Last week I wrote a blog that reflected my pride in my law alma mater, Georgetown Law. Today, I am equally as proud of the DC Women’s Bar Association, where I have been a member for over 30 years, for the work that they do for women lawyers. I attend DCWBA-sponsored programs as often as possible, and I also have presented programs on their behalf. Those programs are always very helpful and valuable for women in the profession.
The DCWBA event that I attended last week was right at the top of my list of outstanding programs. The program, which was hosted by the DC office of Sutherland Asbill & Brennen and addressed “Gender Equity in Partner Compensation: Why It Matters & How To Do It,” was moderated by DCWBA President Laura Possesky and featured a special appearance by ABA President Lauren Fellows. Ms. Bellows’ remarks were inspiring and also included challenges to the women in the audience to be a part of the solutions to what sometimes feel like age-old problems for women in the law. The panel was comprised of representatives from of DLA Piper, Crowell & Moring, Arnold & Porter and the University of Maryland Law School.
I am happy to report that two out of three of the law firms represented have sponsored Best Friends at the Bar programs for their women lawyers, and I just recently made a second appearance at University of Maryland Law. (See my April 10th Facebook post—which you can access right here on my web site— on that excellent experience.) That is good news for Best Friends at the Bar and for the women law students and lawyers in those settings.
The panel discussion was very candid and creative in the approach to the problems facing women in law practice today. The impediments for women were emphasized within the context of ways to eliminate those impediments with appropriate responses from both practitioners and employers. Here are some of the most important and useful recommendations:
- Adopt transparent compensation policies;
- Elect more women to compensation committees;
- Use industry recognition from groups like Women in Law Empowerment Forum (WILEF) as incentives to encourage law firm action on diversity issues;
- Share origination credits with rising stars to encourage leadership and business development;
- Encourage senior women lawyers to mentor and sponsor junior women lawyers;
- Promote teamwork; and
- Educate all attorneys about the negative career impacts of implicit bias.
This should be an outline for the discussions that you need to have at your law schools and law firms. It is critical to continue the dialogue so that one day, one year, we will not have to devote hours of conversation to these issues. We have much more to accomplish in our professional lives, but we also need to pay attention to these threshold issues that will continue to affect our professional lives and the professional lives of our daughters and our granddaughters. I know it is hard for many of you to take that long view, but those days will come sooner than you think. We do not want to be looking toward the future and in the rearview mirror and seeing the same images. Do your part to advance the discussion. You will be glad that you did.
Onward and upward!