Tag Archives: diversity

Five Reasons To Relax Maternity Leave Policy

Increasing the amount of paid and unpaid maternity or paternity leave is great for working parents. But, what about the firm?

Here are five reasons why relaxing your current maternity or paternity leave policy will benefit your law firm:

1. Retain qualified employees

“In all parts of the world, working women who become pregnant are faced with the threat of job loss, suspended earnings and increased health risks due to inadequate safeguards for their employment,” says F. J. Dy-Hammar, Chief, ILO Conditions of Work Branch, who oversaw the report, Maternity Protection at Work, reports the ILO.

This threat is intensified in law, as women are already underrepresented in the industry.

This is why it is even more important to show female associates that your law firm supports them. In fact, women make law firms more profitable by making teamwork more productive.

“According to [a study conducted by] Professor [Anita] Woolley of Carnegie Mellon, teams that include women would score higher on tasks than a team of all men because they possess the sensitivity chip necessary to communicate and relate to others more effectively,” reports the Levo League and C4CM.

In addition, female partners are vastly undervalued. This means, for the same level of work, a firm pays women less. Economists will tell you, women provide great bang for your buck. Although the reasoning may be crude, retaining female employees will help maintain your firm’s bottom line. That’s the bottom line.

2. Maintain diversity

Diversity is key to success. When your firm desperately needs new ideas to make or break a case, innovation will emerge out of teams of diverse size and organization.

“Creating a diverse environment of both men and women from different geographic regions, ethnic groups, age groups, and from a variety of functions will offer greater insight. This type of crowdsourcing opens the arena for new ideas within the organization,” writes Robert F. Brands for the Huffington Post.

Not only does cultivating diversity among teams grow the idea-generating legal machine, but they also increase the competitive edge of your firm by introducing new products and idea. If you keep losing female associates as a result of deficient maternity leave policy, your firm and its earnings from creativity will suffer.

3. Retract work-from-home

Innovation and change can be a good thing. But, not all firms should look alike. Although flexible schedules is a fad these days, it may not suit the needs of your particular law practice.

Nevertheless, it’s hard to deny that women benefit the most from telecommuting policies. Young female associates look for firms that offer work-from-home policies so that they can look forward to starting a family in the future.

However, if you’re a company like Yahoo who values face-to-face interaction between colleagues, work-from-home policies may not be the best choice for your firm. If this is the case, how can such firms continue to attract and retain successful female employees?

The answer is superior maternity and paternity leave. By allowing working parents ample time off once per child, you will ease the concerns of soon-to-be parents without having to resort to ill-fitted Flex scheduling on a permanent basis for all employees.

4. What comes around goes around

It may seem like a nuisance to provide a valued female attorney with six or more months of maternity leave. But, when it’s your pregnancy or your spouse’s, what comes around goes around. The policy you implement today will affect how you take advantage of it tomorrow.

So, help others and help yourself.

5. …. Or else!

If your firm doesn’t support working mothers, then working mothers will find innovative ways to support themselves.

“A period away from work,” an article in Stylist explains, “can be hugely positive–time to learn a language, take up a hobby.” In fact, this is why there’s a rise in a new type of entrepreneur, the “mumpreneur.”

If your firm doesn’t work to retain its female associates, the firm will miss out on the innovative ideas and brainpower of this important half of society. These mumpreneurs may even open a law practice down the street from your own. Your firm loses by losing its female employees.

Over 120 countries already provide paid maternity leave. Qualified working mothers have plenty of choices for work these days, both in terms of other firms or other nations.

Furthermore, if your firm provides scant time off, you may find your law practice has turned into a medical practice. Just yesterday a Labor lawyer gave birth in her office.

“The action took place inside a law firm’s office after a fellow attorney in the employee benefits practice started giving birth, presumably while redlining some rider for the umpteen-millionth time,” reports Above The Law.

“The mother, we hear, was due in the next week or so. According to our tipster, mom was hoping to maximize her hours before having to go on leave. Well, she succeeded.”

When it comes to supporting working parents (and still profiting), ask yourself, has your firm succeeded?

-WB

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The New Divorce Court: Where U.S. Laws Meet Foreign Ones?

Family law in the U.S. has never been so interesting.

Notwithstanding changes in the definition of marriage, divorces are currently the subject of debate among state legislatures.

