Are You David Or Goliath? Why Small Law Firms Will Dominate In The Future

Is the death of BigLaw on the horizon?

Society loves a good David and Goliath story, where the underdog transforms a perceived weakness into his advantage. We feel better knowing that size isn’t always the only thing to matter in life or in business.

BigLaw has long been the legal services industry’s Goliath. Small firms have struggled to keep pace and survive.

All the best talent graduating from law school are quickly scooped up by the biggest cities’ best names.

However, for a long time, clients have demanded more than just power and influence. They want innovative practices, diversity, and mostly they want discounted rates that large firms don’t offer. With an oversupply of capable lawyers, clients can finally afford to demand services tailored exactly to their needs, which is why we’re seeing more and more small firms face off and take down behemoth opponents.

In turn, doe-eyed associates are no longer looking for long hours typical of BigLaw firms. Young associates want an even work-life balance, flexibility, and a job that gives them a sense of purpose.

“What I observe every day as the CEO of Priori, a curated marketplace that connects business owners with vetted lawyers at transparent prices, is that mid-tier firms are shedding associates something serious,” writes Basha Rubin in her articleBig Law, Big Problems: The Bright Future For Small Firms,” for Forbes.

“These lawyers want flexibility and independence—to service the clients that inspire them, at prices and pricing models that don’t cause potential business to blanch, at a rhythm and schedule that is sustainable.”

Luckily for both clients and lawyers, technology has provided a means for flexible workplaces, at-home offices, and more efficient work practices.

As a result, individuals are starting to form their own firms, servicing clients that they admire, that they choose. “These lawyers are entrepreneurial, gung ho, and ready to compete,” continues Rubin.

“Technology is the catalyst for their coming dominance.”

BigLaw is tied to tradition, fixed costs, and fixed mindsets. It’s much harder to convince a dozen veteran partners to try something new than it is at a smaller firm. Training associates and coordinating tasks at BigLaw firms with thousands of employees is much more challenging.

BigLaw is slower to adopt new technology or ideas. On the other hand, small firms, although lacking in manpower or pure numbers, are proving surprisingly efficient.

“Previously disaggregated and fragmented, they can use technology to improve their efficiency with new tools that automate document production and assembly, workflow management research, and contract review. (PlainLegal, LawPal, Diligence Engine, Ebrevia, Ravel Law, Judicata) With this arsenal, they can maintain high-quality work at lower prices,” boldly purports Rubin in her article for Forbes.

And lower prices have become the number one selling point to attract clients.

Not all legal professionals are convinced, however, than small firms are in slingshot range of BigLaw. An post on 3 Geeks and a Law Blogreacted to Rubin’s article, stating:

“BigLaw may suffer on the edges (ala Patton Boggs), but clients still need their services. Small Law can’t or won’t step into the breach (except in certain circumstances). And LPO’s will continue to nibble at the edges, but are not apparently taking away large portions of legal work from large firms. So the Big Disruption seems unlikely any time soon.”

According to 3 Geeks, legal services remain too complex for small firms to completely take over. Who is best to settle complexity? An equally complex system of services offered by BigLaw.

Whatever your opinion on the rise of small firms or fall of BigLaw, one things all parties agree on? Legal technology is arming the best combatants.

Regardless of size, if you want to be successful, your firm must be competent in today’s cutting-edge technical skills.

Malcolm Gladwell thinks Goliath was the victim, the real underdog who never stood a chance with his oafish sword against the skillful David and his quick and deadly slingshot.

Because, in the end, you never want to be the one who brings a knife to a gunfight.

Think your firm already has the technical skills necessary to compete in this fast-paced, tech world? Take C4CM’s course: Suffolk/Flaherty Technology Audit: Is Your Firm Ready?

D. Casey Flaherty, corporate counsel at Kia Motors America, developed this technology audit and tested nine large firms. All nine firms failed! Of the associates approached the assignments in ways that would have required five to 15 times longer than necessary. At $200 to $400 per associate hour, from the client’s perspective this equals inefficiency and wasted billable time.

Taking his tech audit to the next level, Flaherty is now working with Professor Andrew M. Perlman at Suffolk University to formalize the outside counsel tech audit as a FREE tool for other inside counsel. What does this free audit mean for your firm?

