Gearing Up for LaddHer Up: Michelle Banks Gives the Inside Scoop on Ms. JD’s Upcoming Retreat

“Women helping women has a positive impact. Powerful women helping women starting out in their law careers will be game-changing."

Michelle Banks is one of the inaugural LaddHer Up Host Committee Co-Chairs who brought this empowering, unique retreat to life. As you may have seen around the web, the LaddHer Up retreat for general counsel and early career women associates is a distinctive professional development program hosted by Ms. JD on Thursday, October 18 and Friday, October 19, 2018. Keep reading to find out Michelle’s tips for associates attending LaddHer Up, what’s in it for law firms, the difference between mentoring and sponsoring, and book recommendations…

“Women helping women has a positive impact. Powerful women helping women starting out in their law careers will be game-changing,” said Michelle, who is a Senior Advisor and Executive Coach at BarkerGilmore LLC and keynoted last year’s Ms. JD Conference at UCLA School of Law. In her prior role, Michelle was third in a line of four successive women General Counsel at Gap, Inc. You can learn more about Michelle’s career path in her interview with Ms. JD Fellow, Akunna Ofudo.

What’s Michelle’s advice to associates attending LaddHer Up?
  1. Attend the recreational activates! They are designed to provide an opportunity to meet in smaller groups, so associates and general counsel can get to know each other in a casual setting. It might be tempting to take the break to bill some hours, but this is your chance to meet other people like Michelle.
  2. Take advantage of the career meet-ups for one-on-one and two-on-one career coaching. When you do, be prepared and come with questions so that both you and the GC you’re speaking with can get the most out of it.
  3. After LaddHer Up, send updates to the GCs you connect with once or twice a year. If you live in the same city, consider inviting them for coffee.

Why should law firms send associates to LaddHer Up? “I believe the law firm associates who attend will learn, will be inspired, and will make valuable lifetime connections,” Michelle said. 

I’ve seen that mentoring comes naturally to Michelle, and she had a few books to recommend for people interested in learning more about the topic: The Lawyer’s Guide to Mentoring and Sponsoring Women: What Men Need to Know, both by Ida Abbott. In addition, she suggests adding Courageous Counsel: Conversations with Women General Counsel in the Fortune 500 by Michele Coleman Mayes to your reading list. Associates attending LaddHer Up may also find useful Michelle’s definitions of mentoring and sponsoring (spoiler alert: they are not the same thing!).

“Mentoring is providing support, advice, and guidance as well as making suggestions to people and allowing people to bounce ideas off you. It’s a soft activity that happens between you and the other person. For sponsoring, the sponsor has to be in a position of power. The sponsor advocates for and champions the person in rooms with others. It’s a more external activity – not just coffee, lunch, or reviewing a presentation.”

Michelle has generously volunteered her time and effort to help make LaddHer Up a success. She said that through the process, she’s “learned that women general counsel are extremely enthusiastic about helping educate and guide women early in their law careers and anxious to help make it easier for these women than their own personal experiences.”

Get excited, associates! As Michelle put it, “This retreat is a unique opportunity to engage with successful women in-house legal leaders at the highest general counsel level who have tremendous wisdom to share and are volunteering their time to provide personal career and business development advice”. We still have a few spots left for the retreat before the sign-up deadline next week! You can find out more here.

Thank you, Michelle, from the Ms. JD team, for your invaluable contributions to LaddHer Up, Ms. JD, and the success of women in the legal profession!

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