We sat down with Brendan Lynch, shareholder at Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed to discuss his views of why male lawyers need to advocate for women in the law and how they can do so. This interview with Brendan is part of the Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law initiative’s series featuring male allies who are walking the talk in advancing women’s leadership in the legal industry.
Legal Executive Institute: What is your personal connection to being a “gender champion” or “male ally?” In other words, what was the experience or moment when you realized that the access to opportunity and expectations on “appropriate behavior” are different for men than they are for women?
Brendan Lynch: This is certainly not a new thing in my life, although it has been amplified over the course of the last decade. I have a mother who worked throughout much of my childhood. My brother’s wife works full-time. My wife Melody holds a demanding full-time position as a shareholder at the same firm, and we have two children under five years of age.
Over the last four years, we have had to be diligent and vigilant about our schedules, both in and out of the office, in order to make it all work. These daily discussions about our calendars have pinpointed the greater difficulty it is for a working mother to “be all things to all people” — excellent client attorney, good partner, loving and available mother and wife (among many other roles). Melody and I both participate full-time at work and in raising our kids, but the burden is ultimately never equal (despite my best efforts). Throughout all this time it has become clearer to me that we still have a long way to go towards equity in the legal market — not specific to Lowndes, but generally.
“So many studies show that women not only bring a different perspective to problem-solving than men, but also a better perspective.
Work teams with women on them are more successful.”
What does being a “male champion” of women or “male ally” look like in your day-to-day life at work?
It means a greater awareness of the issues women face in the legal marketplace. I believe that is the single most important thing that any male attorney can do to support the women with whom we work on a day-to-day basis.
Not everyone is cut out to be a “champion” or mentor, but all of us need to be aware that women face different issues throughout the legal environment than do men. Women are still spoken down to by some judges (every female attorney I know that appears in the courtroom has a story — or three); the number of women in equity partner positions has remained stagnant for the past decade; and maternity leave and balancing motherhood is still a struggle. The awareness of these things will lead to positive change — then that awareness needs to result in folks in power speaking up.
We also need to make sure that women do not lose opportunities because of motherhood, or other outside familial responsibilities. One of those opportunities is, quite simply, “having a seat at the table.” Again, this is not just for women — this is for anyone that has family demands on their time, whether young or sick children, elderly parents, or other critical family challenges.
So many studies show that women not only bring a different perspective to problem-solving than men, but also a better perspective. Work teams with women on them are more successful. I believe this fully — the push to promote diversity (gender, racial, etc.) is not for diversity’s sake alone: It is a good business model.
How do you influence other male peers to become a “gender champion” or “male ally?”
I think, as with most things in life that are oft-considered taboo, being open to discussion is the most important thing. That was the important idea about the roundtable you put together, and the ones you have done in the past. If we do not open these topics up for discussion, nothing will change — literally, nothing will change! I think there needs to be constant mention of challenges women face in the workplace — some outlined in my responses above — with the leadership in our legal community, which includes managing partners, partners, judges, bar presidents, etc.
Do you see the impact of the #MeToo movement in the workplace?
I have not seen an impact of #MeToo in our workplace. I have heard from others outside my firm — including at our luncheon — that it has impacted how men act around women in other environments. Personally, any man using the #MeToo movement to justify hesitation of interacting with women is a total cop-out. Be an adult. Treat people with the respect with which you would want to be treated.
I am curious about your perspective. How would you respond to a male peer expressing anxiety about interacting with women, mentoring or sponsoring women?
I also believe it is important to note that being a mentor or a “champion” is not for everyone. If it is not for you — fine. But do not be a roadblock.