Thursday, December 4, 2008

follow up on a tale of two associates

The two associates tale seems to have elicited some response and perhaps misunderstanding.

First, HP means no disrespect to women lawyers.  In fact, HP is known as an extremely supportive P when it comes to advancing women.  BTW, why do so many out there even assume HP is a man?  HP never identified gender.  HP could be a woman.  Why not?  Many HPs out there today are women.  I think there are some inherent biases here; since the launch of HP's blog, many people have just assumed HP is male.   That may be incorrect and a biased assumption.

On the subject of the two associates -- unless I didn't describe them the way I meant to, BOTH are hardworking -- Susan isn't "schmoozing."  In fact, if you read the description, she is the more hardworking one (at least that is what HP intended).  But, really my point was that Mindy is selling herself short in the long run -- and perhaps in the short run - but my point was to her overall reputation, status, and development.  Staff complained Mindy wouldn't acknowledge them; even women partners indicated Mindy didn't seem at all receptive when they reached out.  Now, hopefully Mindy has a good protector in her group -- but down the road, wouldn't it have made more sense for Mindy to have built her reputation in the office, beyond her practice group, beyond just the main people she works with?  HP is saying again not to be one-dimensional.  It makes sense to get to know more people for so many reasons, and have those people respect you.  

Case in point, HP has a friend who is a woman partner and a solid business developer.  Friend not slave to law firm. Friend has a family, works a reduced schedule, volunteers in the schools, etc.  Friend by all accounts has a good balance.  How did friend get this?  Well, friend worked hard as an associate.  Friend showed respect to all and was extremely responsive, pleasant and cordial - to other colleagues in her office, to colleagues in other firm offices, even to opposing counsel.  Friend now gets all sorts of referral work.  From where?  From former colleagues (even those not in practice group) who have moved in house, from former clients, even from former adversaries.  Friend has developed  reputation as a terrific, top notch lawyer who can be trusted and who is respected.  Mindy was not on her way in this scenario.

I am not sure why people thought Susan was just schmoozing.  Getting out of the office, getting involved in bar activities, professional organizations, etc, isn't just schmoozing.  I even said Susan developed a sub-specialty.  A wise lawyer with a huge client roster once said "you can be the best lawyer out there, but if no one knows who you are or what you do, you won't be a very successful lawyer."  Susan was working hard and developing her reputation.  She wasn't just hanging out at Starbucks with her friends - that is more of a Mindy thing.

I hope that has cleared up a few items.  

I will try to address the burn out (Rachel?) comment and also the "what if Susan has kids"comment  ( so what? - see note re: Friend above). She can have kids and still be dedicated, successful and see those kids -- bad bias on your part.  

17 comments:

e. said...

If HP isn't male I'll eat my hat. It's just not the style of writing and response to comments that a woman would use.

Anonymous said...

HP, if Susan is a better lawyer, works harder, and networks more than Mindy then your example is too easy (leaving alone issues of burnout). The more compelling comparison is between an associate who doesn't network much but works harder/better (i.e., produces more/better work product) and one who networks better but has only passable work product.

The hours in the day are limited, and the most useful advice is about what balance to strike between networking and lawyering--it's clear both are, in principle, good things to do.

Hiring Partner said...

I wasn't creating the scenario...I was describing what I saw at the time.

The point HP was trying to make was just to encourage people to build their reputation, network etc., show respect and interact beyond group/office.

E- what is "style of writing and response to comments that a woman would use??" HUH? If HP has spent many years in BigLaw HP has to be tough and straight to the point. HP isn't giving up anonymity at this point, but challenges you to think beyond your biases and realize that HP may be a lady lawyer.

Liang said...

I don't understand the point of HP's anonymity with respect to sex. But whether a man or a woman, HP is being sexist when s/he suggests that an associate who produces "solid" work but is introverted has a game plan of finding a rich hubby. This was probably intended partially as a joke, but only partially.

It's not the readers who need to check their biases, but the author. What about a solidly performing but introverted male associate? Is he looking for a rich hubby as well? You can talk about your history of supporting female associates all day, but this is still a relevant kind of sexism.

And I agree with 5:43 - what's the use of this post if the "winner" is so obvious?

Hiring Partner said...

It was meant as a joke re: hubby, HP has to have some levity every now and then. I think we are confusing introverted with rude. Remember, I said Mindy was very friendly in her own group. She ignored staff who greeted her..and wasn't that interactive with partners.

I think you guys are trying to make a different (also interesting) point re: value of straight billing time vs. other activities. That wasn't my point here

Anonymous said...

I had always assumed you were a woman, actually. I have no idea why. Maybe because my firm's HP is a woman.

Now we're all curious. Anonymous Male HP or anonymous Female HP?

Anonymous said...