Will your lawyers pass the tech test?

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Millennial Employees Not Lazy After All? New Study Suggests Firms Should Give More Vacation To Employees

They say millennial employees are lazy—is it true?

As much as forty percent of millennial employees reported feeling guilty for using their vacation time, as opposed to just 18 percent of baby boomers, according to a recent study by Randstad (via Forbes).

So, does this mean baby boomers are lollygagging on the beach? Not really.

In fact, both baby boomer and millennial employees seem to be glued to their phones for work even on vacation. Almost half (42%) of employees reported feeling obligated to check their email during vacation, reports the same study by Randstad.

It seems millennial employees are, actually, concerned about their careers. Unfortunately, all this concern—both in the office and on the beach—is affecting productivity. By not taking a stress-free, work-free vacation, employees do not return to work “refreshed,” implies the Randstad study.

Returning to work “refreshed” is exactly why employers promote time off in the first place. What’s to be done?

“Studies about millennials always say there are four Fs this generation places before all else: fun, family, freedom, and friends,” said Jim Link, Randstad chief HR officer to Forbes.

“But then you look at this information that says these folks are on board more than any other generation, and don’t feel the need to delineate between work and life.”

At least one study seems to imply that millennials do prioritize their work life; in fact, they can’t seem to separate it from their recreational life. With all this talk of a work-life balance, for millennials, at least, this term can be modified to just “balance.”

Should employers, then, help their employees compartmentalize their life? Should managers encourage employees to turn their phones off after work and remain technology-free on vacation?

“Historically, up until the last 10 or 15 years, [work and home life] was much easier to separate. That’s just no longer the case. It’s become harder, technologically speaking, to really build that separation in,” said Link.

One way to return to the “good ole days” is to consider building work-life separation into workplace policies.

For example, lawyers notoriously take little vacation. And, many female attorneys feel pressure to return to work as soon as possible after giving birth.

Firms, as a result, should encourage lengthy maternal and paternal leave. Stress and fatigue are not just dangerous to a person’s health, they’re dangerous to the firm as they affect productivity and increase the likelihood of making mistakes.

Just like falling asleep at the wheel, exhaustion can be equally deadly to your firm’s most important cases.

Consider implementing an “on-call” system not unlike the medical profession. Make a few younger associates “on-call” for certain evenings. Circulate lists of who is available on which nights to senior managers and partners.

The system doesn’t have to be complicated, and maybe instead of “on-call”, your system would give associates just one night a week to be “off-call”.

However you decide to implement such a program, the relief an employee feels at knowing they do not have to answer calls or emails—even for one night alone—can become more relaxing than a week spent listening to ocean waves.

Also, don’t make your employees feel guilty for taking time off.  In this economic climate, reassure your staff that taking vacation time is not a downward spiral toward being laid off with policies that make a certain amount of annual leave mandatory.

Firms with creative and flexible policies regarding mental and physical helath, as well as time off, have happier, more productive, and loyal employees. In the end, that’s the kind of firm that attracts star talent and the most clients.

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Does Your Office Feel Like A War-zone? How To Successfully End Inter-Office Conflict

Nobody likes inter-office conflict—whether it’s disagreement between two employees or disagreement with a manager. Without resolving conflicts quickly, however, they can fester. Before you know it, the office feels like a war-zone and you’re looking for a cease-fire.

There are three major types of inter-office conflict, according to Ben Rabon in an article for weLEAD online magazine: (1) disputes over task responsibility; (2) disputes over how something should be done; and (3) disputes related to personality and work styles.

Because conflicts can lead to lower productivity, firms should work quickly to resolve disputes.

Your firm should have informal preferences and formal policies regarding employee reporting of workplace disputes.

First, it may sound counter-intuitive, but communicate your preferences, as a manager, for internal conflict management. For example, if two of your employees are in disagreement over task responsibility or how a task should be done, tell all of your employees that you prefer they work it out amongst themselves first.

In the event these two employees cannot reach an agreement, invite them to send you a joint e-mail, for example, explaining the situation. By expressing your preference for a joint e-mail, you are tacitly discouraging your employees from writing you numerous e-mails regarding the same topic or complaining about their peer.

