Susan Smith Blakely

Best Friends at the Bar: More on the Teachings of Marshall Goldsmith as Applied to Young Women Lawyers

In my last blog I described my skepticism about group training and self-help programs.  You may recall that I was on my way to Chicago for a career coaching training session sponsored by Indiana University as part of the newly-launched IU Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy, and I was not sure how I fit into what I was about to encounter.  I knew that I wanted to be a part of this incredible new academy at IU, but I was uncertain about the process of getting me there.

My only past experience with group self-help programs occurred while I was studying for the DC bar exam.  I was in my first year of practice, and driving into DC from VA two or three nights a week --- after long days at the office as one of only two women lawyers in a firm of 25 --- to listen to bar exam prep stuff, was challenging at best.  But, the stakes were raised when we discovered the self improvement program that was being conducted in the adjoining hotel ballroom and where cleansing primal screams were de rigueure.  It is hard enough to be attentive to an explanation of the real meaning of "lives in being plus 21" by some boring E and T instructor, but the collective primal screams caused more than just a little distraction.

So, on my way to Chicago, I vowed not to be a part of a primal scream session.  I vowed, and I vowed, and I vowed.  I had read the materials about Marshall Goldsmith, and I was "all in" on that, but this group training was not exactly my thing.  I always have been independent and have charted my own path.  I kept asking  myself, "What is this going to be and where will it take me?"

Fortunately, I could not have been more wrong about what was ahead for me.  Take the time to click on this link to find out why the Wall Street Journal and the Harvard Business Review call Marshall Goldsmith one of the ten most effective executive coaches and leadership trainers in the world, and why Forbes ups the ante to describe Marshall Goldsmith as one of the world's five most-respected executive coaches   Yes, the world!  At this point in his illustrious career, Marshall coaches only executives in the C-Suite (CEOs, CFOs, COOs) and other world leaders, and his list of clients is like reciting the names of the people at the helms of the Fortune 500 companies.  As I discovered, I was luckier than I could imagine to be chosen for a two-day training session with this genius of the leadership world.

Two days with Marshall Goldsmith and his inimitable brand of candid and honest instruction infused with humor is exactly what I need to complete my third book, which will include advice on leadership and management for all young lawyers.  As a part of Marshall's presentation, I met CEOs, who nearly cried when they had to face their own leadership flaws. I heard true stories of flawed behavior by leaders that not only limited their effectiveness at the office but also with families and friends.  I learned about the Marshall Goldsmith brand of the 360 review of leadership traits that have turned around the lives of household names.  These individuals, many of the most powerful business leaders in the world, gather together periodically with Marshall to thank him for the work he has done on their behalf and to share their stories.

Throughout this program, I could only think of you --- the young professionals who need to learn all of these valuable lessons sooner rather than later.  Why wait until you are well into your career to find out that the habits you have acquired are negatively affecting your upward mobility.

Leadership for the C Suite is not much different than leadership for law professionals.  Think how much better a team leader and rainmaker you could be with strong and effective leadership skills.  The sky would be the limit.  Fortunately, you know that I am going to pass all of Marshall Goldsmith's wisdom on to you.  So, get ready to be wowed by the teachings of Marshall Goldsmith in my third book and in my blogs and speeches along the way.

Lucky you is all I can say.  And, lucky me.

How many times does someone get to say that she was taken to a new level in such a short period of time?  Well, I am saying that now.  If you think that I sound a little evangelistic, read Marshall Goldsmith's book, "What Got You Here Won't Get You There."  Here is what one reviewer had to say about the book:

Perhaps one small flaw - a behaviour you barely even recognise - is the only thing keeping you from where you want to be. It may be that the very characteristic you believe got you where you are, like the drive to win at all costs, is what is holding you back. In this fully-illustrated version of the international bestseller, Marshall Goldsmith shows that people often do well in spite of certain habits rather than because of them - and need a 'to stop' list rather than one listing what 'to do'.Marshall Goldsmith's expertise is in helping global leaders overcome their unconscious annoying habits and become more successful. His one-on-one coaching comes with a six-figure price tag - but in this book you get his great advice, told in graphic form for much less.

Thank you, Marshall Goldsmith and the folks at IU.  It was a terrific ride!

Now, let's put that advice into the context of the law profession.  I am working on it --- for you, of course.  Promise!

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 

Write a comment

Please login to comment

Remember Me

Join Us

Contribute to our blog and join the discussion.



Enter your email address to receive regular updates, news, and events.

Connect with us

Follow or subscribe