Seriously people, stop picking on every single phrase in the story and trying to point out every hint of sexism. I'm not saying you don't have a point, and I'm not saying sexism should not be addressed in the law (it's a huge problem), but clearly HP was not trying to convey how women should behave or how differently women should work. S/he was trying to address the importance of balancing firm work with networking, biz dev, and outreach. Nothing in that piece of advice was sexist.

5:43pm asked the right and relevant question - "what balance should be struck and how?" Let's move onto answering that question.

Anonymous said...

The over sensitive comments made me throw up. I got your point the first time HP. Keep up the good work.

Hiring Partner said...

I agree some here seem to be overly sensitive. Perhaps they should be reading feminist law professors blog instead. One of the most successful women attorneys I know is tough, yet feminine. Helps other women, and men too. Can totally hold her own with the guys and be a terrific gal friend. Can take a joke, and dole one out. People go to her because she's a terrific lawyer, she has a huge network, and she can get things through processes. Don't take yourselves too seriously and remember, only about 18 percent of partners in Big Law are women -- so you need to get along with plenty of men.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for clarifying HP. I can agree with what you're saying much more easily now.

I'm not necessarily saying that I agree, but I could imagine that some readers see phrases like "lady lawyer" and make assumptions from there. Women who are doctors or lawyers don't tend to identify themselves as "lady doctors/lawyers" and they also don't tend to identify men in those roles as "male doctors/lawyers". On the other hand I've heard plenty of other women and men say those things. That's what makes a blog like this so interesting in terms of exposing gender bias, because it aims at some sort of gender neutral that doesn't occur in society.

The reasons that I would assume that HP is male are because of the "so what?" reaction to a comment about one of the associates having children and the use of the "I know a woman partner" example. Of the lawyers and law students that I know who are women, all of them agree that having children while you are an associate is a serious decision that may well have long term repercussions for your career, and at the least must be done strategically. I've never really gotten the "so what" reaction to having kids from another woman, but I suppose it is possible. In terms of HP's female friend who is a partner and has kids, yes, some women have been able to achieve this balance and salvage their careers, but there is yet to be a good, duplicable model that can be used at all levels of legal practice.

Hiring Partner said...

HP has known many successful female attorneys. Some are partners at firms; some are GCs at companies, some are senior lawyers in government. There are many different paths. Big Law is only one. However, these basic principles HP has been explaining apply throughout these various career options. If you aren't a strong lawyer, if you don't develop a network and have people know and respect you, your options will be more limited. In firms, money = power, of course. HP's friend with kids has a nice book of business -- that gave friend the leverage to help chart own course re schedule and even move to a different firm.

We are being overly analytical when it comes to language here. Don't take selves too seriously. My friend the partner/mom told her son when there was a mean older guy in the neighborhood "don't you worry, you got a tough lady lawyer mom." It is just a phrase.

In fact, women lawyers in many ways are more effective when it comes to legal work. My friend (darn it I should give her a name) can negotiate with the best of them, and get exactly what her client needs, without yelling, banging on the table, etc.

In closing, HP knows many women lawyers with children. Some have opted out for a time, some work reduce schedules, some work full time. Each person needs to find what works for her family dynamic and career. Again, one size does not fit all.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for clarifying, HP, we (I?) will back off about the gender things, but how about the networking/lawyering balance question raised by 5:43?

AS said...

This is very interesting to read and think about because I'm a third year associate and am trying to decide the best path for me. I am a woman and am very involved in outside curricular events (I teach at the local law school, for example, and am the editor-in-chief of a state-wide journal in my practice area).

Our firm is small (less than ten attorneys) and there are four partners, all male. I am the only woman attorney. I often wonder if it will ever be possible for me to become a partner in that atmosphere. But it makes me feel good to read that I am at least on the right track. I bill a lot of hours, do consistently good work (according to the partners; not just myself), and am willing to help out with firm events. Sometimes it seems like it doesn't make much of a difference, but maybe it does!

f-3 said...

AS - for your sake, and for the sake of anybody else who tries hard like you, I hope there will be a worthwhile payoff! Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I get the critics point, and I get HP's rebuttal. Unless there's additional constructive things to say about women in biglaw, I hope we can move on? I like this blog and appreciate HP's advice. Let's not scare him or her away.

e. said...

Just for the record, my comment above was not intended to point out sexism. I don't think HP's post was sexist at all, and the hubby line was fine. (And I'm female.)

The only thing I was saying is that, while I could of course be wrong, HP strikes me as a male. Others (including HP him/herself) might disagree.

Anonymous said...

I happen to know the HP and have known the HP for 25 years and can state unequivocally that the HP strongly supports (and has a proven track record in) promoting the advancement of women in the workplace and to draw innacurate inferences based on the "Mindy" commentary is just an absurdity.