In addition, by writing a joint e-mail, you are also encouraging these two employees to collaborate and cooperate—if only on a two-line memo—which is, after all, the root of their initial problem.

If this process breaks down, and these two employees are at such odds in terms of personality or working style that they cannot craft a simple e-mail, then it may be time for formal intervention. This is where formal policies regarding employee disagreement should be circulated.

These policies are generally straightforward in terms of written notice, formal meeting with a manager, and a note placed in personnel files. At this point you may need to make use of some conflict resolution skills. Rabon suggests the following five mediation steps:

  1. Air all viewpoints from both sides
  2. Clarify the problem and the interests involved
  3. Brainstorm solutions with both parties
  4. Help both sides reach agreements
  5. Be aware of your own bias and do not let it affect your ability to remain impartial

In many conflict resolution situations, the parties simply want to be heard. So, it’s important to be a good listener. Once all opinions are voiced, you are able—as a manager—to implement a solution and assign tasks how you see fit.

Don’t forget to explain your logic behind the decisionmaking.

Paradoxically, a recent study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that showing people extreme versions of their own ideas that confirmed (not contradicted) their opinions on a divisive subject actually led them to reconsider their stance. Simply put, by showing somebody that you agree with their opinion, it may actually make them more receptive of opposite points of view.

In this study, led by Eran Halperin, a psychologist at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel, researchers recruited over 150 Israelis and exposed half of them to video clips that related the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to viewpoints that the Israelis valued. Instead of trying to persuade the Israelis to change their opinion, they showed the study participants video clips consistent with their already established viewpoint.

“For example, the fact that they are the most moral society in the world is one of the most basic beliefs of Israeli society,” Halperin said to the Los Angeles Times. But, when researchers showed participants a video that claimed Israel should continue the conflict so that its citizens could continue to feel moral, people reacted angrily.

“You take people’s most basic beliefs and turn them into something that is absurd.”

The participants did not enjoy watching the clips, but, after numerous rounds of exposure over a period of months, participants’ attitudes on common political narratives, like the idea that Palestinians bear responsibility for continuing the conflict, softened considerably.

In the months leading up to the 2013 Israeli elections, participants reported almost a 30 percent increase in their willingness to reevaluate their position compared with participants in the control group. This shift persisted even a year after the study concluded, reports the L.A. Times.

In conflict, when you tell a person he or she is wrong, or try to convince them of your divergent point of view, you are often met with resistance. People become defensive when their ideas are questioned and can even become more extreme in their views of the same subject once challenged.

Although inter-office conflicts are far from being as divisive as Israeli-Palestinian politics, some of the same conflict resolution ideas may apply. When you disagree with one of your employees, try adopting their point of view first. See if you can’t get them to be more flexible on their own before you dictate your opposite personal agenda.

People just want to feel heard. And, most people are open to compromise. What they lack, however, is direction, management, and even a little compassion in this mediation process.

Interested in knowing more strategies to end inter-office conflict? Take The Center for Competitive Management (C4CM)’s course: Conflict, Criticism & Sensitive Subjects: How to Successfully Address Tough Topics at Work.

In this “how-to” webinar, you will learn specific strategies for:

  • Complaining to your boss (or about your boss)
  • Giving constructive feedback to colleagues
  • Bringing up those “sensitive” issues that people are afraid to mention
  • Why you need different “road maps” for bosses, coworkers, & employees
  • Seven questions you must answer to prepare for a difficult conversation
  • How to avoid surprises by “getting inside the head” of the other person

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Save It, Shred It, Delete It? Record Retention Practice Dos & Don’ts!

Well, this is embarrassing.

A Naples, Florida, property developer has apparently misplaced some important documents. So, they’re offering a $1 million reward to recover them.

What’s worth $1 million to developer Jack Antaramian? Accounting ledgers and books, including subcontractor bids,” related to the construction of his nearly 20-acre resort project in downtown Naples, reports Bloomberg Businessweek.

Ok…that does seem important!

A year ago when the company first discovered the missing documents, a reward was set at just $10,000.  Today, obviously, the need is much higher to recover them.

