Susan Smith Blakely

MORE on the Georgetown Law Women’s Forum

In my last blog, I described a very successful Georgetown Law Women's Forum, which took place on Friday, February 27th.  I was there and moderated a panel "Leave Humble Behind:  Lead Your Cheering Section."  The panelists had a lot to say about being assertive with a balanced presentation that is authentic to your personality and your objectives in influencing people.  If you did not read that blog, you will want to do that.

How do you carry off not being humble and asserting yourself and, at the same time, not come across as narcissitic and egocentric?  That was the most challenging question for the panel, and the responses focused on finding a style of self-promotion that suits you, is authentic, and masters the skill of influence.  We also heard from a panel member, who is both female and black, and she described the special issues involved with being perceived as too assertive as a minority woman.  She described the near impossible double standard of fighting for what is fair and equitable and being perceived to be an aggressive “bitch” in the process.  It was a “damned if you do and damned if you don’t" scenario.

Is there a role for "charm" in self-promotion?  That was a challenging concept for the panel, and the responses varied.  It was acknowledged that many women have charm and other feminine resources (as distinguished from sexuality and flirtation) that can be used to their advantage in disarming people and influencing them.  However, the panel also recognized that you must be authentic in the use of charm.  Do not manufacture it or that  will be obvious, and your efforts will backfire.

Unlikeability also was addressed  by the panel.  Studies show that women can become unlikeable if they exhibit assertive behavior.  The panelists agreed that women lawyers seem to be so far behind in promoting themselves enough that being likeable is a risk worth taking.

The Q and A was lively, and everyone agreed that it had been a great panel.   I also enjoyed the panel on "Becoming a Leader in the Private Sector," and I will share that information with you in my next blog.

Once again, Georgetown Law put on a winner of a Women’s Forum.  Don’t miss it next year!

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 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, 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.

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 


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