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.

This calls for a celebration!

I am honored to announce that the National Law Journal has named Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP, as the fourth best firm in the United States for women lawyers.

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Rankings are based, not only on the number of women attorneys in the firm, but also the number of women in partnership and leadership positions. This is a real testament to our commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Recently, our firm has also received recognition from Law360 for being one of the top 10 law firms for African-American attorneys, the top 25 for women partners, the top 100 for women attorneys, and the top 100 for minority attorneys.

The legal industry tends to be risk-averse, and has lagged behind many other industries in diversity and inclusion. Thanks to all of our attorneys and staff, who make our firm a welcoming place that attracts and keeps the very best talent.

Image Credit: From flickr, Creative Commons license, by Merritt Boyd.

Deshauna Barber made history last week by becoming the first Miss USA winner who is actively serving in the United States military.  First, it is undeniable that this woman is drop dead gorgeous. She is also the epitome of strength:  physical strength, intellectual strength, and strength of character.  After growing up in her non-“girly” military family, obtaining her master’s degree in management information systems (not exactly a traditional “girly” career choice), it is refreshingly wonderful that she openly embraces the indulgences of femininity.

So, wear your heels, wear your swimsuits, overdo your makeup, have big curls and lots of hairspray.  It just gives me the chance to be really girly, and I think that’s what fascinates me about [pageantry].

Interview of Deshauna Barber by Diana Falzone, Fox411. Continue Reading Congratulations to Deshauna Barber: Strength and Femininity

Nashville partner Teresa Bult is providing a guest post today.

Lately, I keep reading articles about how horrible the networking process is, especially for introverts and lawyers (oh wait, that may an oxymoron). And I must say, when I first started out networking, I felt exactly the same way. I still tell young associates that networking and marketing can seem like the “fine art of beating your head up against the wall.”

You can spend hours and hours and meeting after meeting and cocktail event after
cocktail event, and never walk away with any business. And the reality is, we Womens Busienss Socialare now in a legal market where young associates are told when they walk in the door of many law firms that they not only need to be good at sitting alone in their office understanding and dissecting the law, but also counterintuitively, out socializing and developing relationships and business. What? What? These two things do not mesh with lawyers’ (or introverts’) personalities, and the dichotomy might just be enough to push some lawyers off the ledge (as if lawyers didn’t have enough pressure to be hanging by a thread, anyway).

Even in-house attorneys have this problem. They need to connect with their business partners and are expected to “network” with other in-house counsel, outside counsel, and those in the C-suite. From what I understand from my peers, it can be a miserable endeavor.

Over the years, however, I have figured out it just isn’t that hard. Indeed, the fact that so many lawyers and other more introverted salespeople THINK networking is so hard is the precise reason it isn’t. It isn’t hard to distinguish yourself in a crowd of people who are clearly networking as they are gritting their teeth. Continue Reading Inverting views on Networking: How Can You Influence Someone’s Life Today?

On Mother’s day, many of us working mom’s receive flowers, cards, phone calls and maybe even breakfast in bed (often cereal or burnt toast and a very messy kitchen, but it is the thought that counts).  Or maybe some of us will be spending some of our special day still responding to emails between hugs and kisses.

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No matter how you are spending your Mother’s Day, many of our Mother’s Day wish lists include intangibles, especially “The Mores of Professional Moms:” more time, more patience, more opportunities for “do-overs,” more help, more calm, more beach days, and dear heaven – more sleep!

And we also wish for less:  less nagging, less whining, less tantrums (our children’s and our own), less tears (our children’s and our own) less compulsion to manage our children like we manage our employees, less late-nights, less homework (our children’s and our own), less re-learning Geometry, and most of all, less guilt.

