This article originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune on September by iamdmx


									                           This article originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune on September 13, 2006.

                                                                                             WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2006

Counsel critical in retaining lawyers
Partners labor to prevent                  attorneys in four key areas:                       Mentors can give young associates
                                           communication, networking, self-                 tremendous insight. But don’t
female attorney brain drain                promotion and creating positive                  underestimate the value of
                                           visibility.                                      relationships with people who are
By Tara Swords                               Partners are eager to see their                going through the same difficulties at
Special to the Tribune
                                           experiences benefit the next                     the same time, partners say.
                                           generation, they say. For some, a                  Liisa Thomas, partner at Winston &
  It’s a legal mystery: No one knows
                                           sense of history obliges them.                   Strawn LLP, Chicago, says peers are a
why women, who enter law firms in
                                             “Hopefully now a lot of women                  source of emotional support in
equal numbers as men, disappear
                                           coming out of law schools assume                 situations that might otherwise feel
from firms’ ranks or fail to be
                                           they can do anything they want                   isolating.
promoted to the level of partner. In
                                           because the trailblazers have already
fact, women made up fewer than 18
                                           blazed the trail for them,” says Dawn            Advice kept her going
percent of partners in major U.S. law
                                           Gonzalez, partner at Litchfield Cavo               “I had people who could help me
firms in 2005, according to NALP,
                                           LLP, Chicago, and past president                 strategize about my career,” Thomas
The Association for Legal Career
                                           of the Women’s Bar Association of                says. “If it hadn’t been for people
                                           Illinois. “But we can’t let that trail           giving me that advice, it would have
  Most women in the field are aware
                                           become buried again.”                            been difficult to stick with it.”
of the problem, although many
                                             In law school, professors were paid              Peer mentoring is one function of
disagree on the causes. But female
                                           to teach. But in the working world,              professional organizations, such as
partners who already have beaten the
                                           new associates have to seek their own            the National Association of Women
odds agree on this: They’d rather talk
                                           teachers — who could be men or                   Lawyers.
about a solution.
                                           women, as long as they’re supportive.              “Peer mentoring is what keeps you
  It seems firms are beginning to do
                                             “I think it’s critical for anybody, but        sane,” says Lisa Scruggs, partner at
their part. In response to a call to
                                           particularly a woman, to develop a               Jenner & Block. “If you’re less
action issued by the Chicago Bar
                                           mentor relationship both with a                  inclined to go to a professional
Association’s Alliance for Women, in
                                           woman who has a life similar to what             organization, look internally to see if
January 2005, nearly 50 Chicago law
                                           you want, but also someone in your               your firm has a group. If they don’t,
firms and corporations have pledged
                                           practice area who can help lead you              start one. Say, ‘We’re going to meet
to increase the percentage of women
                                           forward,” says Felicia Gerber                    on the fifth floor on Tuesdays; bring
partners by 3 percent before Dec. 31,
                                           Perlman, partner at Skadden, Arps,               your lunch.’”
                                           Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, Chicago.                Jenner & Block has such a group,
  “People have said, How about 10
                                                                                            called the Women’s Forum, and
percent? How about 20?” says E. Lynn
                                           Mentor search can be tricky                      Grayson is co-chairwoman.
Grayson, a partner at Jenner & Block
                                             Finding mentors might be a task                  Peers can offer understanding that
and co-chair of the Alliance for
                                           easier said than done, however. A                female associates won’t often find in
Women when it issued the call to
                                           study released this month by the                 their clients. “The challenge is being
action. “Three percent will be more
                                           American Bar Association                         a young 23- or 24-year-old woman in a
than we had when we started. We see
                                           Commission on Women in the                       largely male corporate culture,” Park
the call to action as very much the
                                           Profession found that 67 percent of              says. “When you deal with clients,
start of a process.”
                                           female attorneys of color and 55                 sometimes you’re going to be the
                                           percent of white female attorneys                lone young female voice and face.”
Help for younger generation
                                           wanted more and better mentoring                   Park says she has noticed that the
  Now, some seasoned female
                                           by partners and senior attorneys.                transition from school to work is
attorneys are moving to the next step:
                                             Don’t be afraid to approach senior             rough for some attorneys. The
preparing young associates to accept
                                           attorneys to get it, says Jane Park,             associates who have caught her
the new opportunities that might
                                           partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP,                 attention are the ones who know the
come their way. The Chicago Bar
                                           Chicago.                                         game has changed.
Association Alliance for Women plans
                                             “As I become more senior, I don’t                “I can see younger attorneys who
to kick off its Women’s Leadership
                                           find it an imposition that younger               are more reactive. They wait to be
Institute seminar series Sept. 20; the
                                           associates might look at me this way,”           told what to do, they sit back and wait
seminars will educate young female
                                           Park says.                                       until the phone call comes,” Park
                             This article originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune on September 13, 2006.

