Issue 17, Winter 2007
It is always exciting to start a new year by announcing a special new project. The year 2007 will mark the inception of the Hastings Leadership Academy for Women, the first leadership development program designed exclusively for women law firm partners. (www.uchastings.edu/site_files/WLL/LAWbrochure.pdf) The purpose of the Leadership Academy is to give women partners the skills, knowledge, techniques, and support that will enable them to achieve their highest potential as leaders in their firms, communities, and profession.
Unlike other leadership development programs, this unique course is designed specifically to address the leadership challenges faced by women partners in law firms. The educational curriculum addresses those challenges within the political and economic context of law firms. The program's intensive coursework is bolstered by one-on-one work with executive coaches. Participants will develop and begin to execute their own personal leadership plan. They will also work closely with other program participants to give each other feedback during the sessions and ongoing support thereafter.
Women law firm partners face certain unique conditions and challenges, and the Leadership Academy is designed with them in mind:
There is simply no excuse for the absence of women partners in leadership roles. Women who become law firm partners have demonstrated leadership abilities and talents over many years of practice. They have worked extremely hard, made a strong commitment to their careers, and proven their staying power. But to become recognized as leaders in today's law firms, women partners must be able to succeed within a male-oriented culture. They may want that culture to change, but first they have to muster the clout necessary to influence and direct the change. To do that, women partners must learn how to play - and win - the leadership game. They need to become politically savvy, find influential mentors and champions, build powerful alliances, and negotiate effectively on their own behalf for full compensation and client credit. And they need to develop authentic and effective leadership styles- as women, not as "men in skirts"- that are effective in spite of the biases and conflicting expectations discussed above.
This is no small task. That is why the Leadership Academy is designed to give women partners the tools, confidence and support to help them persevere and succeed. And while the focus of this program is on women's career advancement, law firms will be major beneficiaries. Women partners constitute a vital and valuable pool of talent. Their leadership is essential to the long-term success of the firm in every aspect of management, client relations, and lawyer hiring and retention. Firms that fail to optimize the leadership potential of women partners are wasting- and losing- a critical resource.
The Hastings Leadership Academy for Women will prepare women to become the future leaders of their firms and the legal profession. It will teach women not just how to survive in the current law firm environment, but how to thrive in it despite the difficulties. Participants will learn how to move into leadership positions, utilize their influence, authority and power in constructive ways, and become role models and catalysts for positive change. The Leadership Academy is sponsored by the Project for Attorney Retention at the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. It is a six-day course that takes place in two intensive three-day sessions, May 31 - June 2 and July 19-21, 2007. Registration will be limited in order to keep the group small and allow for meaningful interaction, hands-on learning, and feedback from faculty and peers. The Leadership Academy brochure can be seen at http://www.uchastings.edu/site_files/WLL/LAWbrochure.pdf. Registration information is available at www.worklifelaw.org/LAWregistration.
1 National Association of Women Lawyers' First National Survey on Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms , October 25, 2006 (www.nawl.org)
3 "Gender Influences Law Firm Hiring, Promotion, Sociology Professor Says" (describing research of Professor Elizabeth Gorman), February 17, 2006 (http://www.law.virginia.edu/html/news/2006_spr/gorman.htm ); Women Take Care, Men Take Charge , Catalyst , New York, 2005; Mahzarin R. Banaji, Max H. Bazerman, Dolly Chugh, "How (Un)ethical Are You?," Harvard Business Review , December 2003
4 See discussion of maternal wall bias in Joan Williams, Jessica Manvell, and Stephanie Bornstein, "'Opt Out' or Pushed Out?: How the Press Covers Work/Family Conflict," The Center for WorkLife Law, University of California, Hastings College of the Law, www.worklifelaw.org, 2006
6 Ida O. Abbott and Rita M. Boags, Mentoring Across Differences: A Guide to Cross-Gender and Cross-Race Mentoring , Minority Corporate Counsel Association, 2003, http://www.mcca.com/site/data/researchprograms/GoldPathways/index.shtml
7 See, e.g., Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, Women Don't Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide (Princeton, Princeton University Press) 2003; National Association of Women Lawyers' First National Survey on Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms , October 25, 2006 (www.nawl.org)
