More on Grit and Mindset for Women Lawyers

If you read my last blog, you know that the current issue of the Women’s Law Journal includes an article called “Grit & Mindset:  Implications for Women Lawyers.”  You also know that I have been talking about true grit for women lawyers for years now, and I shared some examples of true grit from a chapter in my book, Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today’s Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012).  If you keep those messages in mind and add the following messages from the Women’s Law Journal article, you will be off to a good start in developing a positive and helpful approach to grit and mindset for you and your law firm.

In discussing grit and mindset, the authors of the Women’s Law Journal article, Milana Hogan and Katherine Larkin-Wong, describe those two factors as noncognitive traits —- the ones that an individual has complete control over and which can be altered at an individual level.  In other words, these are the factors that you are able to improve to positively affect your future success as lawyers. So far, so good.

The article relies on a definition of grit as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals” and a definition of growth mindset as seeing one’s “abilities as flexible entities that can be developed through dedication and effort.”  I certainly buy into those definitions and have been addressing both through my books and blogs and speeches since I launched the Best Friends at the Bar project in 2006.  Again, so far, so good.

What is new in this article is the research behind these definitions and the applicability of grit and mindset in the messages to law firms.  It starts with the good news that grit and mindset can be learned and developed given the right conditions and then challenges law firms to create those “right conditions” to improve opportunities for success for women lawyers.  I really like that.  Here are some of those challenges to law firms:

  • Law firms need to teach lawyers to handle and learn from failure;
  • Law firms need to teach lawyers how to receive criticism;
  • Law firms need to praise efforts, not outcomes;
  • Law firms need to positively reinforce lawyers and teach lawyers to be realistically optimistic;
  • Law firms need to help lawyers identify what they are passionate about and encourage them to pursue those passions; and
  • Law firms need to educate lawyers about the traits that lead to practice success.

That is a flavor for the article, but there is more, so get yourself a copy and read it.  For some of you, it will appear to be pie in the sky, and maybe that’s because you are not thinking positively enough to believe that law firms will take the time and effort to do all of those things.  I will leave that for you to ponder.

For me, I enjoyed the article, and I hope for the best.  In the interim, I will not be abandoning my own messages about true grit.  I feel a little more confident in the true grit and the positive mindset that the individual lawyers control, not those that are dependent on the good will of the law firm.  Call me jaded, if you will!

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