Susan Smith Blakely

What Women Lawyers Should Look For In a Law Firm

Are you still in the throes of on campus and off campus interviews?  Are you having fun yet?

If experience guides me well, many of you still are in the process of interviews for summer jobs and associate positions after graduation, and many of those interviews are with law firms.  Here are some suggestions on what young women lawyers should look for in a law firm.

  • Pay attention to the dynamics of the firm.  Are men and women professionals interacting, and is the dynamic compatible with your work style?
  • Is there evidence of healthy work-life balance or do most of the lawyers lead what appear to be workaholic lifestyles?Who controls the conversations and are women's opinions respected in those conversations?Is there a respectful environment for women lawyers and women non-lawyers?Are women represented at positions of law firm leadership and management?
  • Is there a Women's Initiative or a Diversity Committee and does the firm take those efforts seriously and invest in them?
  • Are both male and female lawyers mentoring young women lawyers?
  • Are women represented at all levels of the firm and not just at the associate and of counsel levels? 
  • Are women associates, even those with part-time or flexible schedules, getting quality work?
  • Do the women of the firm support each other?; and
  • Is there evidence of gender discrimination and stereotyping of women, including unconscious bias?

Pay attention to these things.  If you feel uncomfortable asking senior associates or partners questions about some of these matters, take your questions to a different level.  Ask a more junior associate out for a drink, and hope that he or she will be candid in response to your questions.  Your future may depend on it.

Most of all, good luck!


Susan Smith Blakely is the Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC and a 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.
Ms. Blakely graduated from the University of Wisconsin with distinction and from Georgetown University Law Center where she taught legal research and writing. She also is a Marshall Goldsmith trained career and leadership coach and a member of the CoachSource global network of leadership coaches.  She also is a career coach for the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy.   For more information, please visit 


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