Susan Smith Blakely

Leadership Lessons for Women Lawyers

 

My friend, Caroline Dowd-Higgins, is an excellent career coach, motivational speaker and author of "This is Not the Career I Ordered."   Her recent blog "15 Leadership Lessons to Invigorate Your Career"  is worthy of your attention.  Caroline and I first met when she was the Career Services Dean at Indiana University Law, and I think it is no accident that her advice rings true for young lawyers.

Here is her list (with a little editorial help from me!):

Be Confident:  Confidence can be more important to career success than competence.   Confidence is developed by you and comes from within you, but new skills can be learned.  People like to be around those who are confident because it is uplifting and makes them feel confident, too;


Develop Your Professional Brand:  Learn to promote your unique skills so that others will recognize you as the "go to" person in some areas.  Even if you are not certain that your current specialty is what you want in the long run, take advantage of it in the short run to gain the confidence of others;


Read More:  Feed your brain with new information on even the busiest of days.  Intellectual stimulation is a common denominator for effective leaders and opens you up to diverse perspectives;
Identify 25 Influencers:  Think about who can help advance your career.  Inside and outside your field.  Meet those you can and read advice from those you can't;


Make Time to Help Others:  Helping others is a road to happiness.  It puts the focus on the needs of others and takes it away from obsessing about your future and your problems.  It puts you in control.  Even the busiest and most successful people need to make time to help others;


Emphasize Your Strengths and Minimize Your Weaknesses:  Sell yourself by playing to your strengths.  Nothing is ever gained by concentrating on the negative;


Have a Plan:  Your career plan can be as short as a list of goals and achievements for one year.  Ask yourself what you want to accomplish in the next 12 months, and write it down.  If you are being blocked in accomplishing your goals, think about moving to another career setting.  You are young and flexible;
Ask for Help:  It is not a sign of weakness, and you should not treat it like one.  Everyone gets help along the way.  Ask for help and give help;


Take Some Risks:  Get out of your comfort zone, whether it be to ask for help, to seek advice about your career goals or to take on the challenge of new work.  Stretching beyond your comfort zone involves some risk but also provides great opportunities for growth;


Value Your Differences:  Be YOU.  Do not change who and what you are to fit into any group.  Diverse backgrounds and viewpoints are essential for growth and development --- of people and of organizations;


Take Your Seat at the Table:  Be seen and be heard in the workplace.  Do not always have the attitude that no one wants to talk to you and that no one values your input.  The truth is that most people do not take the time to talk to colleagues because they are too busy or they are too insecure or socially awkward to start a conversation.  You be the one to initiate the conversation;


Fail Forward, Fast and Often:  Do not be afraid to fail.  Do your best and understand that failing is part of the journey toward success.  Learn from your mistakes and go forward; and
Be Curious:  Curiosity is key to success.  Learn something new about your firm and put it to good use at the right time.

(Yes, I know there are not 15!  I consolidated a few.)

Keep this list handy, and check it from time to time.  Ask yourself whether your short-term plan is working and how you can use these leadership lessons to get where you want to go.

And then, enjoy the journey!

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 new book, Best Friends at the Bar:  Top-Down Leadership for Women Lawyers, will focus on the responsibilities of law firm leaders and will be released by Wolters Kluwer Law & Business in 2015.

 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 LA Daily Journal, National Jurist, Washington Examiner Newspaper, Forbes Woman, DC Spotlight, Lawyerist. Com, Daily Muse 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" for her work on behalf of women in the law, and she is the recipient of a Lawyer Monthly Women in Law Award 2016.

 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 a career coach for the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy.   For more information, please visit www.bestfriendsatthebar.com. 

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