By Susan Smith Blakely • May 07, 2020•Careers, Other Career Issues
A lot is changing in the law profession today. The legal websites, blogs and periodicals are following all of it, and I have an article coming out soon in the ABA Journal addressing what law firm leaders can learn from coronavirus. I will share a link with you when I have it.
Technology has rapidly changed law practice during the isolation we all are experiencing, and there is well-informed speculation that these same technological applications will be just as valuable post COVID-19 as they have been during mandatory working from home. The need for expensive brick and mortar offices will be highly scrutinized during the economic downturn, especially, and it is very likely that they will not be justifiable in the future to the degree that they have been for the first 200-plus years of the profession.
For women lawyers, the lessons learned during the age of coronavirus may present particularly important opportunities. The value of working from home no longer has to be explained and justified as in the past, and the work-life benefits of remote practice will be particularly advantageous for women, who are the primary caregivers for children as well as for aging and compromised family members.
Women lawyers most certainly will be among those who are furloughed during the economic downturn, and they will begin to recognize the value of banding together with other women to form women's law firms and create environments where they can support each other and continue their careers. The new technologies will be key to the success of these practices, not only to support work-life aspirations but also to facilitate lower billable rates and be competitive. The use of programs like Zoom and Teams will maximize time and allow for more affordable delivery of services.
These new business ventures will need to include business development plans that are innovative and create value. Hosting legal education programs that showcase clients and encourage networking is just one of the ways to respond to this need and give women-owned law firms advantages in competing for business.
In this context, I am reminded of a law firm program I contributed to recently and the very positive impression it left on me and other contributors and attendees. In that case, it was not a women-owned law firm, but the model I experienced is easily transferable to other settings.
Here's how it worked. The law firm identified a theme that would be interesting and valuable to current and prospective clients and created a program around that theme. The program consisted of panel discussions, which included clients and guest experts like me, and law firm lawyers as featured speakers. The goal was to familiarize attendees with the law firm expertise and specialties but also to provide takeaways in terms of updated legal information and connections to enhance the business ventures of the client attendees.
It is a magical combination. Throw in coffee, pastries, and a little lunch, and you have a winning formula. Most women are capable of planning these kinds of programs in their sleep, and the result is business development that is effective and fun.
Try it. You'll like it! It is the kind of creativity that is going to be invaluable as the law profession morphs and evolves to meet the challenges and needs of a rapidly changing world.
Be flexible. Be creative. Be the women lawyers you were meant to be.
Susan Smith Blakely is the Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC and an award-winning, 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. Her third book in the series, Best Friends at the Bar: Top-Down Leadership for Women Lawyers, focuses on the responsibilities of law firm leaders and was released by Wolters Kluwer Law & Business in 2015.
Ms. Blakely’s new book for ALL young lawyers, What Millennial Lawyers Want: A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice, will be released by Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers in the summer of 2018.
Ms. Blakely frequently speaks at colleges and universities, law schools, law firms and law organizations, and she has been featured in media including Corporate Counsel Magazine, the ABA Journal, the LA Daily Journal, National Jurist, Washington Examiner Newspaper, Forbes Woman, Women Lawyers Journal (NAWL), DC Spotlight, Lawyerist.com, Daily Muse, Lawyer and Statesman, Law.com, Georgetown Law Magazine, Legal Toolkit Podcast, and Huffington Post Business. Ms. Blakely also is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at conferences on women's issues in business and the law profession, and she has been a featured speaker at the US Department of Justice, Civil Division. She is the recipient of the Ms. JD 2015 "Sharing Her Passion Award" and the Lawyer Monthly “Women in Law Award 2016” for her work on behalf of women in the law.
Ms. Blakely graduated from the University of Wisconsin with distinction and from Georgetown University Law Center where she was a teaching fellow. She is a member of the CoachSource global network of leadership coaches and is certified as a career coach for the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy. For more information, please visit www.bestfriendsatthebar.com