Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Ellen Ostrow's Creditable Advice

Ellen Ostrow posted some astute observations on women lawyers and origination credit in her article Getting Credit Where Credit is Due.  Being overlooked for credit for bringing in work is a pernicious problem, perhaps one that is less and less intentional on the part of compensation committees, but still a problem none the less.  She covers all of the important habits and strategies that women in private practice need to work on every day.  But her closing is the best I've read on this topic in a while:  Never give up.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Handling Conflict

Women in the workplace face special challenges in dealing with conflict.  Having watched many of my mentors, role models, peers, and younger women new to the workplace over the years, I am convinced that it is how women handle conflict that determine success, more than any other factor.  Yes, competence is essential, but without the ability to handle conflict appropriately a woman will rarely move up the ladder into a leadership role.

Fortunately, the ability to handle conflict can be learned.  It's not taught in school, but there are resources.  An upcoming webinar on April 8, 2014, "Women's Leadership: Handling Conflict with Confidence and Tact" promises to help women leaders handle the inevitable emotional clashes that are bound to come along.

The webinar reminded me of one of my early posts, a book review of Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most, by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen of the Harvard Negotiation Project.  There's a new edition that was published after my book review.     In the 10th-anniversary edition of the New York Times business bestseller-now updated with "Answers to Ten Questions People Ask," the authors examine how
We attempt or avoid difficult conversations every day-whether dealing with an underperforming employee, disagreeing with a spouse, or negotiating with a client. From the Harvard Negotiation Project, the organization that brought you Getting to Yes, Difficult Conversations provides a step-by-step approach to having those tough conversations with less stress and more success. You'll learn how to:
* Decipher the underlying structure of every difficult conversation
* Start a conversation without defensiveness
* Listen for the meaning of what is not said
* Stay balanced in the face of attacks and accusations
* Move from emotion to productive problem solving
If you prefer old fashioned paper books, it's still available on Amazon.  Get the paperback new or used, or download the Kindle version. You'll be glad you did, I promise.  

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


It is nice to see the conversation about women evolving, and the topic is as important today as it was four and a half years ago when I started this blog.  The Ark Group’s East Coast Women Legal 2014 forum includes some great speakers and perspectives that promise a rich a conversation concerning the challenges, opportunities and benefits involved in accelerating the progress of law firms embracing a culture of men and women as allies—while again providing a unique platform for women to view their own power differently and "take ownership” of their careers in a profession that currently does not support their advancement in ways that it should.  Ark Group believes that

Currently, in law firms, there is an interesting conundrum; balancing the desire for a gender-blind work-place where “the best lawyer gets the work and advances” and the reality of navigating the complicated maze created by the fact that, in general, men and women do possess differences in their work styles. These variations impact who they work with, how they work, how they build professional connections and how organizations ultimately leverage, reward and recognize the talents of all.  There are new voices being heard in the women’s movement coming from leaders like Sheryl Sandberg as well as from countless millennials entering the workplace. Are they changing the focus and the discussion around “women’s issues?” Are these perspectives (some being framed by various authors and the media) helpful to women or do they play into and encourage bias? With the future of the legal profession uncertain and law students graduating with fewer jobs to fill, the messaging to women law students and lawyers is more important than ever.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Food for the Day

It's been a while since I posted, partly too busy, too distracted, mostly my pipeline of ideas was under construction.

Here are a couple of items of interest, that maybe will jump start things:

Large law firms are failing women lawyers

February 18, 2014

Selena Rezvani, author of “
Pushback: How Smart Women Ask—And Stand Up—For What They Want.”
The Washington Post

While law firms have been leaders in the workplace at flex-time and part-time arrangements, affinity groups, women’s networks, and a lock-step compensation approach partially designed to combat gender pay disparity, female associates still remain one of the unhappiest portions of the national workforce.  The author cites high billable hour requirements and hidden rules of the game as two reasons for the lack of women represented in the higher ranks of law firms.

Is there a gender pay gap? Most surveyed law firms wouldn’t provide the data

February 26, 2014
Debra Cassens Weiss
ABA Journal

The National Association of Women Lawyers released its annual study recently and it suggests that women are being paid less than men at law firms.  The study requested responses from the largest 200 firms nationally and received 92 responses.  There was significantly less participation in the study this year as compared to last year with 33 law firms that had previously participated declining to do so this year.  One reason for this, the study suggests, is law firms may be reluctant to release negative data on female representation.  Many firms also refused to answer compensation questions, but for the firms that did respond, NAWL found a positive correlation between pay for women attorneys at firms that had two or more women at the firm’s highest governing levels. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Women Leading Law Firms--One Step at a Time

Well I do think it is progress every time a woman reaches a significant law firm leadership position.  Small steps.  Yes, it still is a rarity, as noted by Catherine Ho in the Washington Post yesterday.

