Monday, January 25, 2010

What to Wear, Revisited


Okay, now the convergence of themes is getting downright scary. Sometimes I struggle to find something to write about so I can stay more or less on schedule. Other times, like today, the posts seem to write themselves.
Saturday a friend and I were lamenting the tribulations of childhood in the 70's when our moms actually made our clothes and we had to wear them to school. It is kind of stunning how long that psychological scar lasts. Funny, though, now that I think of it: Mom never made my brothers clothes that they had to wear to school...

The spring quarter started today for my daughter, and you guessed it, she's taking a sewing class. I had to practice breathing control in the fabric store as my vision started getting cloudy while selecting a pattern, finding some elastic, and then thumbing through various fabrics so she could make pajama pants for herself and a second pair for me as part of her class assignment. I swear I was about to break out in hives by the time we left the store. ($95 lighter, though. Most expensive pajama pants I ever hope to buy).

Then, I checked my twitter account and came upon what I suspect is the first ever post about how difficult it is for young men lawyers to figure out how to dress for success. OMG. (Am I allowed to write that?). Ladies you must read John Cord's post, The Clothes Make the Man. It's good for a giggle.

So once I'd recovered from the trauma of the visit to JoAnn's, I decided to get back to work and finish reading Tax Notes Today. Lo and behold, my favorite columnist, Lee Sheppard, began her article about Subchapter K (AKA hell in the tax code) with a fashion review. Lee has done more for changing the image of a tax lawyer from a gray-haired, gray-skinned fifty-ish male personage to a vibrant, living being than any other person in the profession. And she does it with such style.

In her January 11, 2010 column on Subchapter K's Attractive Nuisance she begins with commentary on the January issue of Vogue and its preview of the spring designer lines, with a view to the implications for a professional woman's wardrobe. It's a must read for those of you who are wondering what to add to your wardrobe for the spring. Unlike John Cord's advice (get a couple of suits in various shades of gray and black plus some ties from TJ Maxx and Ross), Lee's recommendations have a bit more style and spice to them, and acknowledge that a woman lawyer needs to put a bit more thought into her appearance than does a young man:

Regarding floral print dresses and shoes: "Those fabulous floral print silk dresses Balenciaga did for fall were shown on the runway with big necklaces and spindly, decorated shoes. This is too much unless one's destination is the opera. For day, tights and boots, oxfords or ballet slippers, and no jewelry let the dress make the statement."

Regarding Jewelry: "Lay off it. Wear one statement piece, and then only if the clothes do not make a competing statement."

Regarding Makeup: "Lighten up, or you'll look like a drag queen. Indeed, bright lipstick works best with black dresses and gray suits. When the dress provides its own color story, neutral makeup is best."

Regarding Cardigans: "The downside of frilly dresses is that they're not very warm, so wraps are necessary. We hate cardies--that's the Britishism for a garment that makes the wearer look like Granny. Women love cardigans, but as Michelle Obama's cardigan moment on Inauguration Day proved, they can ruin an elegant outfit."

And she wraps up her intro to Subchapter K with this advice:

"Many women just want to wear something more feminine than a mannish suit to their professional jobs. Moreover, many women don't look particularly good in tailored clothes.

"While business suits flatter men -- they are derived from 19th-century neoclassical designs -- they do not flatter most women. So the men walk around in clothes that make them look better, and the women walk around in clothes that make them look worse unless they are built like Chanel."

For the connection between fashion advice for professional women and partnership tax law, now that you are intrigued you'll just have to read her entire article. Tax Notes is available only to subscribers, so you'll have to ask your firm or law school librarian to get you a copy. It's worth the extra effort.

Cynthia

Friday, January 22, 2010

RESOLVED!

I spent much of today writing corporate resolutions for clients. That reminded me that I've not told you all my New Year's resolutions for 2010. Last year I had a quite ambitious list. Looking back, the only one that I really kept was using Twitter as a business development tool. It has actually worked out pretty well, since many of my existing clients use Twitter it does make sense for me to follow them. But otherwise I don't think I followed through so well on my resolutions. I continue to obsess about as much as I ever did!