The project has come in over budget and took seven months longer than expected to complete, reports Bloomberg.

What’s worse, the matter has now been slowed down with lawsuits pending against the contractor, Manhattan Construction (then Kraft Construction Co.), by Antaramian’s family partnership since February 2010 for breach of contract. Antaramian wants to see where all the money has slipped away to since being advanced by a bank loan, which ended up foreclosing.

Yes, this is quite a mess. Without those financial documents, Antaramian can’t conduct the financial audit he’s looking for to close his lawsuit.

And, offering a reward for the information seems like, in addition to reactivating the lawsuit and suing his other partners in the project, according to Antaramian, “is the only remedy we can think of right now.”

The problem for Antaramian started when the files he wants to see for his financial audit weren’t transferred when his company moved offices in Naples. The contract with Manhattan Construction required them to keep records from subcontractors for three years after final payment, which they did not.

For law firms, the hazards of moving offices, identity theft, technological changes, and potential litigation all impact record-keeping in a big way. It’s easy to believe that law firms might suffer from a similar mishap by misplacing client records—in addition to their own books.

One of a law firm manager’s primary responsibilities is to maintain personnel records, for example. But what began as putting important files in a folder has developed into a complex web of compliance. And each year, compliance gets more and more difficult, as you add in electronic documents and other formats.

There are the modified FMLA rules, the updated ADA regulations, the FLSA, and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, all of which have separate rigid requirements for retention. And the federal push for I-9 compliance means employers must have their immigration forms meticulously maintained.

Ask yourself, do you have a good document management system?

Have you established clear rules and regulations for which employees have access to which files, including a secure separation between I-9 forms or grievance complaints and an employee’s personnel file, for example?

Does your file management system have secure password protection or other security systems to ensure its confidentiality?

Do you have a back-up system in case something is lost?

Do you have a secondary back-up system in case both systems and back-ups are destroyed?

If you’ve answered “no” or are even uncertain about the answer for any of these questions, chances are your file management system is deficient and you risk major consequences to a compliance audit.

Numerous malpractice claims have been filed as a result of lost or misplaced documents. These mistakes could have been prevented with a properly organized file management system for both internal firm documents and client records.

The American Bar Association offers some basic guidance, such as a file organization checklist, to help avoid these conflicts here.

If your company’s personnel records were audited right this very minute, could they stand-up to a DOL probe, an EEOC investigation, or an ICE inspection?

If not, consider listening to The Center for Competitive Management (C4CM)’s detailed audio conference on Wednesday, July 23, 2913, from 2:00pm EST to 3:15PM EST called, “Save it, Shred it, Delete it? Employee Record Retention for HR.”

With your registration to this conference, you’ll also receive C4CM’s top-selling guide, Record Retention Compliance & Best Practices—a $249 value—free of charge.

That’s certainly better than having to pay $1 million in reward money to recover your records.

What’s the price of losing paperwork? Millions. The publicity shame is causes? Priceless.

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10 Behaviors By Summer Associates That Should Make Your Firm Think Twice Before Hiring

Congratulations, you’re a summer associate. With the right attitude and work ethic, you may become a salaried lawyer one day!

Condolences to law firm managers. You have to deal with a bunch of 20-something interns who haven’t a clue (but think they do).

There’s a time for forgive and forget and there’s a time for strict standards. When it comes to your summer associates, pay close attention. With so much competition these days, there’s nor reason your firm shouldn’t have the best that law schools have to offer. The following 10 behaviors by summer associates should make firm partners think twice about hiring:

1. Makes a bad first impression

Some people make bad first impressions. That’s understandable for a cocktail party or date, but not a professional event. If your summer associate can’t make eye contact, circulate the office and shake hands with everybody, or shows up to work in wrinkly or inappropriate attire, imagine the first impression they’ll leave on a judge or jury. The air of incompetence is not in-style this summer.

2. Avoids social events

Most summer interns are afraid of drinking too much and making idiots of themselves in front to firm partners, but that’s no excuse to eschew work events. If your summer associates can’t even attend events mostly designed to make them feel welcome, what are they going to do when you ask them to attend important after-hours events with potential clients, or professional galas that look well on the firm? Avoiding social events may be a sign your intern has no room in his or her priorities for the firm.