I'm still happy to see it happen.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Lessons from the Top--Upcoming Roundtable Discussion Presented by the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession

Lessons From The Top: Top Women Lawyers Share Their Tips For "Making It" In the Profession

Presented by the Young Advocates Committee and Co-Sponsored by the YLD Women in the Profession Committee and  Commission on Women in the Profession

Wednesday, August, 21, 2013 at  3:00-4:00 pm Eastern

Sometimes it feels as though the narrative about women in the law is very negative. The stereotypes about the profession can make it feel as though you have to be super woman to make it through. Worse still, the conversations about what it is like once you make it to the top can leave many women wondering why bother at all. While these conversations are important and help galvanize change in the profession, this roundtable recognizes that it's also important to provide balance and tell the positive side of the story about women in the law, particularly at a time when the numbers of women applying to law school and in the profession in general are on the decline.  

In this unique roundtable, aimed at inspiring men and women lawyers alike, several top women lawyers will share their stories:  why they love what they do, why they stuck it out, the twists and turns their careers took along the way, and their tips for making it all work.  Participants may direct questions to Mor Wetzler at to allow the panel to address the most pressing issues.  

Moderated by Mary Beth Edwards, Managing Director at Navigant in the Washington, DC office, this panel features:

Bobbi Liebenberg - The current chair of President Bellows' Task Force on Gender Equity, former Chair of the Commission on Women in the Profession, and a Partner at Fine, Kaplan & Black in Philadelphia.

Lori Kalani - Partner in the Attorney General Practice Group at Dickstein Shapiro in Washington, DC and formerly In-House Counsel at DISH Network.

Nadira Clarke - Partner at Beveridge and Diamond in Washington, DC and formerly with the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco.

Sharon Bowen - Corporate Attorney at Latham & Watkins LLP, and Co-Chair of Latham's Women Enriching Business (WEB) Initiative.

Thank you -- ABA Commission on Women in the Profession.  Register here.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Resilience as a Rainmaker

The ABA Annual Meeting is in San Francisco this year, and I'm looking forward to lots of great programming.  Friday, August 9, is being promoted as the Day of the Woman, and I was intrigued by the recent announcement from the Chair of ABA Women Rainmakers, Susan Letterman White.  She writes:  
I'm pleased to announce that during the upcoming ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco, on August 9, 2013, from 8:30am - 10am, as part of the Day of the Woman, the ABA Women Rainmakers will be presenting The Resilient Rainmaker. This is a panel discussion of the importance of building resilience as a rainmaker and tips for building resilience. 
The most successful rainmakers start by thinking differently. The way they think about the marketing and sales processes and attach meaning to their business development experiences continually moves them closer to their specific goals for building a significant book of business.   
The Resilient Rainmaker program will help you learn how to think and act with resilience. Rejection is common in the business development process. It takes many more “touches” than we think it should before even the best prospect becomes a new client. Our panel of clients, coaches, and rainmakers will tell you how they learned to bounce back and provide you with strategies for building and maintaining resilience in your business development process. 
I asked Boston-based business development coach, Stewart Hirsch, for his thoughts on rejection and resilience, after reading his blog Reduce Stress. Stop Selling. Start Helping.  He suggests:  “Have the right attitude—one of caring and helping.  Focus on the other person, not on yourself.  What may look like rejection is simply a statement of where the other person is at the time.  It’s not about you.  It’s about the other person and her/his needs.  So if your focus is outward, you’re less likely to stress about not getting the result you want, because it likely has little to do with you.”
She adds a few tips to build resilience:
Look for the opportunity in every business development experience.  Did you attend a networking event and learn something new about what your ideal clients want from their attorneys?  Did you practice your elevator speech? Did you move out of your comfort zone and introduce yourself to someone new?
Find a buddy for support. It’s easier to bounce back faster with the support of someone who has had a similar experience. 
 Engage your time management and problem solving skills. Instead of focusing on what didn’t work at your last pitch, focus on finding your next business development opportunity and what to do differently on your next pitch.
Great advice, Susan.  I remember well in my early days of practice development, for every 10 potential clients I talked to, I might actually be engaged only by one.  It was indeed discouraging, but over time the ratio of engagements has gotten much better.  I learned to take small steps and look for the positive growth in each business development opportunity.  Patience and resilience go together in building a strong, fun practice.