We have all seen the statistics: only 17 percent of equity partners in the nation’s largest 200 firms are women, only 2 percent of equity partners in the largest 100 firms are female minorities, and women make up the largest percentage of staff attorneys.  These trends prevail even though women have continued to enter the practice of law for the past three decades at a rate of at least 40 percent of law school graduates every year. The recent “2015 Glass Ceiling Report” published by Law360 just last month acknowledged that “Women continue to be dramatically underrepresented at every attorney level in the U.S. legal industry, and firms made negligible progress toward gender equality in 2014.”  

Where does one begin to make a lasting, positive difference for women lawyers?  That is the question Beth Fitch and I answered when we co-founded the “Ladder Down” program in Arizona with the help of the Arizona Association of Defense Counsel. 

In January 2013, we launched a powerful year-long pilot program for women lawyers built on three pillars: leadership, business development, and mentoring. Beth and I wanted to give women practical, tangible tools for succeeding in the legal profession that they can begin implementing in their practice right away. We were driven to empower women through a new type of training that marries instruction with accountability.  After all, one cannot have sustained change unless the actions become a habit, and habits take time to develop. For more information about our program, check out our website at www.ladderdown.org. The program is now in its third year and has proven to be pivotal in changing the professional lives of its 80 participants for the better. The Ladder Down program has been so impactful that it is now being used as a model across the country, with similar programs underway in Seattle and New York. The reason for the interest in Ladder Down is simple: our structure works. The evidence of the empowerment is overwhelming. 

After completing the one-year course, our Ladder Down graduates report measurable improvements: promotions to partnership, new clients, expanded business networks, robust referrals, substantial raises, firm transitions, and a universal increase in community involvement. Participants negotiated their salaries (some for the first time), developed formal business plans, and gained speaking and publishing opportunities. They landed positions on boards, obtained origination credit, and learned to state their accomplishments. In addition to these “external” changes, they saw internal changes: increased confidence at networking events, a new ability to resolve conflict, a commitment to prioritizing business development, and a better understanding of their own strengths. Every one of them benefitted from taking risks they would not otherwise have taken. 

When Beth and I first launched Ladder Down we had several conversations about which organization would make the best partner. Beth had served as President of the Arizona Association of Defense Counsel several years earlier, as had my father Doug Christian, and I am still an active member of the AADC Board of Directors. We both had such wonderful experiences and built lasting relationships through the AADC that our natural inclination was to start there. I pitched the Ladder Down idea to the AADC Board during our 2012 fall retreat and was met with an incredibly warm reception. The Board was excited about this new endeavor, which was unlike anything that the AADC – or any other SLDO to our knowledge – had ever undertaken. 

As with any program, the first questions surrounded expenses. What would the pilot program cost and how did Beth and I intend to pay for it? We approached our faculty (by far our largest expense) and were able to negotiate “pilot program” rates for the inaugural 2013 Ladder Down program. Once we had their rates confirmed, we were able to set a target goal for fundraising. We explained to the AADC that our goal was to find law firms interested in sponsoring at the $1,000 level; in exchange for that $1,000 the firm would be guaranteed a space for a participant of its choice in the 2013 program. We asked the AADC to match our $1,000 sponsorships (up to a certain cap) until we reached our target amount. The AADC agreed with that strategy and we were approved to start fundraising in the fall of 2012. Several Board members even committed their firms to the $1,000 sponsorship right there on the spot. When I called Beth after that meeting, the first words out of my mouth were “It’s alive!” 

The relationship between Ladder Down and the AADC was mutually beneficial from the start. The AADC was instrumental in helping Beth and I spread the word about our new program. They helped advertise the launch to the AADC members, and the firms represented on the Board were eager to sponsor our pilot program and send their attorneys to Ladder Down. We also had a home for Ladder Down rooted in Arizona’s defense community and could run the financial component of the program without having to start our own 501(c)(6). Because participation in the first and second year classes was restricted to AADC members, AADC membership increased. In fact, each year we saw several women lawyers join the AADC specifically to participate in Ladder Down. And in 2013, during the pilot program’s first year, DRI recognized the AADC with the DRI Diversity Award. This award is given to the SLDO that demonstrates a commitment to diversity and it was an incredible honor for the AADC. It is not hard to see how this relationship between an SLDO and Ladder Down can be win-win!

Our mission going forward to is to bring Ladder Down to other SLDOs interested in making a positive difference for their women lawyers. The staggering statistics that we continue to see reported are not going to shift unless there is a more intentional effort to bring about change. The good news is that the leg work for “Ladder Down” has already been done. We have the structure and agenda for the year-long program in place; we have faculty with demonstrated results; we have brochures, applications, evaluations, and CLE certificates already created; and we have leaders from the Arizona program who are able to share their experiences. The next steps are to find champions in other cities who can partner with their SLDOs to launch this fantastic program. I encourage you to reach out to me about how you can start a Ladder Down program in your area.  