3. Is slow to answer your emails or calls

This is a no-brainer. You need associates who are serious, hardworking, creative, and—well—constantly available. That’s the nature of the law, it never sleeps, and your inters (for the first few years, naturally) shouldn’t either.

4. Doesn’t get along with other associates or summer interns

Yes, it is a cut-throat process, getting a job offer. But, it’s probably a bad sign if one summer associate doesn’t seem to get along with all the rest. Sure, the group may have disparate personalities or work styles, but so does the firm. You need a team player, not a lone-wolf in this business.

5. Name’s unknown to the partner

There’s flying under the radar and not getting noticed at all. If none of the partners ever know a summer associate’s name, it’s likely this person either (a) didn’t have any noticeable achievements or accolades from colleagues, or (b) doesn’t know how to network. Either way, it’s not the type of lawyer your firm needs in this do-or-die industry.

6. Doesn’t respect the support staff

Associates shouldn’t just be known by partners, they should be liked by support staff, too. A summer associate is lower on the food chain than support staff. They’ve not been hired, they’re here on trial, and they haven’t earned their place at the firm. Any associate who treats support staff like subordinates has no respect for the food chain—which sometimes means doing nitty-gritty and menial work and certainty not scapegoating support staff.

7. Makes too many mistakes on documents

There should be a learning curve in legal work, especially for summer associates. But, you should start to be concerned when an associate shows too many mistakes. Already, summer interns are given the lowliest jobs, which means it shouldn’t be too difficult to handle. And, mistakes are a sign that an inter was too afraid (or too arrogant) to ask questions of a colleague or classmate. Simple spelling mistakes reflect a carelessness (or lack of technical skills) that your firm just can’t afford. Another thing that’s costly? Constantly re-checking the work of one of your lawyers. You’ve got to have faith that your associates know the answer, know where to look for the answer, or know the right questions to ask to get it from somebody else.

8. Constantly appears frazzled

This is a difficult job. There are long hours. If your associate already feels overwhelmed after a summer, you should question their stamina for the “real world” of the law.

9. Says “no” too often

There is a time and a place to say “no” to work. But, your summer internship is not one of them. Saying “no” too often may be a signal that an associate has eyed another senior attorney or partner and plans on exclusively working for them, which means when hired, it will be more of the same. Or, saying “no” might signal poor organizational skills, where the associate is incapable of multitasking or managing his or her workload. Either way, take note of the person who says “no” too often.

10. Lacks social media or technical skills

Today there’s no excuse for poor PowerPoint skills or lack of Excel knowledge. Even law firms can’t get far without a website or social media presence. These are not skills left to the support staff. Rather, they represent the general willingness to progress and grow with the speed of new technology and a desire, on the part of an associate, to become more efficient and productive at what he or she does. You’d really have to go out of your way these days to lack such technical skills. And, as clients demand more innovative law firms, you can’t afford to hire one more traditionalist who favors to the yellow legal pad to an iPad.

As a manager you face unimaginable pressure to streamline costs, improve profitability, and do more work with fewer employees. In order to be successful in today’s harried corporate culture, you need to master the critical skills and competencies required for building and maintaining a productive and profitable workplace.

Take advantage of The Center for Competitive Management (C4CM)’s course on Friday, August 1, 2014, 11:00 EST to 12:15 EST, Smart Manager’s Guide to Building a Productive Workplace: 10 Proven Strategies to Boost Personal and Employee Productivity.

This interactive, practical and effective event, explores 10 proven tips to boost personal and employee productivity. During this information-packed session, you will learn how to:

  1. Build a workplace atmosphere that encourages cooperation, productivity,
  2. Better enable employees to do their work, without excessive oversight, and
  3. Remove common obstacles that prevent productivity.

Whether you’re a new manager, or have been in the trenches for years, this event will get you up to date on the latest productivity enhancement techniques for:

  1. Reaching quick and innovative decisions
  2. Reducing decision-making anxiety for you and your employees
  3. Holding timely meetings that remain true to a core purpose
  4. Making intelligent decisions by battling groupthink
  5. Brainstorming effectively

Plus, you’ll also learn which workplace productivity apps really work and how to get started using them today!

