Tag Archives: life after law

Closing the Post-Law Gender Gap

One of my wonderful new colleagues at Bentley sent me this NYTimes piece on the comprehensive efforts to help women students and faculty do better at Harvard Business School.   These included placing stenographers in classes to help uncover perhaps unintentional gender bias among professors in who they called on and coaching women students to raise their hands more assertively in class.  This got me thinking about whether certain law schools (you alumnae know which these are) should try something similar.  This might benefit graduates who go on to non-legal careers as well. 

In interviewing over a hundred former lawyers for Life After Law, I noticed certain differences between women’s and men’s post-law experiences – a qualitative gender gap.  For example, women generally face fewer social repercussions when they leave big firms in the context of having kids than men do, so they find it easier to leave firms without a clear sense of their next professional step.  But are they more inclined to leave in the first place?  (My guess: oh yeah).  Do they have different assumptions about what they can do next?   Does what and how we learn in law school affect our divergent career paths?

We all know the stats about women lawyers in firms, including the persistent fact that women make up 50% of junior associates but only 15-18% of equity partners.  But maybe we can come up with ideas for potential law school reform by extrapolating from our own collective experiences about the post-law gender gap.   Here are some of my personal data points:

  • I found it easier to leave a high-paying, high-status law firm partnership than some of my male colleagues who were equally unhappy because I had a broader personal definition of success.  By the time I left, I no longer thought that money would buy happiness for my family or myself. 
  • Taking my wildly generous 12-week maternity leave created a meaningful space away from the firm.  While I didn’t come up with any great new career ideas on 2-3 hours of sleep a night, I did come to believe that some kind of non-legal career was generally possible and increasingly appealing.  Weekends and vacations had never created enough time for that to sink in.
  • I wasn’t great at firm politics when I practiced law.  I understood that mentors and sponsors could make a difference, but my male colleagues seemed to fit right into the system while I was still studying it.  It wasn’t until after I left my big firm that I learned to network effectively.  If I had understood the process and power of networking earlier in my career (say, in law school), I might have made partner sooner than I did. I also might have left sooner than I did. 

Readers, what would you add to this list?  Has your experience in law, and/or leaving law, been affected by gender?  Is that necessarily a bad thing?  Do you think law schools should be re-engineered in any way to reduce gender bias?  Let’s talk.

Photo courtesy of MadameNoire.com

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Ex-Lawyers Make Excellent Leaders.

kripalu

Picture courtesy of Kripalu.com

The recent news that a former lawyer has become the CEO of Kripalu (the Berkshires haven for many unhappy lawyers and others) put an extra spring in my bakasana. Things got even more exciting when I read the press release in detail. Kripalu cited David Lipsius’ “training as a lawyer” first on the list of “qualifications that make David the right person to lead Kripalu into the future.” It’s so nice to see “training as a lawyer” recognized for what it so often is: training as a leader. Lipsius didn’t come to Kripalu from a BigLaw corner office, but from NBC, where he had been a VP in charge of operational and creative divisions, and on the senior team of the Today show. As it happens, Lipsius replaces another former lawyer, Richard Faulds, as Kripalu’s CEO. According to Kripalu’s website, Faulds “joined Kripalu’s residential ashram staff after several years of working as a Legal Aid attorney, and became Kripalu’s legal counsel in 1989.” Don’t you love stories of lawyers who run away to the ashram?

This got me thinking about other ex-lawyers who run major institutions. As a new-ish business law professor, I’m especially interested in ex-lawyers running universities. The president of Bentley University, Gloria Cordes Larson, is my favorite example, and not just because she is a great boss. President Larson’s career has run the gamut of public policy and government work, from developing geriatric service programs to managing consumer affairs policy to putting together the Boston Convention Center, an enormous undertaking. Although she tells me that former lawyers make up a small minority of university presidents, they’re especially effective in that role.   Other ex-lawyers running universities include President Clayton Spencer of Bates College (Yale Law School, 1985) and President Kenneth Quigley of Curry College (Villanova Law School, 1982).

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that ex-lawyers make superb leaders. After running some case teams, many partners prove to be excellent managers (and I know that many other partners are terrible managers – I mean, I know).  Leadership requires not only vision and tenacity but the kind of analytical skill and ability to build consensus that lawyers often develop as their careers progress.  Those skills are enormously transferrable.  My hope is that more lawyers will take their leadership skills beyond the case team and into an organization they are passionate about.  David Lipsius makes an excellent role model.

Readers, who are your favorite ex-lawyers in leadership?  Maybe this one, or this one?

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