Susan Smith Blakely

Be Aware of Warning Signs of Instability in Young Lawyers

  The facts shared this week in an open letter from the widow of a Sidley lawyer were shocking and heartbreaking.  The suicide of a 42-year-old partner in the LA office raised many issues of our responsibilities as lawyers to our colleagues. It was discovered too late that this suicide victim suffered from a form of perfectionism that created so much pressure, anxiety and insecurity that the only way out seemed to be to take his own life.  If those facts came as a complete shock to everyone around him, that would give those of us in the profession some relief.  It…

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Susan Smith Blakely

LSAT Haters:  Listen Up!

Everyone hates the LSAT, and that is the way we like it.  Hating people is not good --- in fact it is very, very bad --- but hating tests is OK.  So many former LSAT takers are very happy hating this ridiculous test (which only predicts success in the first semester of law school), and we want our bad memories left in tact. But, now we are told that the LSAT has a benefit beyond giving some people an edge toward law school acceptance.  The benefit approach is just plain not fair or productive in the hating process. Here's the scoop. …

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Susan Smith Blakely

Women-Owned Law Firms As Practice Options

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…

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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 Law by 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…

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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 dreams.  Bad because…

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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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