Within the past month, I have been reminded on two occasions about the importance of paying it forward to help other women within the legal industry. In addition, I have been reminded that everyone wins when women support each other.
The first occasion arose in an unexpected way. I was having lunch with several colleagues from work. The crowd was diverse in many ways — gender, race, ethnicity, level of seniority and job function within the firm. We had gathered to discuss how we can continue to enhance our firm’s diversity and inclusion efforts. One of the attendees was a junior lawyer in my practice group who started as a summer associate and has paved her own way to becoming a highly-regarded mid-level associate.
We first met during the summer program when she was randomly assigned as my apprentice. A strong and mutually committed mentoring relationship ensued. She has worked hard to earn my respect and willingness to sponsor her. At our recent lunch, I learned just how much I have inspired her to work hard and become a better lawyer.
She relayed a story about having attended a mediation with me during her summer internship. She explained that, as she watched me work, she determined I was a successful “bad ass” whose career path she wanted to follow. I was shocked and humbled to hear her perspective on how our relationship formed. I had no idea that the simple act of inviting a junior woman attorney to shadow a mediation could, or would, have such a tremendous impact on her introduction to the legal profession. I had not done anything special or extraordinary at the mediation. I just let her come along and, as a result, we have enjoyed a deep and fulfilling mentoring relationship that continues to pay dividends to her, to my firm and to me.
What these exceptional women do not realize is that their efforts, perspectives and successes, as well as their willingness to share their stories with me and others, have further energized me to keep talking, reaching out and pursuing positive change on behalf of women lawyers.
The second reminder came from an email I received from a friend and colleague. We met about a year ago when we were working on a case. Since then, we occasionally have dined and discussed the challenges that women face in the legal profession. We have agreed that sometimes the dialogue that takes place around “women’s issues” can be counterproductive and polarizing because women do not always see eye to eye as to what the issues are and how best to tackle them. During the course of these conversations, I shared some specific actions that I have taken to help junior women from a business development and an internal firm profile perspective.
Last week, my friend reached out to let me know that I had inspired her to take action — to pay it forward — and how pleasantly surprised she was by the outcome. She recently had an opportunity to pitch for a new matter and made sure to include two junior women partners on her pitch team. She noted that the pitch was highly successful and that both women were thrilled to have been given an opportunity to participate and to shine. The email concluded with a thank you to me for getting her to think differently about “women’s issues” and how to have an impact.
Of course, I am thrilled to have helped friends and colleagues by taking a few “building block” steps to make a difference. However, what these exceptional women do not realize is that their efforts, perspectives and successes, as well as their willingness to share their stories with me and others, have further energized me to keep talking, reaching out and pursuing positive change on behalf of women lawyers. I hope other women will join these efforts so that they too can enjoy the priceless benefits of paying it forward.
The Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law Series is gearing up for International Women’s month by dedicating the month of February to the topic of Business Development. How can women help women in the area of business development? We will feature personal stories from women across the legal community who have helped other women thrive in various aspects of their professional life. Have a story to share? Send us an email and let us feature your story.
Get inspired, share your story, and be part of the transformation to break down the obstacles that exist for women in the legal industry.