July 10, 2014

The Commission Leads at the Cutting Edge

Bobbi Liebenberg

The Commission’s exciting programs for the 2014 ABA Annual Meeting demonstrate once again that our innovative work is continuing to make a profound contribution toward efforts to create a level playing field for women lawyers.

For example, a CLE showcase program features our recently published Grit Toolkit. “Grit” entails perseverance, a strong drive, and commitment to achieve one’s goals. A “growth mindset” is the belief that our abilities are flexible and adaptable and can be improved through a conscientious effort. Extensive research has confirmed repeatedly that the possession of grit and a growth mindset are better predictors of success than pure intelligence, what school you attended, or how high you graduated in your class. Significantly, through teaching, these traits can be developed and enhanced.

The Grit Toolkit, which is the product of a committee spearheaded by Dr. Milana Hogan and Katie Larkin-Wong (liaisons to the Commission on Women in the Profession (CWP)) and Carrie Hightman (a CWP commissioner), can be used by law firms, law departments, bar associations, and law schools to educate women about the importance of grit and a growth mindset and how to improve these traits. The training materials contain a background bibliography of the latest research, PowerPoint slides, and a list of program speakers.

In addition, to illustrate the real-world application of grit and a growth mindset, the training materials contain a series of filmed scenarios to jump-start a program discussion. These vignettes depict important and difficult moments that often arise during the course of a legal career—job interviews, evaluations, and negotiating for origination and billing credit. A detailed facilitator’s guide accompanies the scenarios.

The Annual Meeting also marks the launch of our Women of Color Research Initiative Program Toolkit, which is the result of the hard work of a committee chaired by Lacy Durham and Col. Maritza Ryan (both are CWP commissioners). The Toolkit contains everything needed to present a program describing strategies to improve the hiring, retention, and promotion of women lawyers of color. It is our hope that this Toolkit will facilitate dialogue and spur concrete action to increase the diversity and inclusiveness of legal workplaces. The lack of progress for women lawyers of color has persisted far too long, and change is clearly overdue.

Yet another Annual Meeting highlight is the release of our groundbreaking study concerning the number of women who serve in first-chair positions in civil and criminal litigation and suggested best practices to increase these numbers. This research can be used as a template to examine how women trial lawyers are faring in courts across the country.

As these projects demonstrate, the Commission remains on the cutting edge of important issues affecting women lawyers, offering practical and valuable training and educational materials and programs. It has been my privilege to serve for a second short term as chair of the Commission, which continues to serve and act as the leading national voice of women lawyers and an influential catalyst for change.

Bobbi Liebenberg

Bobbi Liebenberg is a senior partner of Fine, Kaplan and Black, R.P.C., in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is the chair of the Commission on Women in the Profession and DirectWomen and the immediate past chair of the ABA Task Force on Gender Equity.