Leadership Skills for Women Lawyers

Leadership skills are important for all lawyers, but I think they are particularly important for women lawyers. It has been my experience that, too often, women either underestimate themselves and/or are satisfied in secondary roles.  Both of those propensities can be career limiting.

In my own career, I was a very good Chief of Staff and an excellent second chair at trial, and, sometimes I was satisfied with those roles. But eventually I snapped out of my complacency and realized that being parked in my comfort zone was not going to move me forward in my career. I needed to stretch myself and do the things that scared me the most.

I remember clearly the first time I argued a motion in court,  the first time I took a deposition, the first time I interrogated a witness, and the first time I was called upon to give my opinion to a BIG client in a BIG case. All of those hurdles were scary, to be sure, but necessary to get me to the next level where I would be rewarded for my leadership skills.

I also remember how it felt to have others rely on me for those skills. It is heady stuff.  But it does not come without work and training from others who have experienced leadership and walked the walks. And it does not come without consciously letting managers know that you want to lead — that you want to serve on important committees, that you want to be on a pitch team, or that you think you are ready to move from team member to team leader.

Here are some principles that I have learned along the way to becoming a leader:

Principle #1 – Seek Greater Responsibility and Take Responsibility for Your Actions

Do not be satisfied with performing current duties.  Grow in your profession by seeking further challenges and being responsible for the consequences of your actions.

Principle #2 – Know Yourself and Seek Self Improvement

Develop a plan to further develop your strengths and improve on your weaknesses

Principle #3 – Make Wise and Timely Decisions

Growing in your profession involves many challenging experiences.  Learn to make wise decisions at critical times in your career.  Do not put off important decisions.

Principle #4 – Set the Example

No aspect of leadership is more powerful than setting a positive example. Personal examples affect people more than any amount of instruction or form of discipline.  Positive examples get attention from those who can help you reach leadership.

Principle #5 – Build and Develop A Successful Team

Law practice is more and more about teamwork.  Leaders develop a team spirit that motivates team members to work with confidence and competence. Know the proficiencies of your team members, and encourage team members to further develop their proficiencies to contribute to the success of the team.

Principle #6 – Develop A Sense of Responsibility In Your Team Members

The members of a team will feel a sense of pride and responsibility when they successfully accomplish a new task given them. When we delegate responsibility to our followers, we are indicating that we trust them and encourages loyalty in team members.  When individuals trust you, they will be willingly to work hard to help you accomplish the mission.

Principle #7 – Ensure That Each Task is Understood, Supervised and Accomplished

Because mission accomplishment is based on teamwork, it is evident that the better the team, the better the team will perform the task. Team members expect the leader to keep them informed about deadlines and explain the reasons behind requirements and decisions. Information encourages initiative, improves teamwork and enhances morale.   That kind of open dialogue lets  team members know you care about mission accomplishment and also care about them.

Principle #8 – Employ Your Team In Accordance With Its Capabilities

A leader must use sound judgment when working with the team. Failure is not an option. By employing the team properly, you insure mission accomplishment.

I  encourage all of you to take advantage of leadership examples in your work places but also to look into bar association leadership programs in your area. These experiences will give you opportunities to mix with lawyers and other professionals outside your work space where you may feel more comfortable exposing your vulnerabilities.

Whatever path you choose, get on the road to leadership.   Experience the positive effects it will have on your career.

This entry was posted in Career Counselors, Law Firm Managers, Law School Educators, Law Students, Practice Advice, Pre-law, Young Lawyer. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.