As the September issue of “Gaveling the Glass Ceiling” goes to press, I’m reminded that we’re entering into “Conference season” — the post-Labor Day period where it seems that many conferences, forums and roundtable discussions are scheduled.
And this is a very good thing, even for those of us who already have a full schedule. While these events often give attendees the chance to learn the latest in areas from emerging legal technology to business development tactics from experts in the legal field, the events also provide much more. These events give us — and more importantly, younger women lawyers — the chance to network, meet colleagues and compatriots and even cast around for possible sponsors who might help their careers.
In fact, two recent events underscored the value of these networking opportunities. Recently, the Thomson Reuters Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law Program hosted its “Rising Stars” cohort, a group of nine high-potential female law firm partners for a dinner and discussion. Sara Moss, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of The Estee Lauder Companies, and Deirdre Stanley, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Thomson Reuters, hosted the session, and much of the discussion there was about the value of networking. (You can read a full write-up of this event here.)
During the evening, several participants pointed out the value of networking with other young women partners who may be facing the same challenges they were facing. Others noted they were the only female partners in their groups, so such exposure to other like-minded individuals was hugely advantageous. They were especially eager to share their experiences around issues of business development, leadership and sponsoring younger female lawyers within their firms or legal departments.
“Everyone rises together,” one group member observed.
While these events often give attendees the chance to learn the latest in areas from emerging legal technology to business development tactics from experts in the legal field, the events also provide much more.
Weeks earlier, there was another working session that underscored the importance of seeking sponsorship opportunities, especially for younger women lawyers. The session, held at last month’s Women’s Bar Leadership Summit, titled Career Tools: Integrating Mentoring, Sponsorship, Coaching and Networking for Maximum Effect, gave attendees the chance to hear from a panel of experts about the value of such opportunities. (You can read a full write-up of this working session here.)
One panelist, Morgan Fraser Mouchette, a Senior Associate at Blank Rome, and the Diversity Co-Chair & Director of the New York Women’s Bar Association, discussed her experiences as an eighth-year associate and said that it’s been her mentorship experiences at the firm which have weighed in heavily in her decision to stay at the firm.
Working hard isn’t enough for success, Mouchette explained, adding that mentors or sponsors can be a young lawyer’s greatest aids in career success. Most importantly in her case, her mentors taught her the pitfalls and politics in the world around her, candidly sharing this valuable information. “It is important to pass these skills along and reinforce the benefits of a diverse organization to colleagues and incoming new lawyers,” she told the group.
And panelist Joseph K. West, Partner and Chief Diversity Officer at Duane Morris, explained how sponsorship differs from mentorship, in that someone who acts as a sponsor can expend resources on a young lawyer’s behalf to clear pathways for them, and stressed how important such relationships were to minority and women lawyers. “Law firms should hold leadership accountable for having sponsorships for women or minorities in place,” he said.
These two events were just a small sample of the networking opportunities and career-focused learning sessions available that are critical to younger lawyers, especially women and minorities. I would urge all lawyers to regard networking and seeking a sponsor as a vital component of career success. Take advantage of these opportunities!