Divorce, and the related legal dissolutions of marriage, provides an excellent example for why Oklahoma and Arizona’s bills to bar the use of foreign (and religious) law—and the several state bills following suit—merit consideration.

Of course, some would argue that these proposals “displace the many subconstitutional rules through which American courts have long tried to accommodate the reality that much commercial and personal life is international.”

This week, an annulment case, Naseer v. Moghal (Va. Ct. App. Aug. 14, 2012), was brought to the public eye.

The facts of the case are complex, so here is a summary by Joe Palazzolo for the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, who also picked up on the case:

“The story begins with a couple, Tahira Naseer and Nasir Mehmood Khan, who married in Pakistan in 2000. The union didn’t last.

The next year, Mr. Khan told his wife three times that he divorced her, under Islamic law. The ‘three times’ rule is considered a religious component to divorce in Pakistan. But the parties still have to obtain a legal divorce. To begin the legal process, Mr. Khan had to give notice to the local government. But he never did.

Ms. Naseer married again in Pakistan in 2003. She and her new husband, Hamid Moghal, moved to Fairfax County, Va., and had a marriage ceremony there in 2004. That union also failed. The couple separated in 2009.

Ms. Naseer had never told Mr. Moghal about her previous marriage to Mr. Khan. But Mr. Moghal found Ms. Naseer’s marriage certificate and took it with him on a trip to Pakistan. When he checked the Pakistani records, Mr. Moghal discovered that Ms. Naseer had never legally divorced Mr. Khan.

Pakistani authorities issued an arrest warrant for her and charged her with bigamy. So she filed a suit in Pakistan to finalize the divorce between her and Mr. Khan. It was done in 2011.

Back in Virginia, Mr. Moghal sought an annulment, arguing that Ms. Naseer had committed bigamy, because she was still married to Mr. Khan when she married Mr. Moghal. Ms. Naseer filed a counterclaim for divorce, in which she argued that the ‘three times’ rule was enough to effect a legal divorce.”

In the end, the trial court sided with Mr. Moghal and the Virginia Court of Appeals affirmed the decision. So, Mr. Moghal was granted an annulment.

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh—the original commenter on this issue—wrote in defense of the ruling:

“And this wouldn’t be because Virginia was being governed by Sharia, or because American Muslims are entitled to have their legal rights adjudicated under Sharia,” Professor Volokh wrote.

“Rather, it’s because Virginia law calls for the application of the law of the jurisdiction where the marriage or divorce took place, whatever the law might be—again, except in rare situations where the law is contrary to Virginia public policy.”

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog called a lawyer for Mr. Moghul, Thomas P. Silis, who restated that the case largely turned on the question of whether a religious divorce could satisfy the legal requirements for divorce in Pakistan.

Clearly, the Virginia court ruled that it could not. And, this decision was based on the expert testimony of a lawyer from Pakistan.

“The concept of marriage and divorce being both religious and legal was interesting,” Mr. Silis said to the WSJ Law Blog. “We’re very happy with the way the court ruled.”

Although a representative for Ms. Naseer could not be reached, it might be assumed that they believe the U.S. courts did not accurately interpret Pakistani law.

Professor Volokh and the WSJ Law Blog appear to be in agreement that it’s sometimes ‘sensible’ for U.S. courts to consider foreign law.

Yet, is this story enough to convince you?

The expert witness in the aforementioned case was a Pakistani lawyer, well versed on Pakistani law. However, he was not a member of the Pakistani court. Although the expert lawyer can argue what he believes to be law in Pakistan, it’s hard to say what a court in Pakistan would actually rule.

In parody, an American attorney in the U.S. can certain tout what he believes to be the law. Nevertheless, it takes going to court to receive a fair and enforceable ruling as confirmation of his opinion. Speaking of, how many times have lawyers disagreed with court opinions? How many times have clients been unhappily surprised by verdicts–especially via jury?

Can U.S. courts truly mimic foreign ones? And, should they try?

The discussion is still open. Surely law firms can use this subject as fodder for a Friday legal symposium (remember how roundtable debates drive a happier, more productive office?).

Between equity partners, this story also points to even more reasons why wide diversity of race, gender, background, and expertise is necessary for the success of your practice.

Law firms—now, not simply corporate or M&A specialties, but family law, too—should look abroad for new associates, litigation consultants, and clients.

