Key Future Insights from Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law’s Top Performing Articles from 2019

Topics: Diversity, Perseverance, Talent Development, Thomson Reuters, Women’s Leadership Blog Posts

rising star cohort

The best performing content from the Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law initiative from 2019 in terms of reader consumption were:

  1. The Real-World Implications of #MeToo: Transforming the Legal Ecosystem
  2. UPFRONT & PERSONAL: A Discussion with Phuong Phillips, CLO of Zynga
  3. UPFRONT & PERSONAL: A Talk with Laura Stein, GC of Clorox
  4. The Value of Creating & Keeping Your Network
  5. UPFRONT & PERSONAL: A Conversation with Tammy Albarrán, Deputy General Counsel for Uber

Key Themes of Last Year

In analyzing content of these Top 5 articles, three key themes emerged:

  • Featuring women general counsel as power players within the legal community is important to increasing representation of women at the senior ranks within the industry;
  • Relationship-building should be a key focus for every single woman in the legal industry; and
  • At the heart of harassment, bullying, and the #MeToo movement is the abuse of power.

Senior executive women in power — Three of the Top 5 articles from 2019 focused on personal interviews of senior women as general counsel and deputy GC — Phuong Phillips, CLO of Zynga; Tammy Albarrán, Deputy General Counsel for Uber; and Laura Stein, GC of Clorox. Phillips and Albarrán pointed out that they both value the opportunities to increase the representation of people with diverse identities on their teams and at senior levels as leaders of their respective legal organizations:

  • Phillips states, in her “interview with Frank Gibeau, Zynga’s CEO, I was asked about the kind of impact I want to have at the company. I answered, without hesitation, that I want to bring more women and people of color to its ranks, especially given more than 50% of Zynga’s gamers are women.” Under Phillips’s leadership, the 18-person legal department has evolved to include 15 women of African-American, Asian, Latin, and Middle Eastern descent.
  • Likewise, Albarrán commented, “It has been personally rewarding that eight of the 14 leaders on our legal team are women and six are under-represented minorities,” since the company has made diversity and inclusion a very public priority.
  • Stein takes a different approach to using her platform for good by advancing kindness and humanity in the world. It is inspired by “Gandhi’s adage, ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world,’” by living a life modeled after her parents’ positive and value-based lives.

Prioritize people and relationships — Along with the interview with Stein, the article by Jaimala K. Pai on how to create and maintain effective professional relationships underscore the importance of being people-focused in all aspects of your life.

Stein, with her life philosophy of being a role model for kindness and good, advises women professionals to “choose people you genuinely care about, not just because of their position or title.” She further recommends building a “network of people on whom you rely and who rely on you.”

In Pai’s article, she explains the importance of relationships for lawyers. “As we move further along in our careers, name recognition becomes more important,” she writes. “Being known as a subject matter expert will not only serve you well in your current company, it can also create other types of opportunities.”

Pai further recommends that lawyers make time to meet with former colleagues, to attend law firm events with the goal of making one new connection, and to start cultivating relationships with people before you are in a position where you need to have a network.

The abuse of power is at the heart of harassment and bullying — Another article in the Top 5 focused on the fall-out of #MeToo movement in the legal ecosystem and the fact that bullying and harassment in the legal industry are still pervasive. The article highlighted the ongoing need for transforming the culture within legal institutions is an unfortunate need.

Amy Barasch, Executive Director of Her Justice, a nonprofit that provides free legal services in family, matrimonial, and immigration law to New York City women living in poverty, explained the common thread between the work of Her Justice and the #MeToo movement and how harassment is simply the abuse of power. “For Her Justice clients, challenging harassment is not possible given the other barriers they face, such as poverty, language barriers, and immigration status,” Barasch explained, adding that to change this phenomenon, “corporate leadership needs to instill both a top-down and bottom-up approach toward fighting sexual harassment or abuse in the workplace.”

The article also cites the need for boards of directors to have a more intimate level of knowledge on the issues and instigators of the abuse. “Although corporate boards are starting to take more responsibility in this area, they only know the information that is presented to them by management,” Barasch said.

Key Themes Going Forward

Clearly, these theme of the empowerment of women at the senior level, the critical importance of relationship-building, especially for women legal professionals, and the abuse of power that is at the hear of workplace harassment will continue to be key factors for the legal industry in 2020.