Monday, September 26, 2011

Women's Equality Day

This post was first published on August 25, 2010, in celebration of Women's Equality Day last year on August 26.  It is fitting to ponder the advances women in the United States have made in the last 91 years, as we watch Saudi Arabia move in the same direction.  Today, Saudi Arabia’s ruler, King Abdullah, said that, beginning in 2013, women will be appointed to the shura council, which offers policy advice to his regime, and that in 2015 women would be allowed to vote and run for municipal councils.  

It's been a fascinating mothering week.  Monday morning my darling daughter bounded out of the car and into the whirlwind of change that envelopes high school freshmen girls.  She leapt into the school year with as much enthusiasm as she had for kindergarten. 

Monday evening she gushed with excitement about all the good things to come, and announced that high school is the best time of life, and that nothing could ever be better than turning 16 and life would just be grand all through high school.  Having had a less than pleasant overall high school experience myself (that's another story), I quickly shot back that if sixteen is her best year she'll have had a very sorry life, and that perhaps she should consider that the late 40's were more likely the prime of one's life.  She rolled right over my grumpinees and then said with absolute certainty, "Well, I know 18 is the best because then you get to vote."  I mumbled more middle-aged disagreement but she wasn't listening anyway so I just let it go.

But she was right about that, and I've thought about it quite a lot the last day or so.  How easy it is to take for granted the gifts of our culture, and the struggles of our sisters to bring women in the US this right.  I'm sure you all know that tomorrow, August 26, is Women's Equality Day.  It's the 90th anniversary of the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote.  Here's the language from the Joint Resolution of Congress, 1971, designating August 26 of each year as Women’s Equality Day:

WHEREAS, the women of the United States have been treated as second-class citizens and have not been entitled the full rights and privileges, public or private, legal or institutional, which are available to male citizens of the United States; and

WHEREAS, the women of the United States have united to assure that these rights and privileges are available to all citizens equally regardless of sex; and

WHEREAS, the women of the United States have designated August 26, the anniversary date of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, as symbol of the continued fight for equal rights: and

WHEREAS, the women of United States are to be commended and supported in their organizations and activities,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that August 26th of each year is designated as Women’s Equality Day, and the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation annually in commemoration of that day in 1920, on which the women of America were first given the right to vote, and that day in 1970, on which a nationwide demonstration for women’s rights took place.

The National Women's History Project has more about the history of Women's Equality Day on their site. 
Darling Daughter, you are right.  Turning 18 is great.  I'll be there to light the candles for you, and to take you to register to vote.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Book of the Month Club Meeting

Probably the greatest benefit from my recent long vacation from work and email is my increased attention span.  Thirty-one days away from the on-demand culture of email, phone calls, and the inherent multi-tasking of my typical work day allowed for a concentration span longer than 30 seconds, which meant, among other useful things, that I could actually finish a book.  So I did read several fun novels, actually read more than just the headlines of news articles, and watched entire movies without jumping around.  

Long time readers will remember that years ago (before my attention deficit disorder became acute) I posted a few book reviews for you all.  With my return to sanity and an excellent reference from a colleague, last week I read The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law, which is Mark Herrmann's labor of love.  I know it's not news, the book was published in 2006 and probably every lawyer in the world knew about it before I got it last week.  But for you newbies who've come into practice since then (as well as those of you who have been in trial since then or otherwise, like me, completely out of the loop most of the time), get your hands on a copy as soon as you can.  If you are lucky enough to be reading this before you start at your first law firm job in the next few, all the better.  You have time to read now, which you won't have once you start working.  

If you (like me) find it hard to read an entire book and just want the most important pieces, the chapters on How to Fail as an Associate and The Curmudgeonly Secretary are indispensable.  Mark Herrmann is not kidding nor is he being sarcastic.  Every word is true, and you should assume that every partner you work for and every secretary you work with has exactly the same perspective on your work. 

As a not-so-new lawyer, I felt abundant vindication in those two chapters as well.  I wish I could hand a copy of the book to every young lawyer I know, so that they will realize that I'm not the only one that goes ballistic about typos, unclear thinking (and writing) and that tendency of young lawyers to leave the hard questions to their supervisors. 

Even though the Guide focuses on a litigation associate's daily tasks, transactional lawyers can learn quite a lot from it, and the advice on how to write a memo applies equally across practice areas. 

The only place where I beg to differ is the advice on how to Dress for Success.  You've seen my views on that elsewhere in this blog; after you read his chapter we can have a book club discussion comparing and contrasting where his views diverge from mine.