As states and legal bodies become increasingly divergent on their opinion the application of foreign law (and foreign accreditation of lawyers), firms should stay up-to-date on pertinent legislation and adapt the composition of their personnel and business strategy accordingly.

-WB

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From ‘Usual Suspects’ To Team Innovation: Embracing Diversity In Law Firms

Law firms are not necessarily known for their diversity. But, quite the contrary, the field of law attracts a variety of eclectic backgrounds—just look around the office.

Businessmen turned juris doctors, myriad foreign citizens of different nationalities and languages, and expertise in unexpected areas walk the halls of your firm, often unnoticed.  

But, for law firms hoping to innovate, embracing this diversity is key.

“While the organization’s leader may be tempted to call in ‘the usual suspects,’ people with a history of success in that field, it is important at this point to include fresh faces in the group,” writes Robert F. Brands for the Huffington Post.

In the same way, when assigning cases to attorneys, don’t rely—again—on the ‘usual suspects.’ Don’t give the same cases to lawyers who typically handle the them. Add fresh opinions to stale teammates by assigning new, young associates to the group.

Circulate a form that asks your associates more in-depth questions about their background and interests. For example, ask whether or not your young associates are interested in patent law, or which ones speak Spanish.

When teams are created for the case, give the forms to senior attorneys and partners on the case. That way, leaders know exactly what assets are in their arsenal.

“Creating a diverse environment of both men and women from different geographic regions, ethnic groups, age groups, and from a variety of functions will offer greater insight. This type of crowdsourcing opens the arena for new ideas within the organization,” continues Brands for the Huffington Post.

Of course, to some extent, the schedules and expertise of a lawyer will influence their placement. But, be careful creating a firm solely from lawyers specialized in certain industries. When one or more of them chooses to leave the firm, you’ll be in a hiring frenzy, looking to cover their casework.

Not only does cultivating diversity among teams grow the idea-generating legal machine, but they also increase the competitive edge of your firm by introducing new products and ideas.

“A team of ‘usual suspects,’ experts in their field driven by past successes, may be able to take a product or service to the next level and create an incremental benefit. However, to create true ground-breaking ‘disruptive technology,’ the process must start from a blank slate,” concludes Brands. 

So, if you firm is experiencing trouble within a certain case, throw a wrench in the usual cog by reassigning the second chair. It may seem like duplicative effort at first—retraining employees and getting new additions up to speed—but it will pay off in terms of innovative solutions and positive outcomes.

-WB

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Commemorating Steve Jobs: Learning How To Live Fully, Work Passionately, And Hire Diversely From Apple

Even in this legal blog, Steve Jobs and his business strategies for Apple have made a profound impact (read here, here, and here). It is not surprising to find that after his death, the nation, the world, are both shocked and deeply saddened.

Thousands of commemorative articles have been written about his passing. On the White House blog, President Obama wrote,

“The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.”

A particular speech by Jobs—the 2005 Stanford commencement address—has been circulating the Internet. In it, Jobs references his own death and mortality. Especially poignant considering recent events.   However, his comments on life and living from the same speech deserve equal attention.

For example, one of the stories Jobs tells is about dropping out of college. After officially unenrolling from school, Jobs began auditing only those classes that interested him. One such class—on typography and calligraphy—seemed irrelevant at the time, albeit fascinating, to all of his professional goals. Still, he pursued it.

It turns out, quite the contrary was true. Jobs mentions how this understanding of typography greatly influenced the aesthetics of Apple products when founding the company. Today, one of Apple’s undeniable legacies is the prolific use and popularity of sans-serif fonts.

In the commencement speech, telling these stories, Jobs hoped to inspire graduating students to develop those secondary and tertiary passions.

“Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition,” said Jobs.

Other than a heart-felt reminder of the lessons Steve Jobs has offered young minds over the years, his speech has practical applications to legal minds today.

Creativity is directly linked to successful leadership and productivity. And, even though law may be your field of professional practice, it does not mean your individual knowledge of hard sciences, history, or sports will not come in handy one day.

In fact, during the hiring process, those qualified applicants who spent four years eating, drinking, and breathing law, and law only, may not be the best choices for your firm.

Here’s why. When you take on an important patent-dispute case, you’ll need the expertise of that first-year who graduated with a degree in Engineering before becoming a member of the bar.