So here is my professional resolution for this year: I will focus my marketing efforts. I think my marketing staff got a little tired of my constant presence in their offices looking for help. So, in 2010, I will not join any more actual or virtual networking groups! I will not set up another website! I will not start another blog! I will not take any more speaking engagements! I will not participate in any random acts of lunch! I will not give my business card to any one! I will not write any articles! I will not seek out new and interesting marketing opportunities! I will not get involved in new legislation! I will not write any articles! I will not go to any State or national bar association meetings! I will not go to any more parties with heavy concentrations of lawyers (nor parties of lawyers with heavy concentration)! I won't, I won't, I won't!

Oh, never mind. You know as well as I do that I'll do all of the above, whether I have time for it or not.

Cynthia

Monday, January 18, 2010

Diversity, Promise, Reality

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day--a shopping day, or a meaningful day to reflect on the promise and the reality of advancement by minorities in the legal profession? The latter, I think.

The National Association of Legal Career Professionals (NALP) published a terrific summary of best practices in 2006, the Diversity Best Practices Guide. Although retaining law professionals does not seem to be much of a problem these days, retaining and advancing the careers of minorities remains more critical than ever. I'm not aware of any studies yet that show the diversity characteristics of those who have been laid off in the past 18 months, but I'll be quite surprised, and happily so, if the statistics show that layoffs did not land disproportionately on minorities. And even for those who remain in the profession, this new era of competitiveness in the legal market will almost certainly make it more difficult for minorities to advance.

In any event, it's a good time to re-focus on diversity efforts, and to hold law firm leadership accountable. Here are some of NALP's best practices for retention:

__ Analyze existing systems and policies for unintended and/or historic bias, including the firm’s work allocation system, the process for inclusion at firm events, the internal training programs, and the committee appointment process.
_ Require annual reports by practice area leaders on goals and efforts to diversify practice groups.
_ Make firm leaders accountable for meeting diversity goals, including achievement of diversity goals as a factor in the compensation process.
_ Encourage all firm members to participate in women and minority bar associations and minority counsel programs. Sponsor memberships in these bar associations and fund participation at these events; support lawyers in leadership roles in professional organizations.
_ Institute anonymous upward reviews, with diversity competence as a component.
_ Promote work/life balance via equity/non-equity partnership options, on-site day care and free emergency child care, a sabbatical program, and part-time/flex-time options that maintain partnership eligibility.
_ Develop and support internal diversity networks/affinity groups.
_ Institute reverse mentoring, whereby senior attorneys are paired with junior diverse attorneys to learn about the challenges junior minority attorneys face.
_ Periodically reevaluate practice area assignments to assess fit.
_ Mandate equal access for diverse attorneys to quality work assignments, marketing efforts, formal and informal events, and clients.
_ Conduct annual internal conferences for women and minority lawyers, including sessions and panels on business development, leadership development, presentation skills, billing practices, etc.

Given all the challenges facing law firm management these days, it seems easy to let diversity efforts drift into little more than lip service posted on a web page. Let's not forget that the challenge of attracting, retaining and advancing the careers of diverse legal professionals is as important a goal as marketing, strategic planning, risk management, and, of course, getting those billable hours up!

Cynthia

Friday, January 15, 2010

News, Notes and Nominations

Lots of emails have been popping into my box announcing meetings, requests for nominations, programs and other fun stuff for women lawyers in this new year. Here's my compilation:

● ABA Women's Caucus

The ABA Women's Caucus will meet during the ABA Midyear Meeting in Orlando, FL on Sunday, February 7th from 2 - 4 p.m. in the Dolphin Hotel.

