Women and Getting New Business

When many women attorneys think on challenges facing women in new business client acquisition into law firms, they consider largely on the big things, but also on subtle issues that are involved. For example, confidence among women or men is absolutely necessary to initiate relationships and business in order to request and solicit work. One attorney Sheryl Sandberg who wrote largely on the subject holds that women attorneys have a greater amount of doubting themselves than male attorneys. One article by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay which was entitled Confidence Gap in The Atlantic, analyzed the actual roots involved with women having lower levels of confidence. Related factors include relative hesitancy among women as opposed to men who are much less likely to “toot my own horn,” nor to apply tactics such as “hard close” tactics, nor were they as likely to request work from acquaintances and friends. Many women have become extremely successful doing sales position work, however the distinction often comes down to the fact that a woman is more likely to “sell” the company as opposed to selling their own skills. They are essentially more willing to toot their company’s horn as opposed to their own. They will gladly discuss the high value of their company’s offerings but are much less likely to discuss and promote their own legal expertise or experience.

At an even more basic level, however, comes the question regarding how women actually build business relationships which come into business for their firms. Women do not use social events in the same way that men, nor do they even use nor attend the same types of social activities that men attend.

When boiled down, a disproportionate amount of law firm rainmakers are men with the substantial high dollar business earners often being the most important factor of becoming a law firm partner. Women account for just 17% of partners among the top 200 firms according to NAWL’s 2013 study. This figure is even more important when you compare it to the fact that 47% of legal associates at the same firms being women. That means that from the jump to associate to becoming partner, the proportion of women in the legal workplace drops from one in two, to one in five.

And as the world of traditional values in the workplace have continued to change, there is a huge difference. In the past, it would have been unheard of for many women to invite a male business person to eat a meal alone to discuss new business. That is a change in values of our society. Some of this is a good thing and some of it is bad. And along those lines it is important to discuss the fact that women obviously bare children and in many cases they raise these children in the home. Even in cases where a woman has only one to two children and has help in the form of nannies, child care, and more, there is still the actual maternity leave and more that is involved in bringing children into the world. And this is not a bad thing to discuss the fact that children are a major part and play one of the largest roles in the lives of women, whether they are working out of the home or not.

Even these temporary breaks in a career for children are enough to throttle a career and change the track. In many dallas bankruptcy attorney situations, some top executives which twenty years ago were all male would be unheard to have been seen going to lunch with just a woman if she were not in a group.

So if drinks or dinner feel uncomfortable to a woman with a prospective male new business candidate, what options are available to women? First, most women who discussed this issue even included others in meetings anyway, even during lunch meetings. I interviewed often bring along others. This often holds a dual use by assuring the invitee that this invitation should not be mistaken as a come-on, and also helping to keep conversation moving by having reinforcements. This is certainly good form and good business strategy regardless. 

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