Susan Smith Blakely

Women Lawyers of the Sandwich Generation

You have heard of the Sandwich Generation, right?  The generation of women, who have responsibility for their children and also for their aging parents and family members.  Although I am technically no longer "raising my children," I still can relate to the challenges and struggles of those of you who are, and I definitely am helping to care for my nearly 100-year-old Mom.  Some of you may be actively engaged with raising children and caring for aging adults, and I wish you well.  It is a lot of work.

Mom recently broke her hip, and I made an emergency run to the Midwest to care for her.  While I was there, I read a blog on the Above the Law website that drove home the meaning of Sandwich Generation once again.  The author of the article made the case that litigation should be conducive to a flex-time schedule as long as all players, associates and partners alike, put operations  in place to reduce unnecessary "fire drills."  Here is an excerpt from that article:

Unfortunately, the court is not an associate’s only master. If the judge is the king, the partner is the sheriff. And even if the king is benevolent, the sheriff can make life very, very unpleasant. Case in point: how many associates know the pain of diligently researching and drafting a brief for weeks before it’s due, getting the draft to the partner a week before the deadline, conscientiously following up once or twice a day, starting to sweat as the time trickles away, and then being handed a mark-up of your draft the morning of the deadline, with so many edits that the pages may as well be bleeding? The partner knows the filing deadline is midnight, so it should be plenty of time for the associate to make the edits. And it always is — we manage to get it done even if it kills us.

This is a perspective that needs to be discussed more, and I have included it in my new book, Best Friends at the Bar:  Top-Down Leadership for Women Lawyers, which will be released later this year.  In fact, you will find one of my anecdotes there that is very similar to what the blog author relates --- but it could have cost me my license to practice.  All because of a "bad sheriff partner." 

Real leaders, the ones who want to develop the considerable talent that women lawyers represent, will pay attention to these discussions.  There is a lot that can be managed better at the partner level that will make the team effort easier and the goals more achievable.  And it is not rocket science or walking over hot coals.  It is organization and prioritization.  It is planning and consideration.  It is getting procrastination in check.  It is, as the author of the blog states, to avoid the "completely unnecessary fire drills."  Wouldn't that be a breath of fresh air!

Check the article out and tell me what you think.  Have you had experiences like this?

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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