It’s no surprise that there is still a great disparity in law firms between the number of men who are partners and the number of women. While society has erected institutional obstacles that women must overcome to advance in their careers, women attorneys must also take ownership of the things they can change if they want to build thriving practices.
Kimberly Alford Rice (@rice_kimberly) addresses this issue in an article that references Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. Sandberg notes to her reader that her focus on our responsibility to take ownership of the things we can change within ourselves is not intended to downplay the institutional barriers women face every day. She is encouraging women to lean in and change that which is within our control, and a convenient place to make changes.
Rice makes several fantastic suggestions in her article on ways women can take ownership in building their practices:
- Stop thinking of networking as an event and think of it as a way of life. Networking is about building relationships. Women are generally better at relationship building.
- Network with the give-to-get mentality. How can you help solve the problems of those in your network?
- Be clear about the services you offer. Rice quotes Steve Jobs in her article: “The world is very noisy so we must be clear about what we want people to know about us.”
I would add that women must let go of perfectionism. One study has shown (and is referenced in Lean In) that women will only apply for an open position if they meet 100% of the job requirements, while men will apply if they only meet 60%. Practice makes perfect so get out there and just do it – whatever it is that you know will help your practice, but fear has been holding you back.
Nowhere is this perfectionist issue more prevalent than on (or I guess off) the golf course. I often talk to women attorneys about playing golf in a business setting. The answer is usually something like, “Oh, I am not very good. I could never play with clients or potential clients.”
As an attorney turned marketing professional, I have both golfed with clients and parked myself at a golf hole sponsored by a law firm and seen groups of male foursomes go by. Guess what? A lot aren’t very good at either. But if they hit a bad shot, they laugh it off, or just hit another ball, and take advantage of the captive audience they have for 4+ hours to get to know whoever they are playing with.
So, women attorneys, how can you lean in and make small changes to set yourself up for successfully building your practice? I’d love to hear your thoughts.