Monday, January 31, 2011

The Shoes Make the Woman

Here is a post that first appeared in 2010.  I decided to reprint it today for two reasons:  first, I haven't written about professional appearance issues lately, although that is one of the most popular topics that brings people to this little site.  Also, these are my favorite shoes.

It's time to write another post with fashion advice, just because it's been a while since I commented on why appearance matters for women lawyers.  Today's fashion topic is narrowly focused on shoes and the conundrum women face.  It's not so hard for you men: all you need are four pair (see this advice from AskMen).  But let's face it, that won't get a professional woman very far. 

I must admit when I was a young lawyer and also had three kids to shoe, I myself only had three pair of work shoes: black pumps, blue pumps, and sneakers to wear while commuting.  Oh, and I had a pair of riding boots.  One day in preparation for our annual women attorneys' mentoring lunch at the firm, the entertainment committee came by and snapped a surprise photo of each woman, so we could play a fun game called "match the shoes to the lawyer."  I was wearing my manure-covered riding boots with jeans the day of the photo shoot.  Of course at the bonding lunch every other woman's shoes were stylish, new, and clean.  I was mortified and vowed that day to commit the rest of my professional career to finding and wearing super beautiful shoes that were shiny and clean.  Ok perhaps that's a little exaggerated, but I have made much more effort since then to actually find interesting shoes to wear that didn't kill my feet.  I'm better at the former than the latter, but what's a little pain when the shoes are killer cute.

Here's the conundrum part:  one can be too racy with shoes.  I've heard clients comment on inappropriate particularly high heeled and racy shoes worn by particularly young and attractive women lawyers.  Probably the younger and more beautiful the lawyer, the more plain the shoes should be.  It's all about the message and image one wants to impart, like every other aspect of a professional woman's wardrobe.  If you're old and frumpy like me, racy shoes send a different message than if you're young and beautiful, so be careful out there.

One final bit of advice: if you hate shoe shopping as much as I do, spend some time with the online shoe sellers.  They'll send you any number of shoes to try on in the privacy of your own home, and at the same time you can test the commitment of your significant other.  Or you can be committed by your significant other.  So, as I said, be careful out there.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

I ought to be Committed

To some kind of institution that treats chronic overcommitment. Is there an "Over-committers Anonymous" support group?

Regular readers will have noticed my postings have been more sporadic than usual in January. This month always starts for me with tons of enthusiasm for New Year's Resolutions, and by the end of the month my family notices a dazed look about me as I stare at all the commitments I've made. Webinars, seminars, legislative drafting committees, low income tax clinics, board meetings; the list of promises I've made for non-client work in the first half of this year is more than a bit excessive. Easier to keep up with existing commitments than to resign from anything, and how can I pass up new opportunities lest they be a path to interesting relationships! Besides, who wants the prospect of nothing to do, right? Better to have too much than too little, say the chronic over-committers.

Well, somehow I'll get it done, just like all you sisters out there who've done the same thing. As they say, if you want something done, just ask a busy woman.

In any event, keeping this blog going is also on my list of commitments. I'm not actually short on ideas, just short on time to write. Guest postings would certainly be welcome.

Monday, January 17, 2011


As some of you know, one of my hobbies is gardening. I've had to take a hiatus for the last several years as my house was being re-developed (remodel is too tame a word for what we did), and the garden was all but destroyed in the process. But in spite of two years of neglect, my roses were peeking through the weeds today, promising me gorgeous summer blooms if I'd just give them some attention. Those of you who are rose growers know that to grow your own cut-flower quality roses, the real gardening work must happen during the winter, when the canes are dormant.

I've learned a little about pruning over the years, and am by no means ready to tackle any roses other than my own. But I have learned some of the basics: prune out dead and diseased wood, leave no branches thicker than a pencil, and the more severe the pruning, the fewer, but more magnificent, the blooms will be.

Today I was somewhat ruthless, cutting the roses back quite a bit more than ever before. After all my neglect, the bushes were spindly, with many old rotten canes and very little strong, healthy new growth from last season that would bear flowers this year. After years of practice, I can now pretty confidently choose which branches to keep, and which to send to the recycle bin.

I do the same every so often with my practice--carving out and getting rid of marketing and business development ideas that have grown organically with my professional life but just fail to produce anything worth doing. It takes some patience (just like gardening, by the way) to wait a few seasons and let a new marketing idea develop. Some marketing ideas, networks and professional relationships just don't develop as well as others. Others bring out exciting, fun, professionally satisfying work. It does take some discipline to sit down every once in a while and prune out the dead wood. Marketing ideas that don't lead to good work just saps my strength and enthusiasm from the ones that do. It's not always easy to walk away from a longstanding professional group, or lunch bunch, or even a practice area that once seemed so full of promise. But if you're not getting the quality of blooms you want, best to cut out the unproductive canes and give some new growth a chance.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Must View: Sheryl Sandburg

Two of my readers have strongly recommended this video, so I'll pass it along to all of you. Do take the time to watch it.

