EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third and final post in the blog series Diary of a Pregnant Lawyer – Pregnancy in the Professional Workplace. The first blogmester is here, and the second is here. Mallory wrote all three installments before she had her baby on December 22.

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“Uh, I don’t think so!”

Welcome to the Third Blogmester! This blogmester feels very near and dear to my heart, because as I am writing this one I am about as preggo as a preggo can be. I am very uncomfortable, owing to the giant baby mushing all of my innards, and writing in between contractions. Don’t worry – they are not timeable (I don’t think?).

But remember at the very beginning of my blog series when I said practicing law while being pregnant is hard? Well, that sentiment stems mostly from the third trimester, during which the difficulty of working in a professional atmosphere correlates with the growing of the baby bump. Heels, suits, pantyhose – HECK NO to all of these things, I say! I am now proudly rocking the “frumpy” professional look because it is truly the best I can do short of showing up in my pajamas.

Continue Reading Diary of a pregnant lawyer: Third blogmester

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in the three-trimester blog series Diary of a Pregnant Lawyer – Pregnancy in the Professional Workplace. The first blogmester is here. On December 22 (after she wrote her last “blogmester” post, which we’ll publish later this month), Mallory gave birth to Margot Eleanor Ricci. Congratulations, Mallory!

You have survived the first trimester! Many consider the first trimester to be the hardest of the three (I respectfully disagree and will elaborate more in the upcoming Third Blogmester post).

"Honey, I made it to my second trimester!"
“Honey, I made it to my second trimester!”

If you spent the first trimester escaping to your office for 30-minute power naps, escaping to the bathroom for vomit sessions, or escaping to the fridge for some craving-satisfying snacks, things may be looking a little better for you now.

Unless you’re like me, and the fun times are rolling for a little while longer.

In any event, this second 12-week period is considered to be the easiest. But that doesn’t mean the second trimester doesn’t come without issues, some of which involve the place where professional women spend the majority of their time – work!

Let’s read about some other practicing attorneys’ experiences during the middle of their pregnancy and see if this trimester is as uneventful as it seems . . .

“I was six months pregnant with my first child, and huge. I was at a hearing in the judge’s chambers. Opposing counsel asked when I was due, and I said in three months. The male judge looked at me in amazement and said ‘are you expecting twins?’ I said ‘no,’ and he was hugely embarrassed. Needless to say, I won the hearing.”

“I may be one of the only women who HATED being pregnant. (Or at least one of the only ones to admit it.) I was grouchy, to say the least. However, with that grouchiness came a positive. For approximately 25 weeks (after I went public in the office), I reveled in the fact that the men completely left me alone. I got more work done those 25 weeks because our male dominated office at the time treated me like I had the plague. It wasn’t mean–it was for their own safety and self-preservation. I was spared the hour-long football story distractions and petty arguments that come along with practicing law with an office full of brilliant A-type personalities. My partners also took advantage of my ‘grouchiness.’ I was the one who was always picked to have the controversial phone calls with opposing counsel (also men). It was a great way for me to vent my irritation–and useful, too, because we were preparing for trial all that summer with a very difficult opposing counsel. Needless to say–I usually got my way, and my husband enjoyed the fact that I was a little nicer at home!”

“While I was pregnant, opposing counsel was pregnant, too. Under the state rule, the duration of a deposition is severely limited, and I ended up having to ask the Court for additional time because of the number of bathroom breaks that my opponent took. She opposed the motion, but I was granted the additional time.”

Continue Reading Diary of a pregnant lawyer: Second blogmester

Being pregnant can be hard. Working while pregnant can be really hard. Practicing law while pregnant can be hard, really hard, and more.

As I sit here I am well into the third trimester of my first pregnancy. While typing this introduction, I have had to “go” three times, and I have my feet propped up on two unused computer bags under my desk because by the end of the day my feet look like wonky balloon animals. Looking back at my pregnancy journey, I am aware of how fortunate I am to not have a physically demanding job and to have had a relatively healthy pregnancy – though not without its bumps (in addition to my one big bump) along the way.  I am also aware, however, of the unique challenges pregnancy poses to professional women. Women and their employers should be equipped to handle these challenges. That is what this post is for.

Much like pregnancy, this diary is going to be divided into three “blogmesters”:

First blogmester: family planning and the first trimester;

Second blogmester: the seemingly uneventful second trimester; and

Third blogmester: working while getting ready to deliver, maternity leave, and post-partum issues.

