February 10, 2017

Lawyers are pretty gritty, researcher Milana Hogan tells women at Midyear Meeting

Lawyers in the audience at a Feb. 3 Midyear Meeting panel discussion titled, “Grit, the Secret to Advancement: Stories of Successful Women Lawyers,” were treated to advice and tips on grit and growth from women who contributed letters to a forthcoming book based on the research done by the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession

The women also had the opportunity during the program to apply the findings from the Commission on Women in the Profession Grit Project in a practical interactive exercise. They talked through scenarios that women are often challenged with in the workplace, worked together in small groups and offered strategies and solutions in an effort to help women advance in their careers.

Women lawyers who shared their stories will have their letters published in a book titled “Grit, the Secret to Advancement: Stories of Successful Women Lawyers,” according to Dr. Milana Hogan, a researcher and chief legal recruiting and professional development officer at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP. The women all have applied the “grit and growth” mindset in their legal fields from various backgrounds including solo practitioners, in-house lawyers and nonprofit and government lawyers.

Hogan’s said her latest research suggests that grit influences a lawyers’ seniority and tenure and said that a grit and growth mindset are important contributors to success.

 “Success is about much more than talent,” Hogan said. Some other contributors to success includes family, culture and friendships, environmental circumstances and deliberate practice. “Talent is only part of the story,” Hogan noted, adding that the amount of time one practices is an important factor in what distinguishes people.

Joining Hogan on the panel were Roula Allouch, attorney at Raymond H. Decker Jr., Cincinnati 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.

The panelists shared advice about how to demonstrate grit and growth. Laben said a long-term career is about making risk assessments. She advised to find, nurture and make time for your resiliency, whether it is running a marathon or spending time with your children, it matters in helping one to stay focused on their goals.

Seitz said if she could do it all over again, she would, “examine who I am.” Seitz said she would analyze her motivations through the lens of her faith because that is what is most important to her.

Allouch suggested being more strategic. “Make a plan and write it down.”

James added that anything that is difficult to do will have the propensity for you to question yourself. “This is a challenge, not a death sentence,” James said about career obstacles. She said the way she is able to keep striving is not to let what someone thinks affect her performance.

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.