBA is the most active chapter in the country, and it was obvious how cooperative and congenial the members are. What a refreshing experience for those of us who practice and have practiced in more impersonal bar association settings. I guess everything is “easy” in The Big Easy.
I participated as a speaker on a panel addressing the art of negotiation and effective business communications and self-advocacy. My fellow panelists were Big Law women lawyers and a former US Attorney, who is now the Chief of Staff at Tulane University. We all had anecdotes and advice for young women lawyers on stepping up negotiation skills, especially when negotiating for work you want, an increase in salary and/or responsibilities, or coveted committee assignments. There is a lot of room for improvement in the area of self-advocacy for women lawyers, and honing those skills is critical to advancing career goals.
I also enjoyed the other panels, particularly the one focused on the advice of women federal judges for young lawyers practicing in their courtrooms. Their advice was invaluable, and it was interesting to observe the different courtroom management styles in this group of very impressive jurists. I got to know two of them a bit, and I came away pleased that the women lawyers who practice in their courts have such strong role models.
The panel of in-house general counsels was like hearing an echo in the room. I was so pleased to have them hit the issues affecting the advancement of women lawyers “straight on” and acknowledge the important role that in-house counsel have in improving the career paths of women lawyers in law firms. As clients, they have the leverage to get the attention of law firm leadership and management on these subjects, and they need to use that influence.
The final panel was devoted to the alarming issue of human trafficking and included the comments of a sex trafficking survivor. There were not many dry eyes in the room after hearing her heart-wrenching story. I hope that some of you will consider becoming a part of the enforcement against the perpetrators of these crimes. These victims are young and helpless and alone. They need your help.
So, hats off to The Big Easy and its warm and welcoming people. And thanks to the FBA for including me in the program.