                                                                                                WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2006

says. “What really makes a younger           better parent to her two children.
attorney stand out in my mind is               “When I’m not at work, people                   Where to find help
when he or she calls or sends me an e-       don’t wonder whether I’m getting my               Female attorneys can find support
mail and says, ‘This is what we need to      work done. They know that I am,”                  and information at the following
do next,’ or ‘Here are my thoughts,’         Perlman says. Perlman can log onto                organizations:
not being embarrassed that maybe             her office’s network from home, and
they’re not right, but actively,             when she leaves home, “I have a cell              National Association of Women
confidently putting it all out there.”       phone and a BlackBerry with me, and               Lawyers: 321 N. Clark St., Chicago,
  Perlman says attorneys who venture         it’s easy to be found.                            IL 60610, 312-988-6186,
outside their own worlds will get              “I try to balance my day where I get   A volunteer
noticed.                                     up with my kids, go in to work and                organization dedicated to advancing
  “Get involved in other areas,              leave in time to come home and hang               the interests of women lawyers in the
whether it’s recruiting or pro bono,”        out with them before they go to bed.”             U.S.
Perlman says. “It will allow them to           It’s critical that attorneys pick a
show commitment to the firm in               topical area they find exciting and               Chicago Bar Association Alliance
other ways, and that will serve them         interesting, says Thomas, an                      for Women: 321 S. Plymouth Ct.,
very well in the long run in helping         advertising lawyer.                               Chicago, IL 60604, 312-554-2000,
them to progress.”                             “If you pick something you really      or
  Showing initiative may help                feel passionate about, you’re much       A volunteer
attorneys build credibility that they        more likely to stay in the profession,”           service committee of the Chicago
can cash in later. Scruggs hit the           Thomas says.                                      Bar Association that promotes the
ground running in her early years; by                                                          advancement of women in the legal
the time she had children, her               Choose wisely                                     profession.
reputation as a hard worker enabled            Choosing the right firm is equally
her to occasionally work from home           important. A good firm recognizes                 American Bar Association
or leave the office early.                   that women are underrepresented at                Commission on Women in the
  “I would say early in your career, it’s    the partner level — and will work                 Profession: 321 N. Clark St., 18th
really critical in the legal profession      with its female attorneys to solve the            Floor, Chicago, IL 60610, 312-988-
to commit to the legal profession —          problem, Park says.                               5715,
working hard, establishing a                   “I would actively encourage female              A 12-member commission that works
reputation for yourself, and buying          recruits to demand more,” Park says.              to secure equal participation of
yourself some room for later in life.”       “Keep the pressure from the bottom                women in the bar association and
                                             up. But I would also say let’s not put            legal profession.
Take advantage of technology                 too much on the shoulders of these
  Ten years ago, it was much harder          poor younger women. Some things
for attorneys to work from outside           will require larger social change,                Black Women Lawyers’
the office. But today, technology            some things will require institutional            Association of Greater Chicago
makes possible all kinds of flexible         change. The institutions are working              Inc.: 321 S. Plymouth Ct., Suite
work arrangements.                           on this, so this is a joint endeavor.”            600, Chicago, IL 60604, 312-554-
  Perlman says she owes her work-life                                                          2088, A volunteer
balance, in part, to technology that         Tara Swords can be reached at                     organization that addresses issues
lets her be a better attorney and a                                unique to African-American women
                                                                                               in law.

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