Susan Smith Blakely

Women Lawyers Should Avoid the Heat

  Yes, it is very hot this summer in most parts of America, but this is not the kind of heat I mean. The heat I am talking about occurs when boys and girls start fooling around on the job.  There is no place for this in the law profession, and I hope you know it.  I made it clear to you in my first book, Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Aspen Publishers 2009).  Presenting yourself as a professional to avoid mixed or wrong sexual/relationship messages is serious business…

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Susan Smith Blakely

In Praise of Independent Women Lawyers

Happy Independence Day!  Yes, it is about small town parades, fireworks and sparklers, burgers on the grill, mountains of ice cream, and being together with family and friends. It only comes once a year, so knock yourself out!  But, during the festivities, do not forget about the "independence" part. I am not just talking about the Declaration of Independence or what it has meant to the evolution of this country where we all enjoy freedoms and independence unparalleled in the world.  That is the focus, but it goes much further than that.  It is about national independence and also about…

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Susan Smith Blakely

Good News for Women Lawyers With Families

Here is some very good news for women lawyers with family responsibilities.  In her article for Above The Law, Staci Zaretsky describes a new program for women litigators who no longer can make traditional law firm practice work because of childcare responsibilities and other aspects of family life.  She outlines a "hot new trend" of lawyers leaving law firms to join what she describes as a growing field of litigation finance and highlights the efforts of Fulbrook Capital Management in developing a program to fit the needs of women lawyers. Known as "Virtual Women in Law," the program is Fulbrook's…

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Susan Smith Blakely

Progress on Parental Leave—Not Just for Women Lawyers

The progress on maternity leave for lawyers has been significant in recent history, and more and more women lawyers are benefiting from law firm policies that are slowly coming into the 21st Century.  It is not surprising that the needs of mothers, who actually carry and give birth to the babies, should be the initial focus of parental leave, but the needs of the fathers are finally getting attention, as well.  Firms like Winston and Strawn and Orrick, that give both mothers and fathers up to 20 and 22 weeks of paid leave, respectively, are leading the way.  Orrick's policy…

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Susan Smith Blakely

The Big Picture on Gender Bias and Women Lawyers

The number of gender bias law suits and gender bias complaints against law firms is on the rise, based on this article in AmLaw Daily, which quotes David Sanford, the chairman of Sanford Heisler Sharp, who represents most of the plaintiffs in the current lawsuits.  Sanford also has represented countless other women lawyers in complaints against their law firms based on unequal opportunities and unequal pay as compared to their male colleagues. Most of you probably have read at least something about the current law suits, but there is more that may come as a surprise to you.   What…

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Susan Smith Blakely

More Feedback for Young Women Lawyers

This is a topic that I address whenever I speak on effective leadership for young women lawyers.  However, the need for valuable feedback to young lawyers about the quality of their work is not gender specific.  They all need it, and most of them do not get enough of it. Not giving good feedback to junior lawyers is a real failing of senior lawyers, and it lowers the level of effective leadership in law firms.  Relying on annual reviews as the only way to address issues of work product, professional behavior and related issues is not serving the young lawyers…

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Susan Smith Blakely

A Strong Message about Leadership for Women Lawyers

Today I write to you about effective leadership, recognizing that yesterday effective leadership intersected with politics in the American experience.  However, there should be nothing of partisan politics in seeing that experience for what it was:  Killing the messenger. When I speak to audiences of attorneys and law students about effective leadership, as addressed in my book, Best Friends at the Bar:  Top-Down Leadership for Women Lawyers, one of the concepts that I stress is taking responsibility for your own actions and not killing the messenger.  It is a fundamental theme of effective leadership, as recognized by the most well-respected global…

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Susan Smith Blakely

A Primer for Lawyer/Moms: Just Out and a Must Have

I first met Lori Mihalich-Levin soon after her first baby was born and when she was in the overwhelmed-by-baby-and-the-thought-of-returning-to-work stage.   Our lunches were enjoyable but a bit somber.  She was struggling, and I wanted to help her. Lori and I had been connected by a mutual friend at Georgetown Law.  Although there were many years between my years at the law school and Lori's, we had a lot in common.  Returning to law practice after not just one, but two, babies had been difficult for me, and now that was happening to Lori.  It is hard to know what…

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Susan Smith Blakely

Solutions for the Low Retention Rates for Law Firm Associates

The subject of the low retention rates for women lawyers, as published recently on Law.com, was addressed in last week's blog.  What?  You did not read the last blog?   Shame, shame.  I write them so that you will read them and have a "leg up" in making career decisions.  Fortunately, former blogs are so easy to find on my web site.  But to help you out, here is the link to that blog.  I understand how busy you are. The solutions offered by the Law.com article focus on the needs to run law firms more like traditional businesses to eliminate…

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Susan Smith Blakely

Why Women Lawyers Leave Firms:  Astonishing New Statistics

Why do women lawyers leave? I have been pondering, speaking about and writing about this issue for a decade.  It is fundamental that, before we can try to fix our profession with solutions like lateral hiring, mergers and expanding into new markets, we must delve deep into the roots of the attrition problems. For years it was hard to get law firm management to talk about the high rates of attrition for women lawyers.  For many of those years, new law graduates were plentiful, and it was a buyers' market.  That all changed with the Great Recession and the fall…

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