Continue Reading Diary of a Pregnant Lawyer First Blogmester – Planning for Pregnancy and First Trimester

Our sister blog, Employment & Labor Insider has once again been named by the American Bar Association as one of the top 100 Blawgs out of 4000. Robin Shea is the Blawg Editor and primary author who entertains, informs and provides common sense employment law insight every Friday without fail. She has also been a great mentor to me – a more novice blogger – and our great team of FOCUS bloggers. And she does all this while also being an excellent attorney.

Robin embodies what this blog is all about – great women in leadership who are ready to help others be the best we can be – and we are proud to call her our partner. Congratulations Robin and Employment & Labor Insider.

 

I do not consider myself to be a confrontational person.  Maybe that sounds like a paradox cowomen argueming from a lawyer, but I suspect I may not be the only one in my profession who feels this way. To me, making persuasive legal arguments is fun, but getting yelled at or antagonized by a not-so-nice opposing counsel really stresses me out.
I get that this is often the goal of these sorts of tactics: challenge everything, send copious nasty emails, drive up costs, and make litigation so unbearable and expensive that my client is eager to settle. I know that these bullies are trying to get under my skin, and I know that I should “not let it get to me.” But I sometimes struggle with figuring out how to get from wanting to let it go to actually letting it go.

let it goI would love to walk out of the office in the evening and not give another thought to any of the nastiness I may have encountered during my day. I do not want to be at home playing with my toddler while thinking about how to respond to an email about some petty slight. I do not want to lose sleep anticipating what ridiculous misrepresentations opposing counsel is going to make about our conversations in a discovery motion. I do not want facing these types of opponents to make me feel burned out on being a lawyer. All of these reactions might mean the bully is winning, and we can’t have that.

I recognize that I have no control over how opposing counsel acts or who I get as opposing counsel in a case.  But what I can control is how I react to and internalize difficult situations that may arise at work.  I am still working on getting better at this, but wanted to reflect on some techniques and strategies that I have come across. I work with some wonderful, wise, and kind attorneys who have given me lots of helpful advice on this subject. Here are some things that I have found to be helpful for dealing with difficult opposing counsel or other difficult individuals and confrontational situations in the workplace:

  • woman handshakeKill them with kindness. Maybe politeness is the better word here, but I have found that if I focus on maintaining my own sense of civility in my interactions with opposing counsel it distracts me from worrying as much about what they are saying. Being polite does not mean caving into unreasonable demands. It just means taking the high ground and remaining professional as you assert your position. Bullies often want a fight, so if you refuse to stoop to their level, it sometimes has the added effect of unnerving or calming them down. Smile, ignore their behavior, and act like you are not bothered by it.
  • Document everything. If opposing counsel has a tendency to misrepresent your conversations, make a habit of following up any phone conversations with an email or a letter summarizing the discussion and the positions taken by each party. Assume that this document might eventually find its way to the court so keep it professional and focused on the issues. Do not ever put anything in writing that you would be embarrassed for the court to see. If opposing counsel repeatedly becomes heated or abusive over the phone, or if he or she continues to misrepresent discussions, let the attorney know that all future discussions will need to be in writing. If an attorney is acting up during a deposition, make a statement on the record to document the behavior, but do not get pulled into an argument. If the deposition is being videotaped, let the lawyer’s behavior speak for itself.
  • Know how to end the conversation. Sometimes it becomes clear that an opposing attorney is not actually willing to agree on anything. Allow the attorney to state his or her position. Reiterate where you stand, say you have heard, and either say that you will take it under consideration or suggest allowing the court to decide the dispute. In other words, agree to disagree and move on.

These suggestions have been great in helping guide the ways that I communicate with disagreeable attorneys, but as far as figuring out how to maintain a sense of emotional well-being and actually let things go, I’ve had to dig a little bit deeper. This is where mindfulness comes in. Yes, “mindfulness” is pretty trendy right now.  Amazon has about a million books on the subject, including a variety of children’s books.  The app store on my phone contains an assortment of apps containing mindfulness exercises. You can even buy “mindful” mayonnaise and dog shampoo! Many companies, sports teams, and schools have begun offering or requiring mindfulness training for employees and students, sometimes with impressive results for participants such as improved performance, stress relief, better quality sleep, fuller enjoyment of life, and even alleviation of certain health issues.