So, let me know when you'd like to meet for the next book club meeting.  You know where to find me.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Just for Fun

Party in the USA

I could write something silly connecting this video with law firms but I won't bother.  It's just fun to watch.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Trends in Swim Attire for Professional Women

So last weekend I was sitting with a number of my women partners chatting about what women wear--to firm swim parties.  It's no longer a real problem for me, my kids are old enough that they are more likely to rescue me from a water feature than the other way around.  But I do sympathize with my colleagues who have young kids that actually want to get in the water at a firm social function that revolves around a pool, lake or ocean.  So what to do?  The options seem to be (1) wear a swim suit, (2) bribe your partner into taking the water related responsibilities, thereby relieving you of any need to wear a swimsuit, (3) attend the function fully clothed, let the kids play in the water all they want with the expectation that you may have to jump in fully clothed at any moment, or (4) wear a swim burka .  Option 1 works only if you are Reese Witherspoon; Option 2 might work, but beware the cost.  Option 3 seems the best bet, you might end up looking a bit foolish   when you jump in, but  depending on the age of your kids, you could look like a selfless hero.  Unless your kids are under 12 months old, in which case the hero approach probably won't work.  So that leaves the "full cover swimwear" option.  They look pretty stylish, I wonder if they have petite sizes.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Little Bits of Wisdom on Event and Seminar Planning

Well here we are, the kids are back in school, everyone's summer vacation is over, and except for retirees (and those nearing retirement) nobody is taking vacation from now until Thanksgiving.  So it's a great time to plan business development and client focused events, right?  Not necessarily.  It's a great time to host them, but not a great time to plan.  The planning needed to be done in July, so invites could go out this week, hitting desks just as folks have cleared the clutter and are organizing their fall schedules.

I've planned and hosted about six events per year for the last twenty years, and while I'm not ready to take down my shingle and be an event planner, I have learned the hard way a lot of do's and don't's for professionals who regularly try to bring together clients and like minded professionals.  Here is my short list:

1.  Plan ahead.  Speakers, locations, topics, and invitation lists should be ready a month before the invitation needs to be distributed.  That leaves plenty of time for proofreading and fine-tuning the outreach.

2.  Calendar wisely.  Obviously, don't plan anything in July, August, November or December unless you're okay with a very low turnout.  Similarly, check for the beginning and end of the school year in your community, even if you don't have kids yourself.  A large proportion of your target market probably has school age kids, and they will probably think beginning and end of school year events are more important than your educational seminar or special event.  Know when spring break falls.  Check for major religious holidays.  Don't bother planning anything the week before and after Easter, on Passover or Yom Kippur, or Ramadan, if your target market includes anyone adhering to those religious traditions.  Also consider sports.  I once had a seminar scheduled the same afternoon as game four in the World Series, and wouldn't you know the home team was playing at home down the street that afternoon.  Oh well.

3.  Snail Mail.  I know, several years ago we were all hot to send everything by email.  But the reality is we are now so inundated by spam and bacon that we've asked for, it's hard to be sure that all that effort to publicize an event doesn't just go to a junk mail or spam folder without being opened.  I always think that if I am going to the trouble of putting an event together, the expense of sending a tasteful paper invitation is well worth the effort.

4.  Proofread.  Nothing shows lack of attention to detail more than typos.  Be sure to get multiple sets of eyes on the electronic and paper invitations, and include some fresh reviewers who haven't been so closely involved in the drafts that the won't notice the mistakes.

5.  Mailing Lists Need Constant Cultivation.  Developing a mailing list isn't something to be done in a rush, just when the event is being planned.  Contact lists take constant, year-round attention.  When you pick up a business card, in addition to adding it to your contact list, figure out which of your mailing lists the person is also interested in, and make sure the name goes there, too.

6.  Use Social Media.  Along with distributing invites to your mailing list and posting it on your website, consider using your Twitter feed, LinkedIn and other appropriate sites to advertise.  I think those distribution channels are probably not very useful in bringing people who aren't already on the invite list to the event; nevertheless, they are excellent follow up reminders to your colleagues and contacts who might appreciate the reminder if the email and paper invites weren't enough.  Effective advertising is repetitive.  Get your message out as many times, and in as many forums, as you reasonably can.

7.  Market Internally.  Especially in larger firms where it is so hard to know what the other attorneys practices are about, it's important to approach other attorneys as a target market for the event as well.  If possible, arrange for continuing education credit for your seminar.  Attorneys in the firm, and outside it, are excellent referral sources.  Don't waste the opportunity to bring them into the conversation.

8.  Make it a Tradition.  The best attended seminars and most effective events are those that happen on a regular schedule, are consistently worth the attendees' time, and have become a fixture.  This takes time and commitment.  Consider it a learning experience for the first few years, and don't abandon the effort without giving it a number of tries.

9.  Ask for Feedback.  Be sure to distribute evaluation forms to those who do attend.  We can't learn anything without feedback.  And use that as an opportunity to ask for input about what the audience wants to hear about from you.

10.  Offer a Quality Event.  Last, but not least, be sure that the presentation or panel offers the best quality experience possible.  Take home materials are, in my view, essential.  Yes it is good to be green, but people who make the effort to travel to your event in person need paper in front of them to write on.  An effective Powerpoint presentation can be useful, but if you aren't particularly creative or fluent with the medium, consider sticking to your knitting.  Powerpoints that are amateurish or boring can work against you.

So that's my little bit of wisdom on the topic.  Now I just need to get my own invitation out, it's a week late this year due to my extravagant vacation.  Watch my Twitter feed and LinkedIn updates if you aren't already on my mailing list, or send me your contact info and I'll be sure you are added!