In past issues of Management Solutions, we have highlighted the professional development needs and challenges of global law firms (Issue 15) and the importance of evaluating and measuring the impact of mentoring programs (Issue 13). Here are examples of effective practices in both areas:
Preparing Lawyers for Global Practice. Most global law firms provide training for lawyers in worldwide offices, sometimes bringing them together for this purpose. One firm, Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, takes an uncommon and impressive approach to promoting learning and cooperation among lawyers from different countries. Sullivan & Cromwell trains and develops lawyers from around the world- but not just lawyers from their own firm. Their Visiting Lawyers Program (VLP) provides practical training in the firm's New York office to lawyers from other countries who are unaffiliated with Sullivan & Cromwell. While the firm occasionally asks VLP participants to stay on as regular associates, the norm is for them to return to their home countries and law practices. (http://sullcrom.com/careers/visitinglawyers)
Each year, Sullivan & Cromwell accepts 5 to 6 lawyers from hundreds of applicants. The principal hiring criteria are "personal excellence and the candidate's potential to become a leading member of the bar in his or her home country." Those who are selected work as associates in the New York office for approximately nine months, beginning in September. The program emphasizes learning through substantive work experience. Visiting lawyers receive their work assignments through the same assignment system as regular associates and attend the firm's formal training programs as well.
The firm began the VLP in 1949, in the aftermath of World War II, in a spirit of post-war altruism. The firm wanted to spread the rule of law around the world, and also believed that foreign lawyers would benefit from understanding how law was practiced in the United States. Today the firm continues to derive substantial benefits from the international relationships and networks created through the program, and from the knowledge that their American lawyers have acquired about the visiting lawyers' cultures and practices. Since its inception, the program has graduated 267 lawyers from 46 countries. In 1999 the firm held a reunion and more than 60% of the living VLP alumni came from all over the world to attend the event.
Proving the Value of Mentoring. Quantifying the positive outcomes of formal mentoring programs is critical for obtaining ongoing buy-in and support from both management and future participants. But most law firms rarely measure or quantify the extent to which their mentoring program is meeting its overall objectives. They simply track certain aspects of participation (e.g., whether and how often mentoring pairs meet), and they sometimes ask participants to evaluate their mentoring experience. Law firms can learn from the examples of mentoring program assessments conducted in other professions. One company that has demonstrated the quantitative and qualitative benefits of mentoring is Sun Microsystems in Santa Clara, California.
In 2001, Sun initiated the Sun Engineering Enrichment and Development (SEED) program which matches new and established engineering employees with senior-level engineers and company executives who have volunteered to be mentors. The mentoring pairs meet for one to two hours every two weeks over the course of six months for experienced employees and a year for new hires. They also attend monthly group meetings and SEED-sponsored events. The goal of the SEED program is to make both the mentee and the mentor "more valuable to Sun and more satisfied with their careers at Sun." Another goal is to foster diversity by reaching out to groups traditionally underrepresented in engineering.
Because the program is closely monitored and its goals are clearly stated, Sun has been able to measure its benefits. Based on three completed program cycles, Sun has found that the SEED program is very efficient and low-cost to run, while producing substantial, measurable benefits for mentees, their managers, their mentors, and the company. Employees with mentors in the SEED program typically earn four times the promotions and receive double the number of top performance ratings than other employees. About 150 to 200 employees are engaged in SEED mentoring relationships at any one time, and satisfaction with the program is high. In fact, more than one third of mentors have volunteered to serve as mentors more than once. About a quarter of the participants in the SEED program are women, which is high compared to the number of women with engineering degrees. For further information about the SEED program, see http://research.sun.com/spotlight/2004-02-18.SEED.html.
Extreme Work. We hear a lot these days about lawyers seeking greater "work-life balance," but not all lawyers are trying to cut back. In "Extreme Jobs: The Dangerous Allure of the 70-Hour Workweek," published in the December 2006 Harvard Business Review, authors Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Carolyn Buck Luce report on the phenomenon of professionals who feel exhilarated and exalted putting in extremely long workweeks. They define extreme jobs as having workweeks of 60 hours or more, high compensation, and other characteristics that include:
Using these characteristics, many lawyers unmistakably hold extreme jobs.