When your next client is involved in an invasive tax audit, you’ll rely on the knowledge of the ex-Art History major when reviewing the auditors notes on family-heirloom paintings.

Finally, when there’s a second oil spill near Alaska or in the Gulf, it’ll be the paralegal who spent a summer as a Derrickhand that will become an indispensable source of information for the case.

Steve Jobs—whose company is (ironically) iconically known for its clean, white palette—was making an important point about people with colorful backgrounds. Professionally, diversified interests are valuable assets. Personally, multiple passions help a person know and love life fully.

As an attorney, strive to achieve both. As a law firm administrator or hiring partner, seek more colorful lawyers.

And, the greatest tribute that can be paid to Steve Jobs today is exactly the above: learning from his extensive knowledge and expertise.

-WB

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Three Cost-Free Ways To Support Working Mothers At Your Firm

Women make up 47 percent of law school graduates, but still only compose 31 percent of the industry’s lawyers, according to The American Bar Association (via WSJ Law Blog). One of the major factors in leaving the practice of law? The stresses of motherhood.

“I’m like so many other lawyers who are mothers, trying to fit into a culture . . . that collides directly with our needs and schedules,” said Laura Mattiacci to the WSJ. Mattiacci founded the Philadelphia chapter of Mother Attorneys Mentoring Association, or “MAMA,” which is a nationwide organization that aims to:

  • enhance the recognition of mother attorneys in the community;
  • promote the advancement of mother attorneys within the profession;
  • facilitate the achievement of work-life balance;
  • provide a forum for informing members and the legal profession about issues of particular concern to mother attorneys; and
  • support mother attorneys contemplating alternative work schedules or extended leaves of absence; and, increase the interaction between mother attorneys of diverse backgrounds and practices.

When looking at the above list, it’s not difficult to see that these goals could easily overlap with those at your firm.

Promoting more women in law makes sense ethically, in terms of gender equality, but it also makes sense professionally. Both female equity and non-equity partners are compensated less on average than male partners, despite operating at equal productivity levels, according to a Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper. This means for less money, your firm has the same work output.

Also, statistically, women perform higher than men in team exercises, including tasks, such as brainstorming, moral reasoning, puzzle-solving, typing and negotiating.

But, like all lawyers, female attorneys are not exempt from work while at home. So, those with children need extra support to manage this heavy caseload.

“There are unexpected urgencies – client emergencies, new cases that come in the door, the need to seek a restraining order from the court,” Mattiacci explains about managing her time as a lawyer and mother.

If motherhood and the time and emotional constraints it places on women is the sole greatest inhibitor to more women in law, there are ways your firm can help. Even if you are unable to provide tangible benefits, such as free childcare, try implementing these three cost-free ways to help retain working mothers at your firm:

  1. Listen. As administrator or managing partner, you may or may not be aware that school started this week. But if you stop to listen to some of the personal stories and anecdotes of young mothers around the office, you’d be more than informed. Then, when a female attorney arrives late this Monday morning, you don’t overreact. This will limit her emotional stress, which is likely already high.
  2. Be Flexible. Many firms are already instituting FLEX scheduling for their employees. Show your support for working mothers by allowing them to work from home one or two days per month. More than likely, she’ll already be forced to take a day off when it’s time to bring her child to the doctor’s office or run other (necessary) motherly errands. Plus, lawyers who work from home are shown to still add value to the firm.
  3. Do Your Research. There are ample other services, like MAMA, that offer support to working mothers. Do your research, and find pertinent events in your area. Advertise them through company resources, and allow your female attorneys the time to attend. In addition, before choosing your employee’s benefits packages and healthcare options, investigate which healthcare companies are best suited for working mothers (and for that matter, working fathers) and their children. Choose accordingly.

Across the board, juggling work and family is difficult. Showing support for your struggling associates is not.

-WB

Interested in ideas to increase the firm’s profit as well as employee satisfaction? Try CCM’s Worklife Flexibility CD Box Set, which combines two of its most popular programs into one complete and invaluable collection, featuring: Flextime Strategies that Boost Productivity and Your Bottom Line and Telecommuting: Protect Company Interests and Increase Employee Satisfaction.

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Lawyers of Color – Arriving at “a Glacial Pace”

America is a land of diversity but it is widely acknowledged that, when it comes to culturally recognized accomplishments, much disparity still exists between the races in the actual world of business and, yes, of law.  This gap begins in the education process, where “the diversity within law school graduation rates does not mirror population demographics,” per a report for Diversity Insider by Sharon E. Jones, a lawyer and diversity consultant.

