By Ava Lee • April 01, 2016•Ms. JD, Conference, Writers in Residence, Careers, Firms and the Private Sector, Issues, Balancing Private and Professional Life, Mentoring and Networking, •Features
The 21st century workplace has become fertile ground for political correctness due to rapidly evolving norms. Situations historically dismissed as humorous, petty or inconsequential are being recognized as clear signs of discrimination and bias. Ironically, individuals who do not represent the injured party often times evaluate and establish workplace norms.
The rhetorical question arises: How can we levy the institutional inequities present in the modern-day workplace? Place women in discretionary positions. The value of discretionary positions lies in its decision-making power. Decisions shape how a firm thinks and responds in a given situation. The modern day workplace is a composed of many different tribes. If one tribe, creates and enforces the standard, others must comply. Therefore, women in discretionary positions add another facet allowing for more representative and flexible policy making in the workplace.
Now, the more important question arises: how does one encourage budding women lawyers to pursue these discretionary positions? Ms.JD does an incredible job reaching out to law schools and creating a female collective. Its existing partnership with NWLSO can encourage organizations on campus to implement an initiative, which focuses on placing women in these discretionary roles. It is common knowledge that law school does do enough to instill students with practical knowledge. Although law school prepares individuals to think differently, it fails to adequately prepare individuals to act differently. Thus, navigating the murky waters of law firm life becomes yet another obstacle within itself.
One method to remedy this is for local women organizations to host workshops and train budding lawyers how to negotiate. Workshops could place special emphasis on developing a professional persona. Skillsets such as public speaking, networking, role-playing, salary negotiating, and other soft power skills should be encouraged. In addition, organizations can vamp up existing mentorship program by placing particular emphasis on aiming for discretionary roles. Mentors can expound on their personal experiences in pursuing discretionary roles at firms but also encourage creativity. There are other legal avenues that entitle discretionary control beyond partnership such as Head of HR or Head of Operations.
Ideally, the workshop classes could be held every summer in conjunction with the law students’ ongoing clerkship or summer associate position. This concurrent scheduling can be conducive as it allows students to practice what they have learned and apply it to real world settings. In effect, the workshop could have a significant impact on how student maintains and succeeds in their job following graduation.
By creating interactive workshops during the summer, local women chapters can advance opportunities for women on a micro-level. Generalized statements of change is not as important as actually realizing change. With the right strategy, budding female lawyers can challenge existing standards and set what people can call the New Normal.