Like people who engage in extreme sports, professionals who thrive in extreme jobs enjoy pushing themselves to the limit, physically and intellectually. To employers, this sounds like the ideal worker. But there are serious long-term drawbacks and dangers to this work model. Individuals in extreme jobs report negative repercussions for their physical and mental health, personal and family relationships, and home life. Over time, this can lead to dissatisfaction, loss of productivity, and departures. The same intensity that brings high short-term profitability may soon lead to exhaustion and burn-out.
Moreover, law firms grappling with the need to find talented lawyers willing to work under these conditions would do well to consider the reasons why it is unsustainable. Most people cannot work under this level of pressure forever. Half the people interviewed by the authors said they did not want to maintain their high-pressured pace much longer. Moreover, people who thrive in extreme jobs tend to love their work. But younger lawyers- Generations X and Y- are less enamored of their jobs than Baby Boomers and more likely to leave those jobs, turn down promotions, and forego leadership roles.
Study of Law School Education. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has published the results of a two-year study examining how law schools educate lawyers. (William M. Sullivan, et al., Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law (Jossey-Bass) 2007 (http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/) The study concludes that the dominant focus in law school on "thinking like a lawyer" gives lawyers powerful intellectual tools but also creates an unhealthy "conformity in outlook and habits of thoughts among legal graduates." It faults law schools for placing too much importance on analytical thinking, offering too little teaching in the actual experience of professional practice, and paying inadequate attention to teaching ethical and social skills. It also offers numerous suggestions for developing a more balanced and integrated approach to legal education.
This study will no doubt trigger a dialogue about the future direction of legal education. Given the study's emphasis on the need for more direct training in real-life professional practice, and law firms' interest in having graduates who are better prepared for law practice, law firms may want to influence how future law students are educated. This presents an important opportunity for law firm professional development leaders to join in the dialogue with law schools, providing information and perspective about teaching law students practice-oriented skills.
"Opting Back In and Forging Ahead," a program for lawyers who want to return to law practice after an absence for family care reasons, was described in Issue 16 of Management Solutions. The first program was highly successful and will be repeated beginning on February 2, 2007. It will again be facilitated by Linda Marks and sponsored by the Center for WorkLife Law through its Project for Attorney Retention at the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. It will consist of two four-week sessions, and participants may enroll in one or both sessions. For more information, see http://www.pardc.org/Optin.
"Electronic Mentoring: A Means for Promoting Diversity in International Firms," Diversity & The Bar Magazine, November 2006 http://mcca.com/site/data/magazine/2006-11/mentoring.shtml
January 29-31: "Beyond Mentoring- Ensuring and Cultivating Attorney Development," and "Establishing a Win-Win Work-Life Program for Women," American Conference Institute 3rd National Forum on Law Firm Diversity, Chicago, IL. http://www.americanconference.com/Advertising___Marketing/chilfdiversity.htm
February 8-9: Leadership Academy for Women of Color Attorneys Conference, Atlanta, GA, http://leadingwomenofcolor.com/2007Welcome.html
February 15: "Retaining Talented Lawyers," Bar Association of San Francisco, Law Practice Management Section, San Francisco, CA, http://sfbar.org/calendar/eventdetail.aspx?id=429
February 28: "The Law Library 2007: Skills, Strategies & Solutions," Practicing Law Institute, San Francisco, http://www.pli.edu/product/program_detail.asp?ptid=511&stid=3&id=EN00000000032217
March 15: "Diversity & Mentoring: Capitalizing on Differences," a webcast with Phyllis Weiss Haserot, sponsored by West Legal Ed Center. http://westlegaledcenter.com/home/homepage.jsf
March 29-30: "Smith Women and the Practice of Law," Smith College, Northampton, MA, http://alumnae.smith.edu/education/women_in_law.php
April 27-28: "Building the On-Ramp: Helping Women Lawyers Return to Work," and "Mentoring Across Differences," NALP Annual Education Conference, Keystone, CO, http://www.nalpevents.org/event/details.php?eid=20