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Introducing Exhibit B… & Other Efficient Uses For The iPad At Law Firms

Imagine a world where a new client walks into your office. The receptionist welcomes him and hands over an iPad and tells your guest to press “Start”. There’s a short, automated video introducing your firm, its practice areas, and its partners. Afterward, a new client form appears, ready to fill out. Once your new client is done, your receptionist has an already digital copy of important information pertaining to this person’s case and business. And, the client can keep the iPad and browse your home page while he waits for the name partner to see him.

Streamlined, efficient, modern. The iPad is changing the way lawyers operate.

Patrick A. Wright, founding partner at The Wright Firm LLP in Lewisville and Dallas, is board certified in family law and is an active member of the ABA Law Practice Editorial Board. In an American Bar Association article, Wright said about his first use of the iPad in a court case:

“When I bought my first iPad, I decided that the best way to experiment and see if it was as versatile as it seemed to be was to use it in a high-profile case. The Cooke County case was an experiment. I intended to see if the court would allow me to play a few videos on the iPad through the VLC app while questioning a witness. With the iPad, I could quickly pause the video, replay an exact point and further emphasize what I wanted without the awkward television on a cart and a temperamental DVD player. I could control everything from the palm of my hand—if the court would allow it. The experiment worked. The court did allow me to use my iPad, and the videos and the iPad supplied the dramatic moment in a long custody trial that I ultimately won.”

Today, traditional PCs barely overtake sales of tablets. However, by 2015, predictions by Gartner Inc. believe that worldwide shipments of tablets will outnumber that of desk-based and notebook computers.

On the whole, worldwide combined shipments of devices, which include PCs, tablets, ultramobiles and mobile phones, are projected to reach 2.4 billion units by the end of 2014, a 4.2 percent increase from 2013, Gartner Inc. reported this week.

It’s not surprising that lawyers are making better use of slimmer, more portable technology.

Tablets are not just great to present courtroom exhibits, they also organize client files, allow regular contact with colleagues, courts, and clients, and facilitate the immediate access to records, codes and criminal procedures, or Fastcase when out of the office.

There are a myriad of apps designed specifically for law firm professions available for bothe the iPad, iPhone, and other mobile devices.

Tablets are also capable of running programs like PowerPoint of Apple’s Keynote app, even Excel spreadsheets.

If you’re worried about typing on the tablet’s touchscreen, most tablets now allow Bluetooth connection to wireless keyboards.

Finally, the iPad is low-profile and ultraportable, which means when you take notes during a meeting or courtroom appearance, you don’t have that distracted look on your face behind a giant laptop screen. It gives (at least) the illusion of concentration, with a 10 to 20-hour battery life.

In fact, iPads or other tablets are becoming such common place in the practice of law, clients are starting to expect it. Technology is a reflection of your firm’s willingness to get creative, be flexible, and innovative—key to surviving this cutthroat industry.

With the traditional PC market on the decline, it’s clear law firms need to get with the times by going mobile. Instead of using a laptop, consider using an iPad—going paperless is both practical and productive.

Update your firm home page to accommodate mobile devices. Create an internal app for employees and clients, and a public app to attract new business. Make sure your IT department is up-to-date on all social media.

The iPad may not have the old-school cache of a yellow legal pad, but where it remains deficient in tradition, it will likely exceed in expectations and outcomes for efficiency.

Of course, there are always liability issues when it comes to data-sharing and digital devices. Attend C4CM’s training course, “Smartphones and the Law: Avoiding Legal Liabilities in the Workplace” to ensure your policies and practices are air-tight.

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Is The Law At Odds With Women In The Workplace? How Women Can Become Better Bosses

Some days it’s hard to be a woman and appreciate the law.

Let’s take a recent incident in Iowa, for example.

For an entire decade a man enjoyed the hard work of his female subordinate. Ten years the two worked side-by-side in a dental office without incident. But, following a midlife crisis, failure in his own marriage, or some other unprovoked change of heart, the boss suddenly finds his assistant too attractive to be around. He promptly fires her.

