Thursday, December 6, 2012

One Way to Know You Travel Too Much . . .

When the TSA Agent at one of the busiest airports on the East Coast asks gruffly, "How often do you come through here?"; you answer, "Waaaay too much,"; and he breaks into a big smile saying, "I knew I recognized you!"

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Senior Partner AND Mother: 10 Years Gone

Ten years ago today, I spoke to the entire partnership of my firm, and I argued my case to become a senior partner.

The year before, I had asked my firm's executive committee to understand that as the mother of two young children I could not and would not bill at the highest levels. I had asked the firm to accept that my hours would be "low" (meaning "only" 1800 to 1900 billable hours per year, rather than consistently at or above 1950-2000) and to weigh that fact, when determining my compensation, against the many more subjective ways in which I believed my contributions would continue to excel. To the firm management's credit, they accepted my proposition unconditionally.

Senior partners can only be made by a two-thirds vote of existing senior partners. (Only one of the existing senior partners was then female, and she had become a mother only after becoming a senior partner.)

As I became eligible for senior partner consideration the following year, some existing senior partners questioned whether a "part time" partner such as me should ever become a senior partner. The issue wasn't the hours per se. Though I was on the low end, there were and always have been other senior partners with low(er) hours. Nor was I "part time" under any normal definition. I worked at least 9-10 hours a day, five days a week and more on weekends. As I see it, the issue was conceptual: it was about my open acknowledgement that the firm was not my only priority. My candidacy was in doubt despite my record of past and continuing contributions equalling those of other senior partners.

And so I asked to speak at our annual year-end partner meeting where such things are decided. No one had ever done such a thing before (or since). I did not argue the facts of my contributions, but rather the meaning of senior partnership in my firm's history and partnership documents. I sought to place "commitment" in a context that recognizes that billable hours, though seemingly "objective," are not a proxy for passion, integrity, skill and business contributions.

Litigators are a tough crowd. But I still think it was the finest argument I ever gave. Who says you can't be your own lawyer?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Still Needing a Room of Our Own?

Several years ago, two new publications premiered aimed at women in the legal professions. One was the wittily named, "Sue Magazine," edited by Chere Estrin. The second was "Women Legal," an off-shoot of the more Euro-focused Managing Partner Magazine. Our firm subscribed to both, as I'm sure many did, and I know our female lawyers enjoyed reading the early issues.

I struggle to keep up with my non-essential reading (and my essential reading, and my bed time reading, and my children's bed time stories . . .), and Sue and Women Legal fell by the wayside. Recently, I learned that both have folded. My first reaction to this news was a slight sadness, seasoned with the happier thought that most likely these magazines failed because their parochial focus had become an anachronism by their late '00s launch.

A "Google" search to discover their fate gave me no answers.

(Full disclosure, "sue magazine" is an entertaining search if you like reading about kate-middleton-nude-photo-gate. Aand who doesn't? . . . )

But the on-topic results did somewhat temper my initial upbeat assessment. To the best of my googling ability, one of the last cyber traces of Sue, is the following cynical exchange, from "":

"Sue Magazine, for women in litigation" by WALTER OLSON on NOVEMBER 3, 2008
We didn’t make this up. Really, we didn’t. Well-known Loyola lawprof Laurie Levenson is listed among those involved. . . . 
More: AmLaw Litigation Daily suggests some spinoffs, including 'Pat: For Women in Sexual Harassment Litigation.'"

Really?! Heavy sigh . . .

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

We Girls Are All Alike

My male colleagues always assume we women stick together. They'll meet a female General Counsel and call me up: "Hey, I just met the head of litigation at XCorp. She's a woman, just like you. You should get together!"

This makes me nuts! No one ever says, "Hey, you should get to know John over at TargetClient. He has a beard too. See if you can set up a lunch!"

Just sayin'.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Road Lawyer

Back to New Orleans, a trigger for one of my early posts, and a reminder of who I was and may or may not still be.

When I wrote the last post, I was immersed in the routine that has been my norm for more than twenty years, traveling at least twice a month on average. Sometimes just for the day, occasionally leaving home for weeks and even months, making a new home in Anytown, USA. Young lawyers are often drawn to our firm because of the travel. Or at least, because of a certain type of national, big ticket practice in which travel is inherent: there’s something vaguely glamorous about it all.

My assistant knows the requirements: plush hotel, easy walk from the courthouse, Zagat 25+ room service and a good wine list. That, my plastic bag of toiletries, an office-in-a-briefcase and unlimited dry-cleaning  are all I need to transform into my favorite superhero, “Road Lawyer.” Road Lawyer speeds through TSA lines in a single bound, navigates foreign cities with ease, tips just a little too much, smiling and inspiring bell boys everywhere to say, “Who was that masked lawyer?”

And yet, Road Lawyer always tells the young ones that the travel is the worst part of the job. Travel is exhausting, she explains. Travel takes you away from your life and the rest of your practice. Your clients won’t pay for a fraction of the lost time, and no one can compensate you for the disrupted sleep, the missed children’s baseball games, the flight delays, the lonely nights and poor food. Those are your own personal “overhead.”

And yet, and yet . . . Would I not miss it if I stopped.

Wouldn’t I miss the mantle of faux importance Road Lawyer dons as she strides through the marble lobbies? The assumed hipness Road Lawyer collects along with her room key at that funky downtown boutique? The expense account Michelin-stars and grands crus?

And above all, wouldn’t I miss the anonymity? Road Lawyer isn’t just a tired old woman with children who miss her and clients who quibble over their bills.

Road Lawyer is smart and beautiful and invincible.

Road Lawyer can do anything . . .