“For example,” Jones explains, “Asians represent 7.9 % of law school graduates.”   That’s not an accurate representation of their proportion in the general population, she notes, which is approximately 4.4%, per the American Bar Association. (Guide to ABA-A Law Approved Law Schools, 2008 Edition.)

“Correspondingly,” she notes, “Blacks and Latinos are underrepresented from a population demographic point of view. Id.   Following on the heels of these numbers, law firms which have hired associates of color have proceeded along the lines.

“According to NALP, for the largest firms in the country, the percentage of associates of color in 2009 was 19.7% (NALP, Law Firm Diversity Demographics, 2009).

Partners of color represented 6.1% of the partners in the largest firms in 2009 and women[-]of[-]color partners were 1.9% of all partners in 2009. Id.”

In the corporate world, it’s pretty much the same story. Jones comes up with figures that show that the 6.6% of racially diverse General Counsel closely tracks what’s going on in law firms nationwide. (Law firms are trending at a figure of around 6.1% of partners of color.)

Interestingly—and a huge boon to the culture of diversity within both law and Corporate America—three Fortune 500 CEO’s are lawyers of color.

The first two lawyers to claim that honor were: Kenneth Chenault, of  American Express, which, according to its site, is “the premium network for high-spending cardmembers”, and  Clarence Otis, Jr., of  Darden Restaurants, the company that owns all those Olive Garden chains.  (Darden also own Red Lobster, LongHorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze and Seasons 52.)

Chenault and Otis, Jr. were most recently followed by a third African-American lawyer.  In December of last year, Kenneth Frazier (pictured)–formerly president of the global healthcare leader, Merck–was tapped as CEO when the then-CEO stepped down and took the role of Chairman.


The Root  had this to say about the appointment:   “Naming a lawyer rather than a scientist as the head honcho has become commonplace at the Big Pharmas, [which] face increasing regulation, battles over health care reform, and litigation over patents and injury claims. Frazier was credited with engineering the multibillion-dollar settlement following the Vioxx recall.”

“Although the number of racial and ethnic minority lawyers has been increasing, the pace has been extremely slow—some would say it has moved at a glacial pace,” Attorney Jones of the Diversity Insider says.

But a glacial pace is still indicative of change…of a gradual thawing of die-hard traditions.  That’s progress.   Upward trends—even when they’re made with baby steps—go a long way towards forging a land of true diversity, with a legal culture of all-out inclusion.

-EM

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Towards A More Diverse (And Healthier) Work Place

If an organization were to take the diversity temperature of major law firms, it might use as a thermometer the sort of data that Building a Better Legal Profession has come up with.  According to Above the Law’s David Lat, this “grassroots movement” has an up-to-the-minute prognosis of which firms are really healthy, as far as diversity and other market-based topics–such as pro bono work and associate attrition–and which are ailing.

First, a little background on Building a Better Legal Profession, a 501(c)3 non-profit. The now-national effort was spawned by students at Stanford Law School.  Its stated mission is to seek “market-based workplace reforms in large private law firms”.  The premise is to provide what they refer to as “quality of life criteria”; information that will help students trying to decide which school to attend after graduation; universities wondering which school reps to invite on-campus and clients exploring which firm to hire.


The “report cards” are based on publicly available information compiled by the National Association of Law Placement, or NALP, and, based on firms’ demographics and self-reported data on billable hours and other such information, they reveal which firms embrace which issues (as well as which firms haven’t done so, as of yet).

Now, to the highlights of the findings: Stanford law and sociology professor Michele Dauber, who is on BBLP’s national board of directors, had this to say about Manhattan’s Pryor Cashman in the BBLP’s “Rouges’ Gallery”: “No Black or Hispanic partners and no Hispanic associates and no openly gay lawyers.”  (“In defense of Pryor Cashman,” writes the ATL blogger, “it is not a huge firm.”)

Also, “Quinn Emmanuel’s LA office has one Black partner — and the NY office…has no Black or Hispanic partners.” According to Professor Dauber, “[O]ne is nothing to write home about.”