“Dr. Knight said I couldn’t work in the office, because he was becoming attracted to me, and not able to focus on his family, and his family life… I instantly broke down in tears. All I remember is just sitting there, and not able to get up, telling him that I love my job,” explains Melissa Nelson in an interview with “20/20” correspondent Paula Faris, reports ABC News.

A lawsuit was filed on the grounds of wrongful termination due to gender.

Dr. James Knight, the dentist in question, doesn’t agree with Nelson’s claims. Although he doesn’t deny the sexual advances through text message or other incidents, his attorney told ABC News: “… she was not terminated because of her gender, but to preserve the best interest of his marriage.”

Sadly, the Iowa Supreme Court agreed with Knight. The most sympathy they could utter was that Nelson’s one month’s severance pay was “ungenerous” but his actions, legal.

This outcome is less surprising when we consider the justices, David, Daryl, Brent, Bruce, Edward, Thomas, and Chief Justice Mark. More than their verdict, there’s another commonality among these lawmakers—they’re all men.

See, it’s hard to keep track of the whims of men these days.

For every dollar men earn, women still earn just 77 cents. Nonetheless, the majority of Congress is unconcerned.

The Senate was six votes shy of passing the Paycheck Fairness Act this year. Why? Republicans argued that discrimination based on gender is already illegal, and feel their hands are tied to do anything more. If those laws worked for women like Nelson, then that would be true.

What’s sad is that these unjust cases of discrimination or sexual harassment are not new.

Bloomberg Businessweek admitted that an unpaid intern that is not legally considered an employee, and thus cannot sue for sexual harassment in the workplace:

“This discrepancy’s not new: Unpaid interns aren’t covered by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and while local laws can protect them, New York’s state and city laws do not.” In many states, it seems the law does not favor female subordinate employees. But, life’s even harder on female bosses.

Only 4.6 percent of public companies have female CEOs.

“The United States, once a world leader in gender equality, now lags behind other similarly wealthy nations in women’s economic participation. In the two decades from 1990 to 2010, our country fell from having the sixth-highest rate of female labor-force participation among 22 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, countries to 17th on the list,” writes Michelle Patterson, Founder and President of The California Women’s Conference and President and CEO of Women Network.

An astounding 46 percent of Russia’s leadership roles are held by women, 24 percent in Europe, and 31 percent in Turkey. These numbers are significantly higher than North America’s mere 18 percent, according to Career Bright’s article on the marginalization of professional women.

On a list of 200 companies with a workforce of over 1,000 employees, a survey by Glassdoor found only 2 companies with female bosses ranked high on employee approval of CEOs. Forbes, who reported on the survey, asks pertinently: “Do We Hate Female Bosses?

Well, do we?

Some blame confidence. Men are just more confident in leadership roles.

If that’s true, it’s not at all surprising why—given all the legal cards stacked against a women: Don’t look too attractive, don’t look too ugly, don’t be “bossy” or “bitchy” yet still command your subordinates with authority…

How could any woman balance such a heavy double standard?

If there’s one thing a woman in the workplace can do to be taken seriously, it’s speak up—more often and more assertively. Like this blog post. Like today at work.

Are you too nice, too modest or way too quiet when it comes to saying and getting what you want in the workplace? Do you assume the blame when things go wrong? And what about when things go right? Do you credit other people, good luck or circumstances for your success?

You’re not alone. In fact, a recent survey found that half of women managers admitted to feelings of self-doubt about their performance and career, but only 31 percent of men reported the same.

Condescending colleagues, gender bias, and stereotypes can make it hard for women to take credit when it’s due, or steer the company ship with confidence. But a woman’s actions, assertiveness and communication skills—or lack thereof—could also be sabotaging her career.

So, take The Center For Competitive Management’s audio course Friday, July 11, 2014 from 11AM to 12:15pm EST: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Confident, Assertive Leadership.

While it will likely take more time to convince lawmakers that effort and work ethic, not the sexual desires and whims of men, should take priority in the workplace, it doesn’t take much for a woman to ask for promotions, initiate salary negotiations, speak up at meetings, manage subordinates productively and successful manager, and master guiltless self-promotion with gusto.

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