So to our fellow professional moms, on this Mother’s Day, remember to give yourself permission: permission to not be perfect, permission to put the iphone and ipad away for a block of time without feeling guilty, permission to make mistakes because you are still human (no really – you are still human), permission to ask for help, permission to say you can’t do everything, and permission to believe that despite your imperfections and mistakes, you are a good role model for your children.  You are demonstrating leadership, responsibility and time management in your profession and in your home.  Despite your best efforts, you are also showing your children that you do not have to be perfect to be a great leader and an even greater mom.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Image Credits: From flickr, Creative Commons license. Image of Working mom by Ran Zwigenberg.  

As business women, we are always wondering if we’re doing enough to reach our goals and attain our own versions of success.  There are countless articles online providing tips and tools for women to succeed in their careers.  Each lists the author’s personal experiences and some deep analysis about how, if you follow the listed tips, you are surely on the right road. Well, it’s often not that simple.  Since the steps needed to achieve your own success vary greatly depending on personality, geographical location, career field, and so many other important factors, it is helpful to hear from a variety of successful women as to what works for them.

Here’s some great advice from some of the highly successful women at Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete.  Hopefully, one or more of these words of wisdom will inspire, motivate, or prompt positive change in your own life.

Develop a Personal Team

Anjanette Cabrera, a partner in Constangy’s New York office, offered the following tip: Continue Reading Some Advice From Behind the Desk of Successful Constangy Women

As an attorney, I am always aware that the way I conduct myself professionally reflects on how my law firm, my law school, and my fellow attorneys are perceived out in the world.  Who wants to be the cause of another lawyer joke?  Not me!  But being an attorney is not my only identity.  I also happen to be a woman, a mom, and a lot of other things.

Female attorneys are doing amazing things all over the place, but there is no question that stereotypes still haunt us at times.  Take for example the recent story about a lawyer who was sanctioned for telling his opposing counsel that raising her voice in a deposition was “not becoming of a woman.”  And I know plenty of female attorneys who have shown up to a deposition and been asked if they are court reporters or paralegals.  

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As it turns out, worrying about stereotypes can really mess with cognitive performance.  Imagine showing up for an important meeting, deposition, or presentation and discovering that you are the only woman or minority in the room.  You may begin to worry that others are making assumptions about you based on a stereotype and that you might do something to confirm their negative assumptions about you are right.  “They assumed I was not an attorney! What if they think I am too timid/too aggressive/not smart enough to be here?  What if they call me sweetie?  What if I get flustered when things get heated? What if I start crying?!!”    

As it turns out, there is a name for the feeling that you may be at risk of confirming negative stereotypes about your social group.  It is called “stereotype threat.”  I first heard about “stereotype threat” on an NPR podcast called the Hidden Brain.  The podcast focused on the story of Annie Duke, a highly successful poker player who often found herself as the only woman at the poker table.  Even though she had fought her way to the final hand of the World Series of Poker: Tournament of Champions, which she eventually won, Duke still found herself questioning whether she really deserved to be there or whether she was only there as the token woman.  

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Social scientists and psychologists have found that stereotype threat can hinder performance in situations involving a stereotype-based expectation of poor performance.  When someone facing a difficult task uses valuable brain power to worry about negative stereotypes, it actually reduces the individual’s available cognitive resources, which in turn makes it more difficult to successfully perform the task at hand.  For example, stereotype threat has been shown to affect black and Hispanic students taking standardized tests, women taking math tests, and women MBA students engaging in negotiation tasks.  (Steele & Aronson, 1995; Gonzales, Blanton, & Williams, 2002; Spencer, Steele, & Quinn, 1999; Kray, Galinsky, & Thompson, 2002).  When women and/or people of color are a demographic minority in their workplace, they have an increased likelihood of experiencing stereotype threat.  Women have also been known to suffer a decline in performance when put in the presence of men holding sexist attitudes, so if opposing counsel keeps calling you “sweetie,” you could very well be affected by stereotype threat.  (Logel, Walton, Spencer, Iserman, von Hipple, and Bell, 2009).