It turns out that Boson, too, rates poorly when it comes to diversity.  “Boston still reigns as the worst market for diverse lawyers,” notes Dauber.  She goes on to say: “Apparently the fact that Massachusetts has a Black lawyer as governor and that the President of the United States and the First Lady are both Black lawyers has made no impression…”.

As far as Asian lawyers are concerned, there is a large gap between associates and partners—the largest gap of any so-called minority.  “An example,” says Dauber, “is Clifford Chance in New York, with 26.8% Asian associates but only 2% Asian partners.”

Becoming aware of such inadequacies is the first step in addressing them. In addition, this sort of a database is likely to help students, universities and clients decide how to chart their life courses on a healthier path and, as such, will prove useful.

To learn more, go here: http://abovethelaw.com/2011/05/new-data-on-law-firm-diversity/

To learn more about the non-profit, go here: http://betterlegalprofession.org/mission.php

-EM

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Women Pioneers Teach Us a Thing or Two

If you’re a woman lawyer or administrator—or even if you’re a male attuned to diversity—try for a moment to imagine what life in the law industry was like for a woman two or even three decades ago.  

Several Georgia pioneers, now in their late forties to late-sixties, don’t have to use their imagination, as they were there.  

At that time, the term “diversity” hadn’t even been coined yet.  Support for women now is light years away from what it was then, and back then, there was no one around to tell women how to juggle a family and a career in law.  Yes somehow, these women overcame all the obstacles to make it in what was then a man’s world.

They are all accomplished lawyers now and are understandably serving as role models to younger women.  Several are also real-life mentors to other up-and-coming female attorneys.

The youngest, Jill A. Pryor, has been voted one of Georgia’s top lawyers for 2011.  

And as great as it is that things are different for women lawyers today, a few of these pioneers see some of the same troublesome sets of issues…although the telltale signs are harder to discern.   

The Fulton County Daily Report gave voice to these women who ventured into unknown territory many years ago.  Pryor, 47, a partner at Bondurant Mixson & Elmore, said that one of the things that made it hard for the few women that were around then was that it went against the grain to develop a win/win mentality.  

“We lawyers are so competitive, particularly in a law firm environment, and it goes against human nature to help those whom you perceive to be in competition with you. You see women who are superstars, and then one day they just opt out,” she said. “It’s easy to say that they didn’t really want to practice law, but there are much more subtle and complex factors at work. You have to look beyond the easy answer.”  

Chilton Davis Varner, 68 and a partner at King & Spalding, learned how to be a trial lawyer from male mentors, but would like to see women stepping up to the plate to help fellow women.  She also advises against being too hard on yourself.  “You never stop making mistakes. You just become better at finding and correcting them before others do.”

Leah Ward Sears, a partner at Schiff Hardin and a former Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, tells women to, as she did, learn to find their own way. When push comes to shove, she says, turn to your own gender.  “It was always women,” she says, “who…had my back.”

Carol W. Hunstein, the highest-ranking judge in the state, says another judge, Judge Sara Doyle, heard her speak once, and that was enough to inspire her to run for the Georgia Board of Appeals. “”It really does encourage women and minorities when a woman or minority succeeds,” she says.

“Stick together. Take care of each other.  Become the good old girls network,” said Sara  S.Turnipseed, 63, a mother of three daughters and a partner at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough.  She believes that it’s still all too easy to “ruin a woman’s reputation” in law. To remedy that, when she’s pointing something out to a younger woman who “needs to sharpen her skills”, she won’t announce it in front of others.  Instead, she’ll go into her office with the younger woman, close the door, and talk to her in private.  

One thing all these women agreed on is that women helping women on the way up has enormous trickle-down effects. As Pryor says : “…the more of us there are who are successful, the more everyone – [and] the profession — benefits.”  To read more, go to: http://bit.ly/hmBL60

-EM

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The Feasibility of Flex-Time Lawyering

What’s a lawyer to do when reduced hours become the norm?  It doesn’t mean less of a juggling act between a busy personal and professional life, but it does pose a challenge. “Part-time” lawyers are typically marginalized, says Deborah Epstein Henry, in her piece on Diversity & The Bar. They’re viewed as less committed and, as such, may not typically receive the sort of assignments that their “full-time” colleagues receive. 

Additionally, some of these lawyers are not paid commensurate with their hours, and are not eligible for bonuses.  Another area of concern that Ms. Henry raises is that sometimes their schedules are not honored.  For these and other reasons, there may be a reluctance to opt-in to flex hours.  