● PAR's Third Annual Conference for Law Departments and Law Firms, March 18, 2010

"Diversity and Flexibility for the Next-Generation Law Firm" March 18, 2010,

UC Hastings College of the Law
Alumni Reception Center, 2nd floor
200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
Registration: 8:30 am – Conference: 9:00 am – 4:30 pm

WOMEN IN THE BOARDROOM
formerly Women on Boards

Monday, January 25, 2010
3:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Hotel Sofitel San Francisco Bay at Redwood Shores
223 Twin Dolphin Dr
Redwood City, CA 94065

● CALL FOR NOMINATIONS: 2010 PAR FLEX SUCCESS AWARD

DEADLINE: FEBRUARY 5, 2010
Click here for nomination instructions.
The Project for Attorney Retention (PAR) is
accepting nominations for the 2010 PAR Flex Success Award

● CALL FOR NOMINATIONS: 2010 Outstanding Nonprofit Lawyer Awards

The ABA's Business Law Section Committee on Nonprofit Organizations is looking for nominations for the 2010 Outstanding Nonprofit Lawyer Awards. Awards are given annually in the following categories: Academic, Attorney, Nonprofit In-House Counsel, Young Attorney (under 35 or in practice for less than 10 years) and Vanguard Award (lifetime commitment/achievement).

There you have it. Have a nice weekend.

Cynthia

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Haiku # 13

Optimism rules!
Twenty-Ten brings new work, but
Make up for oh-nine?

Cynthia

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Teach a Woman to Fish

Many people are astonished that I have kept this blog going for more than a year (no one, however, is more surprised than I). I'm often asked where I get ideas, and the truth is they usually fall into my lap, or perhaps more truthfully they just appear on my computer screen. This week is no exception. A couple of timely emails about women's issues hit my screen about the same time as a Twitter post from Nicolas Kristof that links to his comments on Secretary of State Clinton's speech today. In her speech, delivered at the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, D.C. she notes

"You know the proverb, 'Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, but teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime'? If you teach a woman to fish, the impact is even greater. It takes a woman to teach a village."

Here's a video to the same effect:




Inspired? Find a way to help. Here's a start: provide your thoughts on an advocacy agenda for girls programs at the Eva Leah Gunther Foundation's survey.

You go, girls!

Cynthia

Monday, January 4, 2010

Quotes July-December 2009

One of my favorite activities in updating this page is posting meaningful quotes from interesting, amusing and/or inspirational women. I try to update the quote each week. Here's the list of quotes I enjoyed, from July to December 2009:

It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union. Susan B. Anthony

The days you work are the best days. Georgia O'Keefe

So we're making progress, but we're not there yet. Senator Dianne Feinstein

Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult. Charlotte Whitton

Where I was born and where and how I have lived is unimportant. It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest. Georgia O'Keeffe

Although I grew up in very modest and challenging circumstances, I consider my life to be immeasurably rich. Sonya Sotomayor

Every small mistake you make becomes amplified. I try my hardest not to make any mistakes. You just have to work harder. You have to work twice as hard. Lisa Bodenburg

It would take a very long term of women absolutely in power to get to the place where they became men. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

I will feel equality has arrived when we can elect to office women who are as incompetent as some of the men who are already there. Maureen Reagan

If your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all. Anna Quindlen

If you have to worry about your legacy, you don't have one. Shirley Franklin

You get whatever accomplishment you are willing to declare. Georgia O'Keeffe

I firmly believe in the rule of law as the foundation for all of our basic rights. Sonia Sotomayor

Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, "She doesn't have what it takes." They will say, "Women don't have what it takes." Clare Boothe Luce

It is not religion that binds women, but the selective dictates of those who wish them cloistered. Shirin Ebadi

I have a belief that life isn't about balance, because balance is perfection....Rather, it's about catching the ball before it hits the floor. Carol Bartz

A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction. Virginia Woolf

It is better, as far as getting the vote is concerned I believe, to have a small, united group than an immense debating society. Alice Paul

As every Iditarod musher knows, if you're not the lead dog, the view never changes. Sarah Palin

I don't know that there are any shortcuts to doing a good job. Sandra Day O'Connor

We may be confused about the distinction between tolerance and the refusal of evaluation, thinking that tolerance of others requires us not to evaluate what they do. Martha Nussbaum

There needs to be bolder thinking, … on how to measure the quality of life of men and women in the work force. Currently, success is measured by material advancements. We need to readjust the definition of success to account for time outside of work and satisfaction of life, not just the dollars-and-cents bottom line. Betty Friedan

The first rule of holes: when you're in one, stop digging. Molly Ivins


Cynthia