So what exactly is mindfulness (other than a clever way to market mayonnaise)? Mindfulness is a practice that involves focusing on the present moment, observing and accepting any feelings, thoughts, and sensations that are present without judging them. It’s a form of meditation that is supposed to be carried into our everyday life. For example, there are exercises about mindful eating, which focus on enjoying the sensations of food rather than rushing through a meal. There are mindful sitting exercises, mindful walking exercises, and even exercises for mindful internet use. The goal of these exercises is not to completely clear the mind of any thoughts, but to adopt a more accepting and less judgmental way of interacting with our own thoughts and feelings. From my experiences in my pre-lawyer life as an actor, I know that focusing awareness on physical sensations and breath is an excellent way to remain present in the moment instead of judging your own performance or trying to force yourself to have feelings you think you should have, so I am definitely intrigued by the idea of incorporating mindfulness into my daily life as a lawyer.woman at desk

I have only just started to explore mindfulness to see whether it is something that works for me, but I’m going to give it a try, along with continuing to use the techniques I described above. During an unpleasant conversation with opposing counsel, practicing mindfulness might mean pausing to notice feelings of anger and the physical sensations that accompany those feelings, and focusing on taking some deep breaths. If thoughts about a confrontation with opposing counsel creep into my mind while I am trying to relax at home, a “mindful” reaction would be to notice and acknowledge the thoughts as sort of an interesting phenomenon and then focus on the physical sensations I am feeling to gently bring my mind back to the present. With time, I hope to get better at these techniques and at seeing whether I can make mindfulness practices part of my daily routine.

If you are curious about mindfulness, there are numerous resources to help you get started. I’ve even seen continuing legal education courses and books offering mindfulness courses geared specifically toward lawyers. It seems like there is a mindfulness option out there for everyone, even the mayonnaise addicts with dogs! I don’t know whether mindfulness is the magic potion for living a stress-free life, but for anyone else who has trouble taking a break from worrying about work, I recommend at least giving it a try.

During college, law school and the first few years of my practice, I never gave much (ok, any) thought to taking a break from work.  I was too focused on developing a career. Planning to not work – apart from the very distant notion of retiring someday – never really dawned on me.  In the abstract, I had formed a belief that being a professional woman would somehow provide me with options if and when I ever wanted to exercise them.  So, sure, if I could afford to take a few years off after maternity leave and return to work once my future children reached elementary school age, I could do that.  But, what I didn’t appreciate was how difficult it could be to exit and then return to my profession once I had my own clients and was responsible for my own workload.  Where would my value lie if all of my clients were transitioned to other attorneys during my absence?  What would I come back to? Realistically, could I ever really take extended time off from work and return to the career that I was working so hard to build?

Fast forward a few years (ok, maybe more than a few) and this has become a very familiar topic of discussion among my friends who work in a variety of fields.  It seemed, somehow, to catch many of us off guard that professional success and tenure made it difficult to take a prolonged break from work and return to our careers.  Sure, we would expect to find employment, but could we ever return to roles that were comparable to the ones that we had before?

Regardless of the personal decisions ultimately reached or paths taken, questions about whether it would be possible to successfully return to the workforce after a significant break are important – and I think that women especially should be asking these questions and considering these issues much earlier in our careers – before our 30s.

sabbatical

It is a fact that more women than men leave the workforce to care for a parent, spouse or child, and there are many other reasons professionals take extended leaves like military service, extended volunteer work, personal illness, sabbatical, or extended once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. So, whether planned or not, the possibility of a leave of absence exists for many women. It seems prudent, then, that our arsenal of career development tools and plans includes doing what is necessary to ensure a successful return from an extended leave should we ever need or want to take one.

A while back I was forwarded this video link to a November 2015 TED Talk given by career reentry expert Carol Fishman Cohen:

Continue Reading Plan Ahead for Extended Leaves of Absence – Even If You Never Intend to Take Them

According to an article in bizwomen, for the last two years Wells Fargo has been building an external business strategy, known as the “women’s initiative.” Wells Fargo has been marketing specifically to women by educating their teams on why they should focus on women and how to market to women based on the differences in the ways that men and women do business.

It is clear that Wells Fargo wants women’s business. And for good reason. According to the bizwomen article, women-owned businesses are expected to make up 39 percent of all businesses by 2017.