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As companies continue to diversify and emphasize inclusiveness, hopefully negative stereotypes will begin to fade into the past.  Until then, however, there are numerous ways to overcome stereotype threat.  As a bonus, I think these suggestions would be helpful to anyone who is nervous about an upcoming difficult task like a presentation, meeting, a deposition, or even an important conversation with a supervisor.  So if you are not sure whether you are doubting yourself because of general nervousness or because of a possible stereotype threat, go ahead and give these suggestions a try either way:  

  • Think powerful thoughts!  Remind yourself about a time when you accomplished something great.  Take a moment to list some of your strengths and think about how those strengths will help you get through the task at hand.  Acts of self-affirmation have been shown to negate the effects of stereotype threat.  (Martens, Johns, Greenberg, & Schimel, 2006)
  • Reflect on role models who have overcome the same stereotype.  Consider keeping a notebook with articles about role models that you can flip through for inspiration before a difficult task.  (McIntyre, Lord, Gresky, Ten Eyck, Fry, & Bond Jr., 2005)
  • Reframe the task.  Think of what you are about to do as a learning experience rather than a test of your ability.   (Alter, Aronson, Darley, Rodriguez, Ruble, 2010)
  • Embrace your butterflies.  A wise acting teacher once told me that even the most accomplished actors still get nervous before they go on stage.  Getting nervous often means you care about doing a good job, and a lot of times the butterflies can actually give you a boost of energy to help you perform well.  

 

While many of us may be aware that March is Women’s History Month, not many of us (including myself) may have been aware of its origins. So I did a little digging.

According to the Library of Congress, “Women’s History Month had its origins in 1981 when Congress passed Pub. L. 97-28 which authorized and requested the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as ‘Women’s History Week.’  As requested by Congress, President Reagan issued Presidential Proclamation 4903 proclaiming the week beginning on March 7, 1982 as the first “Women’s History Week” and recognizing the vital role of women in American history.”

Looking back at President Reagan’s original proclamation, I was struck by how the language about leadership by women, both in the workplace and in society at large, still rings true:

American women of every race, creed and ethnic background helped found and build our Nation in countless recorded and unrecorded ways. As pioneers, teachers, mothers, homemakers, soldiers, nurses and laborers, women played and continue to play a vital role in American economic, cultural and social life. In science, business, medicine, law, the arts and the home, women have made significant contributions to the growth and development of our land. Their diverse service is among America’s most precious gifts.

As leaders in public affairs, American women not only worked to secure their own rights of suffrage and equal opportunity but also were principal advocates in the abolitionist, temperance, mental health reform, industrial labor and social reform movements, as well as the modern civil rights movement. Their dedication and commitment heightened awareness of our society’s needs and accelerated our common efforts to meet those needs.

Women in the workplace often strive to make the next steps in our career whether that is building our own businesses, expanding our networks, establishing our brand, or any other number of professionally oriented goals. Women in the workplace of today are also leaders and advocates in other areas of society beyond the world of business- just think about women from Oprah Winfrey to Sheryl Sandberg to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

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However, what struck me more was the idea that women are impacting their field, business, and society at large in “unrecorded” ways, and that these are perhaps even more impactful. Certainly women have made significant “recorded” contributions to society and their business- such as Madeleine Albright becoming the first female secretary of state or Kathyrn Bigelow becoming the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Director. For most of us, however, our impact on society falls more into the category of “unrecorded” acts of leadership and service. Not all of us will write a novel, appear on the news, or be awarded with recognition on a televised award show (even if we wish that were true!), but we still honor the proclamation of President Reagan through “unrecorded” acts of leadership and service.

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These “unrecorded” acts are significant contributions and the foundation of our role as women in society. This leadership and service can come in many forms, from involvement with a local charity, work in our church or religious organization, service to our alma maters, and just daily mentoring and support of others in our industry or business. It is these same “unrecorded” successes that grow and develop society at large.  As such, we should remember to give each other, and ourselves the good ol’ “pat on the back” for all the “unrecorded” ways we are making real contributions and changes to our economy, our culture, and our society, and keep the tradition alive.