Susan Smith Blakely

In Praise of Lawyer Moms

I am a lawyer/mom.  Although my children are grown now and have become lawyers themselves, the memories of struggles as a lawyer/mom are still very vivid for me --- as well as the joys and the successes.  It is not an easy "row to hoe" as my own mom would have said. So, when I read several articles about another lawyer/mom, including one on Above the Lawby Grover Cleveland, author of  Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks, I surely identified with it. I found, however, that my identification with Michelle Travis, the woman lawyer/professor of law/mom in these articles, ran deeper than just…

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Susan Smith Blakely

What All Young Lawyers Want:  Effective and Caring Mentors

I just finished reading a memoir by one of my favorite writers, Dani Shapiro.  Her book, Hourglass, is an exploration of relationships and how people interact and treat each other over the span of time. She is a wonderful writer, and I highly recommend her books to you. Hourglass explores what individuals need on the road to satisfaction, and it includes the following quote, "Be who you needed when you were younger." In my own writing and in many of my remarks to young lawyers and law firm leaders, I often say, "You cannot be who you cannot see."  It makes the case…

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Susan Smith Blakely

What Do RBG and Millennial Lawyers Have in Common?

RBG.  You have to love her!  And I do.  I loved the documentary about her life, and I love how relevant she continues to be. I first saw Justice Ginsburg speak more than a decade ago when she was addressing an audience of law students and young lawyers.  Yes, her scholarship and her role as a breaker of glass ceilings amazed me, but it did not stop there.  Her sense of humor and her humble way of speaking was surprising for someone at her high perch, and it was heartwarming.  She knows how to get attention without hitting the listener…

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Susan Smith Blakely

A Young Woman Lawyer Looks to the Past to Inform the Future

I have to share with you the story of a remarkable young woman lawyer.  I do not know her, although I wish I did.  It would be a pleasure and an honor.  Lina Khan is the kind of dedicated and passionate young lawyer who, undoubtedly, will make her mark on this world. I read her story recently in an article in the New York Times, and it inspired me.  Not because I know anything about anti-trust law.  Not because I have a secret agenda involving busting monopolies.  Just because I admire the intellectual journey and passion of this young woman. She is…

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Susan Smith Blakely

Women Lawyers Are Not Equal

Women lawyers are not equal — at least not in the private sector.  Plain and simple.  I know that you do not expect to hear this from me nor do you want to hear this from me, but it is true. Equality is defined as “the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities.”  If you compare private sector female lawyers to private sector male lawyers on issues of status and opportunities, you begin to see the inequality.  (“Rights” are derived from constitutional law and legislation and are not addressed here.  But, if you want a history of women’s rights in America,…

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Susan Smith Blakely

Truth Telling about Law School Debt

  Law school student loan debt.  Just the mention of it can cause most newly-minted lawyers to break out in cold sweats.  It is always on their minds.  It is always standing in the way of getting on with their lives. My children both are lawyers, and the amounts of their student loan debt is shocking.  Fortunately, our family is in a position to help them pay down a large portion of that debt.  But, many young lawyers are not in that position, and I feel so bad for them. Bad because they are in situations where they cannot follow their…

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Susan Smith Blakely

Perfect Pitch for Young Women Lawyers

Are you musical?  Have you had experience singing in a choir?  If so, you probably are familiar with the concept of “perfect pitch.”   For the rest of you, perfect pitch is the ability of a person to identify or re-create a given musical note without the benefit of a reference tone.  Perfect pitch results in great vocalists, who can land a note on the musical scale exactly and in a way that is pleasing to the ear, leaving the listener with the desire to hear more. Oddly, perfect pitch works the same in business — and especially for lawyers.  Delivering the perfect…

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Susan Smith Blakely

Top Women Lawyers Tell ALL about Landing Clients

Most of you know by now that developing clients is the road to success in law firms.  Crudely, it has been said that "you eat what you kill."  In other words, if you bring in the work, you will be paid handsomely.   Nothing else comes close to assuring a successful career as a lawyer. That is why there is so much emphasis today on client development and networking.  Concentrating on acquiring the soft skills that are necessary to make you attractive to potential clients is time well spent.  However, soft skills are not taught in law school, and very…

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Susan Smith Blakely

Women Lawyers and Lawyer Couples

Two-lawyer households:  I know a little about those.  My husband and I graduated two years apart from law school, and the following 40-plus years are history.  Not only the history of our two careers and more than three law firms and public service for each of us, but also the history of a couple and a family --- which now includes two children, both of them lawyers.  As we prepare to celebrate our 48th wedding anniversary, I think you could say that it worked for us.  But, it was not easy. First, there were the years when our two careers…

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Susan Smith Blakely

Retaining Valuable Associate Lawyers—- But for How Long and Why?

For those of you who care about what is going on in Big Law, here is a new development worth checking out --- and with critical eyes. Weil Gotshal & Manges announced last week that the firm "hopes to improve associate retention by cutting the wait for partnership" from 9 1/2 years to 7 1/2 years.  Sounds good, right?  Still a long time to wait for partnership, but better by two years.  The firm also stated that "substantially all" of the 7 1/2 year associates will be promoted to partner or counsel. That takes a little more explaining.   New partners…

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