I am reminded of the 2000 movie What Women Want. Mel Gibson plays a marketing executive who can hear women’s thoughts. He uses this tool to, among other things, better market toward women by working closely with his new boss in order to steal her thoughts and develop a marketing pitch to Nike Women. Before he got the “gift” (if you want to call it that) of hearing women’s thoughts, Mr. Gibson’s character was known to be a bit of a scoundrel.  Most of the movie consists of Mr. Gibson getting in touch with his feminine side in order to determine – wait for it – what women want. At the end of the movie, the final pitch to Nike Women is geared toward women runners. It shows a quiet, lonely road, occupied by a single woman running. The ad focuses on the woman’s desire to simply run on the pavement without superficial judgment or expectations. The women love it, Mr. Gibson’s company wins the pitch, Mr. Gibson’s character gets the girl, and everybody lives happily ever after.

But do men and women really need to be marketed to separately? Judging from Super Bowl commercials, it appears that the ad industry has already decided “yes.” You’ll get an eyeful of burgers, fast cars, beer, and babes (and I don’t mean infants). To keep the women interested, occasionally you’ll get Ryan Reynolds, puppies, wine, or babies (now, I do mean infants).

Every now and then, you may have a standout commercial that is clearly geared to women, like the 2015 Always “Like a Girl” commercial.

An article about the ad noted, “[T]he ad may be the first time a feminine care product was advertised during the Super Bowl and is a prominent example of how companies are trying to woo women customers are shifting advertising tactics.”

Should women be offended that we are being marketed to differently? Does this mean that we are really being reduced to wine, cuddly animals, and cute babies? (Not that there’s anything wrong with those things.) But a lot of women like burgers, fast cars, and beer, too. And a lot of men like wine, cuddly animals, and cute babies.

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Just because you like me . . .

The “Like a Girl” campaign teaches us that society has applied different norms and expectations to young men and women, some of which persist, but it also teaches us that women are rewriting the rules.

According to a 2015 report by First Round Capital, tech startup companies founded by women performed better than those founded by men. Yet, there are only 24 female CEOs in the S&P 500. Is this because of the glass ceiling, or are smaller tech companies – as opposed to the more traditional companies included in the top 500 – providing women leaders with more attractive opportunities? Possibly, both.

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. . . doesn’t mean you can’t like me, too.

The “Like a Girl” campaign and the Wells Fargo women’s initiative are run by women. Given the growing number of women-owned businesses, the success of tech startups founded by women, and the stark reality that women are still not running very many S&P 500 companies, programs like the “women’s initiative” and the “Like a Girl” campaign are less about differentiating women from men and more about responding to real changes and providing women leaders with the tools to be successful in their own way, whether as a small business owners or as CEOs.

It is a recognition of differences in how women and men succeed, and how they define success. Recognizing these differences must not be demeaning to women. Companies should recognize that women leaders are here, important, and growing in number, and that their different styles, needs, interests, and goals are contributing to positive change in business. Companies like Wells Fargo, who help women-owned businesses to grow, will reap the benefits of their success. More companies should follow that example, not by singling women customers out for their femininity, but by recognizing that women have something to offer to the success of a business. All will benefit in the long run.

Still image credits: From flickr, Creative Commons license. Kitten by Orest Schvadchak, still from Hot Rod Girl (1956) by Insomnia Cured Here. 

We’re Number One !!!

Constangy is celebrating its continued success – again!  Vault.com has recognized Constangy as the #1 Best Law Firm for Women and #1 Best Law Firm for Minorities.

Vault.com is a leading provider of information for companies looking for business partners, and talent seeking the best opportunities for their next career choice. In recognizing Constangy as THE leading law firm for women and minorities, Vault.com not only looked at our numbers, but also at what people think of us. Specifically, Vault’s methodology included a survey of more than 18,000 associates at law firms across the country.  This is evidence of our being viewed by the future generation of legal leaders as a firm that is “getting it right” and a place where they want to be.

So celebrate with us, and since we will always seek to be better than we are now, keep an eye out for more successes in our future.

