Susan Smith Blakely

Women Lawyers Need Men to “Step Up” Like They Did

It was reported in the NY Times and other news outlets recently that male managers are afraid of mentoring women in the #METOO Era.  Maybe you read about it.  Or maybe you were watching the discussion between Stephanie Ruhle of MSNBC and her guests last week about those reports.  I was watching, and it was incredible.  If you did not catch it, check it out here.

Or maybe you were at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January and heard the buzz about it there.  Apparently lots of males from around the world were sharing their fears.

I have empathy for these men.  Really I do.  I know that they are uncertain these days about whether their words and actions will be taken wrong and they will be judged harshly.  Women also know this feeling.  We know just how uncomfortable that kind of uncertainty can be.  We have lived it.

When men say that they don't want to go to dinner alone with a woman or travel alone with one, some of us can relate to that.  Some of us have been on the other side of it.

As an associate lawyer in the early 1980's, I was told by a partner that he was taking me off a case because I was "a temptation" to him and he did not want to travel with me.  We were weeks away from a trial in a case that I had devoted a large part of a year's effort to.  He was uncomfortable, and I was about to get one of the biggest opportunities of my budding career taken from me because of his discomfort.  So, I had to get over my own discomfort in speaking truth to power, as I stared him down and told him there was no problem.  He was not a temptation to me.  And we got on the plane and won the case.

Women have been outnumbered in business for decades and misunderstood.  We have been told that it was our fault for wearing the wrong clothes or looking one way or another.  In other words, we did not look like men.

We have been judged for being too feminine or not feminine enough.  We've been overlooked and sidelined.  Our careers have been put on hold.  We just did not fit in.

But, we continued to show up.  We took the risk of continuing to look and dress like nothing was wrong with us and power through.  And now we have accomplished critical mass, and they want to take it away from us again.

Now it is time for the men to power through.  The leadership in professions like law is mostly men, and we need those men to mentor young women lawyers and help turn them into the leaders of the future.  We need the men to be as careful with their behavior as we had to be with ours and to stop punishing women for their own bad choices.  We need them to step up to the responsibility of creating the culture of care that is desperately needed in this profession.

And we need it now.

Hopefully they have the right stuff to deliver.

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

 Ms. Blakely’s new book for ALL young lawyers, What Millennial Lawyers Want:  A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice, will be released by Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers in the summer of 2018.

 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 ABA Journal, the LA Daily Journal, National Jurist, Washington Examiner Newspaper, Forbes Woman, Women Lawyers Journal (NAWL), DC Spotlight, Lawyerist.com, Daily Muse, Lawyer and Statesman, Law.com, Georgetown Law Magazine, 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" and the Lawyer Monthly “Women in Law Award 2016”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 is certified as 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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