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Despite their impressive titles, women in law firm leadership positions face the same challenges as other women lawyers when it comes to generating significant books of business. With a leadership role, however, women lawyers do have a greater opportunity to grow their business and, in turn, help the next generation of women lawyers succeed. Here are three areas where firm leadership can help improve women lawyers’ business development.
TAKE A PAGE FROM THE MEN’S RULEBOOK. In 2007 Denise Lyons and Connie McArthur analyzed 360-degree feedback for 22 female and 22 male executives. The study, Gender’s Unspoken Role in Leadership Evaluations, found that the women were 25 times more likely to be viewed in terms of gender than the men. Data revealed eight gender-specific comments in 370 surveys about the male executives and 200 gender-specific comments in the 323 surveys about the female executives. As women leaders of law firms know, successful women understand the impact of gender on perception and communication and develop strategies to navigate the glass ceiling and maternal wall.
In addition, successful women have learned to borrow the traits of successful men while staying true to their positive female traits. For example, they are politically savvy and understand that socializing and building relationships often count as much, if not more, than doing good work. They play by the “ask and you shall receive” rule, too, applying it to work assignments, firm service, participation in client pitches and compensation. Perhaps most important, they exude confidence, confidence, confidence. These are all traits that not only help women lawyers become successful firm leaders, but successful rainmakers as well.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF SPECIAL NETWORKS. Actions for Advancing Women into Law Firm Leadership, a recent report by the National Association of Women Lawyers, concludes that professional networks not only provide access to mentors and role models, but also serve as the foundation for business development. As a firm leader, you have multiple avenues for networking, including these:
ADVANCE OTHER WOMEN. As a leader in your firm, you have the ability to recommend and deploy best practices for advancing women in the profession. Consider the following actions, identified in the NAWL report:
By making the women lawyers in your firm better rainmakers, you’ll help to improve the overall success of your firm under your leadership. And if you’re not currently in a firm leadership position, you should seriously consider pursuing one as a means to making more and better rain in the future.
Jody L. Newman is Managing Partner at the litigation firm Dwyer & Collora LLP in Boston.