Fortunately, these and similar issues surrounding diversity can be confronted and resolved in a number of ways:   First, flexibility must be implemented, both on the part of the employer and of the employee.  What is at stake is a project’s completion and the flex-time lawyer is, in essence, responsible for 100% of its deadlines and crises, even ‘though the lawyer is not scheduled to working at that time. 

Management should ensure that, unless absolutely necessary, the lawyer’s schedule is not compromised. On the other hand, In cases where a change in the lawyer’s schedule is requested—in pressing personal matters—every consideration should be made to allow for the alteration.   Also, leadership must support the policy of reduced hours, and it must do this both externally and internally. 

This sets a positive, open tone about the policy and encourages its use.  “Leadership support needs to trickle down to the supervising partners who work with reduced hour lawyers on a daily basis,” says Ms. Henry. In a sense, they should become, to use Ms. Henry’s phrase, “ambassadors for the cause”.  The supervising partners must “understand the financial incentives” for supporting such polices.  

Support is critically important. A community of support would include a group of other lawyers who are working flex-time, with perhaps a supervisor appointed as a go-to or point person. These lawyers need “the support of a community that nurtures them and encourages them to survive”.    

Historically, explains Ms. Henry, such arrangements were kept secret, as nothing was written in stone, as it were.  A written policy will prove invaluable.  The issue of reduced hours may prove divisive, especially when hours are, as a whole, at a premium. Putting the terms in writing will force all parties to “create consensus” and “keep extremists in check”.  

In times of flux, this provides a sense of continuity and the ability—so important to part-timers and full-timers alike–to plan ahead.  It also “minimizes favoritism and ad hoc treatment”, says Ms. Henry. 

Another helpful hint is to not assume a one-size-fits-all policy.  The individual must be kept in mind at all times, for there is no across-the-board reason that lawyers choose to work flex-time hours.     

For more, go here: http://www.flextimelawyers.com/pdf/art9.pdf

-EM

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Forewarned – On How Firms Sell Their Diversity

Thankfully, the majority of folks you’ll deal with as a Law Firm Administrator have already made peace with the fact that diversity is here to stay. If they haven’t yet embraced the concept, there’re all kinds of reasons for them to do so.

Let’s review:  

1.  Through the advent of technology and high-speed travel, this is rapidly becoming a global world.  The more groups of people you know, the better you’ll be able to expand your social AND business horizons. (What is there to know?  Cultural differences should be examined and respected, no matter how subtle.) 

2.  “It matters for social justice,” says Above The Law’s “Insight Straight” blog, whose author also reminds us that…

3.  “Folks are tracking it,” and that…  

4.  It matters for your defense team, as you will want to have the members look “at least slightly like [your] jurors”.  

There have also been certain cases where employers (a.k.a. clients) have been known to want a member of a certain demographic group representing their case, as the employer perhaps seeks to add balance to the nuanced and not-so-nuanced issues.  For example, says the author “in my old product liability life, we may have wanted women to defend breast implant or hormone replacement therapy cases.  Or we may have looked for female expert witnesses…”

Now, what if you needed to pitch your firm’s diversity to a would-be client?  How would you sell it?  First of all, it’d be best to examine your culture, to see if your firm truly is a good representation of diversity and, if not, do all that you can to remedy that. For example, do you have women on your management committee, or executive committee or board?  Is it otherwise inclusive?    Do you and those who go out and represent your firm really believe that women and other “groups” are on a par with men? Because, try as you might, your real view of these demographic groups can not be disguised.  

The author, chief counsel of litigation at Aon, makes a spectacular case-in-point when he tells the story of how a female colleague and he were taken out to lunch by two white male representatives of a firm soliciting their business.  Afterwards, the woman mentioned being offended by the way the men expounded on how diverse the firm was, when it was obviously a case of “say one thing, and do another”. 

“Don’t just tell me about your women,” says this irate female colleague. “Bring one along!”  And, “It’s much easier for [them] to give up money than it is for them to give up power…Don’t tell me that you pay a few women a lot of money.”  Finally, says, the colleague,

“[t]hey asked me about my kids, but they never asked about yours!” 

As the author says, “Forewarned is forearmed.”

To read more, go here: http://abovethelaw.com/2011/03/inside-straight-pitching-diversity/

-EM

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