Tuesday, September 29, 2009

 

Thoughts on being a "Legal Rebel"

Many thanks to the ABA Journal for naming me a "Legal Rebel." I admit it is a little embarrassing (am I really a rebel? And surely the video did not have to freeze on that awful picture, and now everyone knows how messy my office gets when I'm writing!), but also a little pleasing (after ten years of working on the advancement of women lawyers and work/life issues, it is nice to know someone is listening).

Before my Rebel interview, I planned all sorts of things I wanted to say about PAR. Unfortunately, the interview lasted about five minutes and focused on just a couple of issues and not on the organization itself. So, here are three things I wish I could have said in my interview:

1. PAR has changed considerably from its early days. Initially, PAR was just Joan Williams and me in the District of Columbia, with a little money from the Sloan Foundation and a desire to finally solve the issue of why women weren't advancing more rapidly in law firms. Today, there are six of us with the addition of Manar Morales, Natalie Hiott-Levine, Linda Marks, and Linda Chanow -- all fabulously talented and treasured colleagues. We now have a full national reach and a budget that is about ten times bigger than our first. Our research has answered the question why women lawyers are not advancing as rapidly as they should, and we have developed and continue to develop practical solutions for women lawyers, law firms, and corporate law departments to use to help women lawyers achieve parity.

2. One thing about PAR that hasn't changed: Joan Williams remains one of the most fascinating people I've ever met. She is brilliant, and she has single-handedly moved mountains to improve the workplace for women. She changes lives -- just listen to her talk or read something she has written and see for yourself. Sharing the Director position with her at PAR has been amazing.

3. PAR has had considerable success helping lawyers and legal employers to get ahead through nonstigmatized reduced hours work and action steps to develop and promote women lawyers. We are often described as "nationally recognized experts" and a "leading voice," and I sometimes reflect on why we have been so influential. I have decided it comes down to three things: 1) our work is based on research, both our own and others'; 2) we work with all stakeholders -- lawyers, law firms/legal departments, and clients; and 3) we create practical, workable, business-based solutions. I don't think we can overlook good communication skills and a lot of long hours, but the content has to be there first.

Of course, there is a lot more I wish I could have said -- things about some of PAR's projects, the law firms and law departments that have joined PAR, and where I think PAR is headed in the future. Those may appear in future editions of this blog. In the meantime, I'm going to go be a little rebellious.

--Cynthia

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