By Susan Smith Blakely • October 17, 2018•Careers, Firms and the Private Sector
Have you considered the option of a women-owned law firm? Even if it is not appropriate for this time in your career, you should file the information away for a time when it might make more sense.
I have written about women-owned law firms before, especially in my second book, Best Friends at the Bar: The New Balance for Today's Woman Lawyer(Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers, 2012). In that book, I devoted part of the discussion about alternatives to traditional law firms to the concept of women-owned firms because I recognized the importance of that option to those women who found traditional law firm practice unmanageable for their life styles. I wrote then, "If you can't beat them, band together and beat them better." And that is exactly what some women need to do and are doing.
It was obvious to me then that a women-owned law firm could be an attractive alternative because it gives women some of the flexibility they need for home and family and provides back-up from colleagues who understand the work-life struggle. Those colleagues are all in the same boat, and they "get" the challenges. Whether it is flexibility to deal with sick children, flexibility to pick up kids from school, flexibility to attend children's programs and teacher meetings, flexibility to deal with aging parents, or just plain flexibility to unwind a bit, mothers "get" other mothers. Or at least they should.
Now, years later, it appears there are more reasons than work-life that make women-owned firms appealing. According to a recent article, a growing number of women are establishing women-owned firms more for reasons of frustration with gender inequality in the profession than for reasons associated with raising children or having more time for family.
One of the founders of a women-owned firm is quoted in the article as saying, "If women were feeling valued, were getting properly rewarded for their efforts, were getting their fair share and it wasn't a constant struggle to get your origination credit, and feel you are part of the team --- then you would stay." Makes perfect sense.
As evidence of the growth in women-owned law firms, the Women's Business Enterprise National Council reports that 16 per cent of newly-certified law firms in the recent five-year period are women-owned. Similar statistics are reported by other trade associations, including the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Firms.
New rules are a part of these new firms. The emphasis is on fair compensation, equal promotions, full inclusion and better career development opportunities. The option of a women-owned law firm also allows "Big Law refugees" to have control over their lives, pursue entrepreneurial business ideas, and be compensated properly for their contributions. According to one woman partner quoted in the article, "They get control over their practices, treat their clients how they want to treat them, make more money, while also gaining some flexibility for work-life balance."
There was a particular emphasis in the article that I loved --- that lawyers' outside lives must function well enough for them to do their best work at the office. Bravo! It is so fundamental.
There is much more in this article for you to chew on. Check it out. File it away. It may become important to you one day.
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.