Susan Smith Blakely

Be a Kinder Woman Lawyer

If you have heard me speak or read my books, you know that I am fond of repeating this quote from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: "There is a place reserved in Hell for women who do not help other women." I include it in most of my Power Point presentations because it is such a powerful, brave and thought-provoking statement. Having met Ms. Albright recently and discussed the quote with her, it is all the more important and meaningful to me.

However, the needs between women go beyond just help. There also is a need for women to be kinder to each other. Now you are yawning because you want me to tell you something you don't already know. Yes, we know that women can be competitive and very judgmental about each other in many social and personal settings. Who among us has not experienced that --- or, worse, been the perpetrator? But, do we fully realize how destructive lack of kindness can be in a professional setting where we all are striving hard to succeed against some pretty significant odds?

The need for kindness among women was recognized recently when the first female Attorney General for Australia, Nicola Roxon, who served in that role between 2011 and 2013, delivered the keynote address at the Australian Legal Practice Management (ALPMA) Conference. Her message was that professional females need to be less critical of other women.

Wisdom from the Aussies once again. I often share articles about the Australian Bar with you for a reason. They seem to make so much sense, and so do the recent observations of former Attorney General Roxon. She believes that women can be the harshest critics of their fellow women and that it is not only destructive but interferes with the success of women globally. She particularly does not like women imposing their own values and judgment on other women. In her words, "Stop being harder on women around you if they don't make the same choices that you or your family make." She goes on to say that it erodes morale and causes damage.

She also is in full agreement that there is no perfect work-life balance, and, after raising a daughter while practicing law, she knows a little about this. She believes that it is a show of kindness not to judge the choices and the balance that works for others. In that respect, she seems to be very much in agreement with the theme of Personal Definitions of Success that is at the foundation of the Best Friends at the Bar program. I am pleased to be in such good company. Ms. Roxon also had some interesting observations about the necessity for leaders to praise exemplary performance and the ability of women to accept praise. Although it is true that women seem to want praise, how good are we at accepting it and making it work to our advantage? For more, check out the article in Lawyers Weekly.

Susan Smith Blakely is the Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC and a nationally-recognized author, speaker and consultant on issues related to young women lawyers, young women law students and young women interested in careers in the law.  She is author of Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2009), and Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today's Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012), which addresses the work-life struggle for women lawyers and includes twelve profiles of women who have successfully transitioned from one practice setting to another.  Ms. Blakely frequently speaks at colleges and universities, law schools, law firms and law organizations, and she has been featured in media including the LA Daily Journal, National Jurist, Washington Examiner Newspaper, Forbes Woman, DC Spotlight, Daily Muse and Huffington Post Business.  Ms. Blakely also is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at conferences on women's issues and the law profession.

Ms. Blakely graduated from the University of Wisconsin with distinction and from Georgetown University Law Center where she taught legal research and writing. She also is a Marshall Goldsmith trained career and leadership coach and a member of the CoachSource global network of leadership coaches.  She also is a career coach for the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy.   For more information, please visit 

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