Sunday, October 12, 2008

Why Blog on Women Leadership in Law Firms?

Friends and Colleagues,

I started this Blog today to offer a dialogue for women and men who have an interest in developing and supporting women in leadership positions in law firms and law departments. The site will include links to reviewed sites, helpful resources and commentary (mine and yours, I hope).

So, with the gazillion blogs out there and the massive search engines that can find information on anything and everything in 0.15 seconds, what can I possibly add? When I googled "law firm leadership for women" I got more than a million hits. But after scanning the first dozen pages or so, all I found were a few academic blogs, lots of law firm links to their diversity pages, some postings by consultants, and a few articles. But I did not find a resource that would actually provide direction, resources and thoughtprovoking content for the challenges that women and law firms face when women advance to leadership roles. There may well be something better out there, in which case no doubt someone will let me know and I'll move on to something else.

In any event, what I am hoping to provide here is a resource for those interested in women who are practicing lawyers and are leaders. Of course my direct experience is only in law firms but I hope to find and provide content and resources to women who work in-house in legal departments, too.

Why would my view on this in particular subject be of any use to anyone? It may not be, but a little background about me may be helpful to you as you decide whether to read on. When I started practicing in 1988, I had no idea or intention of being a leader in law or anything else. As many of you know, I was married while still an undergraduate. My first son was 12 months old when I started at Hastings in 1985, and my second son was born during spring break of my third year of law school (the plan had been to have the baby during semester break around Christmas, but as with many of my plans it took a little longer than I expected. Not for lack of trying.)

I had skipped Fall on-campus interviews in my third year because I was pregnant, and in those days one simply didn't even think about applying for a job when in a family way. Nevertheless, in January of 1988 I mentioned to a professor that I still needed a job, and with much good fortune I landed a job at a top firm in San Francisco, even though I was eight months pregnant and hadn't yet passed the bar.

So, by the time I graduated and began work as an associate, I had a young family and a deep desire to succeed at both family and law. We bought a house we could barely afford (yes, even then housing in the SF Bay Area in a nice neighborhood was just out of reach for two-income professional families), and we knew that my income was essential. I had an hour commute each direction, so the days were long. There were no working mother lawyers in the law firm then who had had children when they were in law school. There were no women in leadership positions in the law firm either. Mentoring women lawyers was in its infancy. "Worklife balance" was as far in the future as the internet, email, cell phones, and blackberries.

During what seemed like tough economic times back in the early 90's, I was "downsized" by my firm to a part-time position, and at that point I decided that the only way to have a secure economic future for myself and my family was to build an independent practice. So I started reading voraciously about law practice management. I joined the ABA Law Practice Management Section, and read everything I could about how to earn the trust of clients, build a specialty, become known as an expert in my field, and get paid for it. I wasn't interested in law firm management per se, just law practice management so I could be a better lawyer. So while I was learning to be a lawyer, I was also learning how to manage a law practice. I have learned a lot over the years from my studies and experiments in practice management. But I am a professional lawyer, not a professional manager, as are nearly all lawyers in law firm management. In the course of doing all of this I have held leadership positions in my firm, on nonprofit boards, and in local, state and national Bar associations.

This blog is my attempt to help others who are also interested in this topic by reviewing, posting and organizing things that I think are useful to emerging leaders. It is also for women with many years' experience who are driven to lead, and who strive daily for better and newer and more effective ideas and approaches. So feel free to chime in with your own thoughts, interesting links, and ideas.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you.


Coming Next: Top Ten List for Business Development

1 comment:

  1. This is something that is so needed. I work a lot with women in Corporate America. When I first started doing some work with women in law firms, I was disappointed to learn that it is even tougher for women in law firms than it is in Corporate America. My personal theory is that results from the continued hierarchical structures of law firms and the lack of leadership development. I would love to hear other's points of views about that.