2012 Women in Law Leadership Academy Presents Informative, Interactive Blueprint for Success
You didn’t have to travel all the way to California to experience the 2012 Women in Law Leadership Academy, Changing the Rules of the Game: It’s About Time. Social media transported the conference to anyone who wanted insights and a front row seat. The Twittersphere was abuzz before the event had begun. “Just arrived in SFO for ABA WILL. So excited!” exclaimed one registrant.
The conference attracted more than 300 women lawyers seeking to improve their leadership and business development skills and network with prominent practitioners from around the country. The academy was presented by the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession and Young Lawyers Division at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, Dec. 6 – 7.
In opening remarks, The Building Blocks of Success: Business Community and Institutional Leadership, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Angela Bradstreet advised that the process of being an effective leader begins by building trust and respect. One attendee tweeted, “Hon. Angela Bradstreet at #abawill: First building block to success — making sure you are in the right environment.” @AmicusTutoring tweeted “Love her emphasis on finding the right work fit for YOU!” Concentrating on causes that matter is key, said Bradstreet, adding, “You never know what opportunities will unfold when you are following your passion.”
She advised women to be more assertive, encouraging them to shatter their own internal glass ceilings. “We need to be much better at asking for what we want,” said Bradstreet. “People respect you when you ask.”
Tweeter Lainey Balagia called the speech the perfect start to WILL: “Hon. Angela Bradstreet absolutely killing it this morning. Inspiration & compassion meet power & strength.”
The Rainmaking X Factor: It is More Than Just a Plan featured Caren Ulrich Stacy, president and principal at Lawyers Metrics, and Patricia K. Gillette of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, who began the presentation with a grim statistic: 50 percent of law firms have no women in their top 10 rainmakers. Gillette described how internal and external factors work against women lawyers. Internally, the need for perfection and the fear of failure keep women from achieving economic power. Gillette cited three external factors that keep women from economic power, according to one tweet, “1) old boys club 2) queen bee syndrome — not sharing power 3) unconscious bias.”
Stacy, an expert in the field of lawyer development, explored the science behind rainmaking, noting that rainmakers believe they have a role in what happens to them. Managing change is critical to rainmaking, said Stacy. Other qualities include confidence, fearlessness, flexibility and independence. Stacy encouraged women associates to develop their interpersonal skills — oral communication, sensitivity and relationship building. One tweeter reported, “Surprising skill important to being a #rainmaker — developing others. Building a team that complements your strengths and helps weaknesses.”
Tweeter Lee Burgess announced, “Starting to see some themes today: we must be flexible and embrace change.”
“Never let perfection get in the way of progress. Failure is never fatal. Success is never final. Courage is always crucial,” tweeted Dyanna V. Quizon, who added, “Finished is better than perfect.”
Remarks by luncheon keynote speaker Edith R. Perez resounded in the Twitterverse: “Be brave. Be strong. Figure it out.” The former Latham & Watkins partner credited her success to her “kitchen cabinet,” a group of personal advisors and mentors who provide valuable feedback and guidance. Passing along Perez’s advice, Ms. JD President Katie Larkin-Wong tweeted, “Leaving your comfort zone is key. I know if I do that it’s an opportunity to grow and continue to contribute. Edith Perez #abawill.”
Victoria Pynchon, co-founder and principal of She Negotiates, which provides women with negotiation training, literally brought the audience to their feet to demonstrate how to translate confidence and power through body language during her presentation, Communication Skills: Can We Talk? Pynchon cautioned against ending sentences on an upswing, limp handshakes, and overusing “like” and “um.” Reported one tweeter, “@VickiePynchon: confident body language can negate assumptions of inferiority in the workplace.”
Institutional Leadership: Making a Play for the Top kicked off the final day of the WILL Academy. “Always sit at the head of the table,” counseled Navjeet Bal of Nixon Peabody. “Have a sense of entitlement,” she added. Bal also urged those in the audience to get out of their comfort zones and embrace the fear of failure. Advice from Hilary Krane, vice president and general counsel for Nike, garnered many enthusiastic retweets: “Put your best on the playing field. If it doesn’t work, join another team. Be your best cheerleader.”
Katina Miner tweeted this takeaway from the session, “Ask. Just ask. The worst thing someone can say is ‘no.’ And then you’re in the same position you were in in the first place.”
The WILL Academy ended with a keynote speech by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, founder and CEO of Miss Representation.org, who lamented the fact that women hit a glass ceiling at around 18 percent in all industries. She reminded attendees that they have the tools to improve the profession. “You have the pipelines to leadership in law,” said Newsom. “Addressing issues like equal pay will create change,” she added.
At the end of the conference many attendees reported they had gained a sense of empowerment. “I will be keeping in mind that if I don’t feel nervous or fearful, I’m probably not putting myself out there enough,” said one associate. “Just ask — no, make that, JUST ASK! This could have been the title of the entire conference,” said another. Those words of wisdom were taken to heart by the attendee who wrote, “I am going to ask for a raise as soon as I get back to my office.”