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August 08, 2018 Asked and Answered

Lived and Learned: Why laughter belongs in your work life

By Stephanie Francis Ward

When her career was getting started in the 1970s, a partner interviewing Roberta "Bobbi" Liebenberg for an associate position asked if she would cry when things went south in court. "Why, do you want me to?" Liebenberg quipped.

In this episode of the Asked and Answered: Lived and Learned series, Liebenberg says that in her career as one of the few women appointed as lead counsel for plaintiffs in multidistrict litigation, she’s learned that laughter has a place in the workplace. Humor plays a significant role in defusing the tension that come with practicing law, says Liebenberg, now a senior partner at Fine Kaplan and Black in Philadelphia. But it’s something many law firms overlook, even though it can lead to a more collegial work environment and help with attorney retention.

Humor can also help with how you’re perceived, according to Liebenberg, a former chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession.

Liebenberg was also a founder of DirectWomen, a nonprofit launched in 2007 as an ABA initiative to get more women lawyers as corporate board directors.

“The research shows that people who are humorous are consistently evaluated as being more confident and more competent,” she says.

In This Podcast:

Stephanie Francis Ward
Roberta “Bobbi” Liebenberg is a senior partner at Fine Kaplan and Black in Philadelphia, where she focuses her practice on class actions, antitrust and complex commercial litigation, and white-collar criminal defense. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the Catholic University Columbus School of Law, and served as a law clerk for the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. She is a former chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession.

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