Fun and Inspiration at the Ms. JD Conference – She Leads!

Ms. JD - She LeadsA special guest report from Lee Burgess about the wonderful Ms. JD conference!

This past Friday, I had the privilege of attending the Ms. JD conference in Washington, DC, aptly titled, She Leads. This was my first Ms. JD conference and it was a fantastic experience. So fantastic, that I wanted to share my thoughts with all of you so you could share in my excitement.

The conference was hosted by American University College of Law. What a great location for such an event, because of the school’s commitment to the study of women and the law. Turns out that the school was even founded by two pioneering women over 100 years ago. What a great story (you can learn more about it here). American University Washington College of Law

The room was stuffed with law students and attorneys — all eager to meet each other, network and learn from each other.

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Why “Get Over It” Isn’t Helpful Advice

SkiingIf you spend time in discussions about “women in the law,” you’ll pretty quickly run into a particular Type, which, frankly, I’ve had about enough of. I’m not naming any names, and it really doesn’t matter exactly who any of this is based on. Imagine it’s an amalgamation — because it is. I’d never kiss and tell.

Anyway, here’s the situation. Someone, generally a young lawyer looking for advice, raises a totally reasonable and valid concern — say, for example, that law firms aren’t particularly hospitable places to work — and gets this response:

Suck it up. Stop whining. It’s your fault if you can’t handle the hours/the pressure/the come-on from that inappropriate senior associate. You just need to be more driven, more ambitious, and more resilient, and this won’t be a issue. It’s your problem, and I don’t want to hear about it. (Oh, and by the way, if you quit over this, you’re failing women everywhere who don’t have your options.)

Helpful, right? Yeah, not so much.

The interesting part is who this stuff is coming from. To put it delicately, it’s female lawyers, generally current or former BigLaw partners, of a “certain age,” who are ostensibly trying to be helpful and supportive to younger women.

So, taking that at face value, I want to talk about exactly why this approach is wildly unhelpful and offer a few suggestions that might facilitate a more productive dialogue.

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Stop Telling Me to Play Golf. Enough, Already!

GolfI swear to you, if ONE MORE PERSON writes an article about how professional women need to take up golf to get ahead, I’m going to completely lose my mind. The most recent crop:

Just STOP!

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One Reason the Legal Profession is So Screwed Up

DangerAs some of you may have seen, I published a piece on Ms. JD recently that raised some heckles: What No One Tells You Before You Go to Law School: You’re Entering a Sexist Profession. The reactions to this piece were very interesting:

  1. Wow, thank you for writing this. I’ve seen/experienced the same thing but no one really talks about it.
  2. I haven’t seen this at my firm, so it must not happen.
  3. I wasn’t aware this was a problem, but now I am and I appreciate you telling me.
  4. Too bad this happened, but it was probably your fault.

It’s that last reaction that I find most interesting. These types of reactions fall into two categories:

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Am I Neurotic, or is the Whole World Crazy?

EmpowermintsThat’s a rhetorical question. Don’t answer! (And it’s probably a little from column A, and a little from column B.)

But I’ve been feeling a little nuts all day about something that’s ostensibly a “good thing,” and — as I mulled my reaction over — I realized it links back to some other things floating around in the ether as of late. So, here I am, writing about it.

If you have a low tolerance for navel-gazing, I’d suggest moving on…right about NOW.
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Self-Segregation and Why It’s a Bad Thing

The Angry Redheaded LawyerPlease give a warm welcome to The Angry Redheaded Lawyer!

Her post in our Confidence Game series raises a very interesting and important question: Is it a good idea for women in the law to self-segregate?

Sure it might be nice to get together and chat about kids and shoes with other women attorneys, but is it a dangerous idea?

I’m not entirely sure where I stand on this one (how’s that for a lawyerly approach?). What do you think?

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Why Diversity Matters

DiversityDiversity? Who cares? Sure it would be “nice to have” but we’ve got a bottom line to think about! Partners gotta eat, you know. Who has money for a diversity initiative? Haven’t we talked enough about women? I’m so tired of it all. Is this really that big a deal?

Why Diversity Matters

Yes, it is. But not necessarily for the reasons you think.

Even if you personally couldn’t care less about the existential benefits of equality, you should still care about having diverse people around in your law practice. Why?

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Announcing a New Series: The Confidence Game

Number one!I’ve been thinking about a lot of loosely-related things lately, which are gradually coalescing into one question:

Why aren’t women getting ahead?

And what can be done about it? (Okay, technically that’s two questions, but bear with me.)

What’s the Problem?

Is the problem that women don’t ask? Or are they asking, but still not being rewarded? Are men just more willing to engage in ridiculous self-aggrandizing behavior to get ahead?

Or maybe this isn’t a “problem” at all, but a series of choices, freely made because of different personal preferences? (Is the personal still political, or is that totally passé?)

In a world where women have made up nearly half of law school classes for a generation, but are still a small minority of law firm partners, judges, law school deans, etc., these are questions worth asking.

And, even if it annoys some people, I’m going to ask them.

So, let’s get started!

I’d love to have guest posts on the topic, so let me know if there’s something you’d like to bring to the discussion.

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Why do you think women in the law aren’t getting ahead? Talk to me!

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Or check out the first post: Why Diversity Matters.

Image by raichinger via stock.xchng.