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It is fall of 2011.  I am participating in a mock trial tournament.  I am defending a (pretend) driver in a (fake) personal injury lawsuit.  I deliver the opening statement and I cross-examine the plaintiff.  After the trial, I sit by nervously awaiting comments from the judges.  I received many well-deserved compliments and critiques.  I will never forget, however, what one of the female judges said to me:

I thought you were great; you really drilled the plaintiff on cross.  But, a word of caution.  I think you are walking the line between being “assertive” and being too “aggressive.”  People often find aggressive females off-putting.  I think the problem is the color of your shirt.  It is too blue.  Try wearing a softer, more feminine color next time, like a pale pink.

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“Pink!” “No! Blue!”

Yes … my shirt was too blue.  I was appalled at first.  But, looking back on what I am sure was meant as well-meaning advice, it all makes sense.

Female attorneys are held to certain unique standards or truths. (See Heidi Wilbur’s great take on it here.) I have been educated on all of the female golden rules since becoming a law student.

Rule number one: Don’t argue for a raise based on merit; rather, ask for a raise so that it seems like you are asking for “help.” As in, men like to be needed by women, so don’t go into the board room making demands, but rather, appear meek and needy.

Rule number two: Never wear pantsuits in court. Believe it or not I have witnessed many lawyers and judges make comments about “pantsuit” women.

Rule number three: (which has been told to me by an actual sitting judge) Keep your hair pulled back in the courtroom because long hair is distracting.

Rule number four: Don’t be overly aggressive with your witnesses, or the jury will hate you.

Rule number five: Don’t raise your voice, even when making a passionate point, or you’ll sound like Hillary Clinton (gasp!).

Rule number 6, 7, 8, 9 . .  .: Wear panty hose (Editor’s note – I actually heard a judge say this recently in Florida); wear heels; always be nice; and never cross the invisible line from assertiveness to b****iness.

Alas, the list goes on.

You might as well tell me to strive to be like Kate Middleton.  Because that is totally possible.

Be careful of that blue Kate!
      Be careful of that blue, Kate!

Being taught to follow all of these rules as a law student and young lawyer meant I could no longer dream of screaming like Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men (1992):

“You can’t handle the truth!

 Jack Nicholson (as Col. Nathan R. Jessep) Nicholson’s shouted response to Tom Cruise (playing Lt. Daniel Kaffee) in the movie A Few Good Men (1992).

Or exclaiming like Jim Carrey in Liar Liar:

And the truth shall set you free!

Or even quoting My Cousin Vinny:

Everything that guy just said is bullsh*t!

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Ok, maybe I would never say “bullsh*t” in court, but it is nice to have the option. The saddest part about all of these rules we have been taught is that often they continue to be perpetuated by women. Even I am guilty of passing these rules down to young women I have mentored who ask me for attire and trial advice.

Then, in 2014, I was fortunate to come to Constangy. (For those of you who haven’t heard the good news, Constangy was recently rated by the National Law Journal to be fourth best in the nation for women lawyers.) I have been exposed to so many progressive female role models who have taught me to embrace myself as I am, to say “the hell with” female stereotypes, and by golly wear whatever the heck I want so long as it is professional in the context of the situation. I’ve watched women from our firm make witnesses cry, best opposing counsel at heated arguments, and all at the same time manage to be the most nurturing mothers to their children and make it to their kids’ games and recitals.

Jessica Miranda

My message to our women (and men) readers is this: embrace yourself and surround yourself by others who encourage this as well. I also want to formally take back all the times I told my college mock trial students to not be so aggressive in the courtroom, to wear pearls, and to always pull back their hair. You too can be Lt. Daniel Kaffee, Fletcher Reede or even Vinny Gambini if that is who you are. Say to hell with the rules, and for goodness sake, wear your blue shirt.

Image Credits: From Google, Creative Commons license: Flora, Fauna and Merryweather; flickr, Creative Commons license:  Jessica Miranda in blue blouse; www.quote/counterquote.com: photo of Jack Nicholson, A Few Good Men (1992); http://sylvssilverspoon.blogspot.com: photos of Kate Middleton.

If you are not already a subscriber to our sister blog, Employment & Labor Insider, subscribe now:

Employment & Labor InsiderGretchen-Carlson.flickrCC.Disney-ABCNews-200x300

Constangy blogger, Robin Shea, does her usual masterful job using plain language and accurate analysis regarding Gretchen Carlson’s action against Roger Ailes.

It’s definitely worth a read.

Image Credits: From flickr, Creative Commons license. Photo of former Miss America Gretchen Carlson at Miss America event by Disney/ABC.