January 31, 2017

Midyear 2017: Researcher promotes grit and growth mindset as keys to success for women lawyers

Studies show that women lawyers and law students who demonstrate grit and employ a growth mindset tend to outperform their less “gritty” peers, and researcher Milana Hogan seeks to share these important findings with women lawyers to help them advance their careers.

Steve Curley

Milana Hogan

The Grit Project and the Grit Project Program Toolkit was introduced by the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession in 2014, based on Hogan’s research while studying for her doctorate in education. In her research, Hogan discovered a statistical link between grit and the most successful women in the legal field. The resulting toolkit based on that research includes program agendas, discussion scenarios, PowerPoints and handouts, and is available for free on the ABA website.

Hogan will present an analysis of new research and serve as moderator of “Grit, the Secret to Advancement: Stories of Successful Women Lawyers” at the ABA Midyear Meeting in Miami, from 2-4 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 3 at the JW Marriott Marquis (5th Floor, Plaza 4). The program will also feature a panel of women lawyers who have used the principles of grit and growth mindset successfully in their careers.

What exactly is grit? According to Hogan’s research, lawyers with the trait tend to persevere in the face of challenges, work harder and longer and are more likely to focus their efforts on improving their performance.

Hogan said that grit also tends to come with experience, and that life often teaches us the importance of grit. So it makes sense that sharing advice from top women lawyers would be an essential way to fertilize the seeds of success.

This summer, the will publish the book “Grit, the Secret to Advancement: Stories of Successful Women Lawyers,” containing Hogan’s new research as well as roughly 45 letters from women lawyers who have used principles of the “grit and growth” mindset in a variety of legal work environments, such as solo practitioners, in-house lawyers, law firm lawyers, and government and nonprofit lawyers, for example.

Hogan said research shows that such sharing of experiences can be a powerful learning tool.

“Women lawyers are generally pretty gritty,” she said, adding that it takes a certain amount of the trait just to get through law school. “But research suggests that grit is a quality that can be taught, and nurtured.”

“Grit is related to a number of measures of success … [including] billable hours and quality of work,” she said, adding that a growth mindset is when you believe in the power of effort and the idea that you can always make improvements. “The good news is that mindset “is a very easy thing to change,” she said, especially with deliberate, concerted effort.

In addition to the presentation of Hogan’s latest findings and a discussion among women lawyers who have applied the grit and growth principles to their work, the program also will include an interactive exercise where all attendees – men and women – can discuss how to apply grit and a growth mindset to their own careers.

Panelists joining Hogan include Roula Allouch, attorney at law offices of Raymond H. Decker Jr., Cincinnati, Ohio and Kentucky; Elaine Johnson James, attorney and president of Elaine Johnson James, P.A., West Palm Beach, Fla.; Nancy Laben, executive vice president and general counsel at Booz Allen Hamilton, Washington, D.C.; and Patricia Seitz, senior Judge, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in Miami.

Hogan said that some of the ways you can develop grit and growth mindset include:

  • Learning how to handle failure (use it as a learning opportunity)
  • Learning how to best receive – and give – criticism
  • Being realistically optimistic
  • Identifying the areas of practice that you are truly passionate about
  • Believing in yourself and your ability to make improvements.

One of Hogan’s tips is to not wait until the end of the year to seek feedback about your work, but rather to seek it when it is timely.

Another is to not be afraid to risk failure by asking a colleague or supervisor, “What suggestions do you have for me going forward?” or “How did I fall short on this assignment?”

Combining grit with graciousness in both winning and losing, and learning from mistakes – before ultimately letting them go – are winning attributes, Hogan said.

“Attendees will walk away with practical ideas on how to use grit to help advance their careers and practices,” she said.