Also, Vivia Chen adds some interesting commentary. Interesting food for thought.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Billable Hours Resolutions

Yes, it's that awful time of year--we're inundated with messages about each other's self improvement goals and desires. I guess it's human nature to pause and take stock of those habits that need to be changed. I read somewhere once that it takes only seven days of changed behavior before the change sets in as a habit. If that's true, it should be easy to find out in the next week or so who has actually managed to stick to the resolutions made in the wee hours of January 1, 2011.

I know a lot of lawyers who are disappointed in their billable hours for 2010, and who have resolved to get closer to the mark in 2011. Let's assume for argument's sake that your firm's target is for each lawyer to bill 1800 hours to client work in 2011. To meet that target and be able to take a few weeks of vacation, one needs to bill about 7.2 hours each day, five days a week. Assuming that one also does not want to work on national holidays, the daily quota would increase to about 7.5. If one is sickly, has sickly kids, or parents to care for, add another half hour of work each day for a cushion. So that means a realistic target is more like eight hours of billed work each day. No big surprise there, it's pretty simple math.

What does surprise me is that there are timekeepers in private practice who consistently significantly undershoot their target, and profess an inability to understand why they don't get the hours billed by the end of the year. Here's my advice for those folks.

Try this for the next seven work days: don't leave the office until you've actually recorded eight billed hours, and before you leave for the day, be sure you have another eight hours, at least, lined up for the next day. This might mean that you have to spend some time on business development (either internally, or externally) each day to be sure you have enough work tomorrow. And keep in mind that the eight hour rule applies whether or not time is also spent on administrative tasks, professional development, department meetings, and so on. Those things just don't count. Sad, but true. Yes, they have to be done. No, they don't pay the bills (or your salary). Keep in mind, also, that looking for work after everyone else has gone home might be a little tough, so you might want to line up more work BEFORE you start your billable work for the day. Or you could also line up many days' work before you start doing any billable work for the day.

If you find that you're work load is a bit lumpy--that is, too little work to start with, or too much--join the club. If you find you're actually working longer days than you want to in order to meet the billable hour target, consider looking for your bliss at a place where the expectation is more to your liking.

Finally, for those of you who find yourself consistently overshooting the mark, the habit of working too much might be just as hard to break for you as it is for the slackers. The key for you is to go home, sign off, shut down after the required number of hours have been billed. It might be hard, at first, to get a life going, but I suspect that if seven days in a row you leave the office at a reasonable hour and go do something else, you too might be able to meet your goal. It just takes some discipline. The world will not end if you don't work so hard. And you might find yourself to be a wee bit more efficient in your work habits if you know you must leave the office at a specific time.

Now, for the fun part, I am sure you all want to know what my resolutions are. I'm not going to tell you my personal goals for the year, though I have a few and I'm pretty excited about them. But I will share one professional resolution: I will not spray pink neon dye on any lawyers. Not even the slackers.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

She Thinks, Inspirational and Thought-Provoking Quotes, July – December 2010

You don't want me to go into the melting of the polar cap and the glaciers and the great rivers of Southeast Asia and the water supply in Tibet and the encroachment of the Gobi desert and the sandstorms in Beijing and the rise of sea level in all of our maritime areas in the world and. … I would just recommend you go to Alaska to see what is happening.  Nancy Pelosi

Gunning not just for personal triumph for yourself but for durable achievement to be proud of for life is the difference between winning things and leadership.  Rachel Maddow

Women keep a special corner of their hearts for sins they have never committed.  Cornelia Otis Skinner

Stubbornness gets you through the bad times. You don’t give in.  Patricia Neal  

You have to reinvent yourself in stages.  Barbara Corcoran 

It is easier to live through someone else than to become complete yourself.  Betty Friedan

I had a sister much older than myself, from whose modesty and goodness, which were great, I learned nothing.  Saint Teresa

When choosing between two evils I always like to take the one I've never tried before.  Mae West

You grow up the day you have your first real laugh—at yourself.  Ethel Barrymore

It's great for this institution and for the country that women are now one-third of the highest court in the land.  It means that we are really here.  We are no longer one- or two-at-a-time curiosities.  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Most of the real 'heroes' I know are women who would not get called heroes.  They are deeply flawed, and what's within that human spectrum—feeling weak, crying, messing up, being angry—is much more exciting to me.  Debra Winger

Insane people are always sure that they are fine. It is only the sane people who are willing to admit that they are crazy.  Nora Ephron

This guy laughed at me and said they'd never elected a Democrat much less a nonwhite person who works for unions ... So I was like, OK you've made us mad, and my family and I walked to every door.  Jean Quan