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Categories: Women in Law

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Attorney-client privilege and the work product doctrine are essential to the success of every lawyer’s practice and every client’s case.  Attorney-client privilege—the oldest common law privilege relating to confidential communications—was established to encourage free and frank discussions between attorneys and their clients.  The work product doctrine offers broader protection of documents and other work that attorneys prepare in anticipation of litigation.  These seemingly simple principles are fraught with practical pitfalls, and they are often further complicated by the involvement of and communications between co-clients, joint clients, corporate clients, or third-party consultants. Today’s attorneys face even greater risks in this era of digital and instantaneous communication. Now more than ever, it is imperative that attorneys remain watchful for situations that threaten the privilege.

How do we recognize these risks and avoid them before it’s too late?  Are there any prophylactic measures we can take to protect the privilege and our own work product?  The 2015 DRI Women in the Law Seminar will focus its attention on Partnering with the Client for Success and includes a session devoted to preserving the attorney-client privilege. Our panel of in-house and outside counsel will explore real-world scenarios that could jeopardize the privilege, and share practical strategies for protecting clients’ privileged communications and work product.  In addition to this engaging session, the Women in the Law Seminar is devoted to providing concrete, actionable guidance on legal issues and emerging trends that keep clients (and their counsel) up at night.  The seminar also offers ample opportunity to connect corporate counsel and outside lawyers to enable us to partner with each other for success.

The 2015 Women in the Law Seminar will be held February 25-27 at the Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  It is a terrifically convenient oceanside location just a short ride from the Miami airport. Register today by visiting http://www.dri.org/Event/20150208.

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Categories: Seminar | Women in Law

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Successful business development comes naturally to some.  For those of us who aren’t so lucky, DRI has given us a great resource – the new e-book, “Women Rainmakers: Roadmap to Success.”

I was fortunate enough to co-author one chapter, but I am just as excited to be a reader for the other chapters.

Anne Cruz and I had the privilege of writing a chapter with insights from in-house counsel on how outside counsel can become more successful rainmakers. We talked with several in-house decision makers and received transcripts of interviews other WITL committee members had conducted.  From there, we did our best to let the dynamic in-house counsel interviewed tell the story.

The experience was incredibly insightful, and I hope we have translated what we learned into a digestible packet of information and tips for you. We posed the questions to in-house counsel that you can only really ask when you don’t already have an existing client relationship and aren’t actively trying to create one.  We had candid, thoughtful conversations with women who know exactly what it takes to get business from in-house counsel.

I was particularly impressed with the two women I interviewed, as both of them balanced a career-focused path to success with the wonders of motherhood and a happy home life. (I’m sure the other in-house counsel we featured in our chapter are equally impressive; I just didn’t personally have the good fortune to steal an hour of their time). They are successful in all aspects of their lives, and I walked away from our interviews with a great sense of admiration for them.

When I look back at my personal business development plan in 2014, talking with these women is at the top of my list of accomplishments. Not because I suddenly have work from them (I don’t, and that was never the point), but because they inspired me to want to do more.  Do more to understand the law. Do more to cultivate long-term relationships across the legal industry.  Do more at home.  Do more – just as they have done.

The chapter Anne and I wrote is just one of the many different chapters in the e-book, and each has tales and success stories from women equally inspiring.  I hope you read WITL's new publication and that it motivates you as much as working on it did for me.

Pre-order by November 21, 2014, and receive a complimentary download of the publication along with a CD version. 

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Categories: DRI Committees | Marketing | Women in Law

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DRI Online Communities

Posted on May 22, 2014 02:28 by Admin

On May 21, DRI rolled out the new committee online communities.  The new communities will enhance DRI’s web presence and will allow committee members to connect with each other and share information more easily.  Each community will have a discussion list, which will replace the current list serve, as well as a document library, blog, and calendar.  Committees will also be able to post announcements about their seminars and publications, and promote open positions and volunteer opportunities.  All posts are sent to members as a daily digest from the communities, unless a member changes his or her settings to real-time delivery.   The communities are designed to be the hub for all committee activity. 

There are six substantive law committees serving as the pilot group: Commercial Litigation, Employment and Labor Law, Product Liability, Women in the Law, Workers’ Compensation, and Young Lawyers.  Additional committee communities will go live over the course of the year.

Members can access the communities through the DRI website, www.dri.org  (there is a new link in the top blue navigation bar).  Committee members are automatically members of the respective community and are being notified via email. Members should call (312) 695-6221 if they are having trouble logging in to the site.

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Settlement negotiations can be tricky and knowing what you can and cannot ethically say can mean the difference between a valid and invalid settlement. According to a 2009 survey by Professor Andrea Schneider, director of the Dispute Resolution Program at Marquette University Law School, a sizable minority of litigation attorneys incorrectly answered that they do not need to correctly respond to a direct question about settlement authority. See Art Hinshaw, Peter Reilly & Andrea Kupfer Schneider, Attorneys and Negotiation Ethics: A Material Misunderstanding, 29 Negotiation Journal 265, 269 (2013).  According to the survey, 38.14% of the ninety-seven (97) participating litigation attorneys incorrectly responded that they did not have to admit the amount of their settlement authority if directly asked. Id. at 269-270. Pursuant to the American Bar Association’s Rules on Professional Responsibility, an attorney’s valuation of a claim and a party’s settlement intentions are enumerated exceptions to what constitutes a material statement in negotiations. Id. at 268. However, the specific limits of authority that a client has given a lawyer to settle a case is considered a material fact. Id. Therefore, an attorney must truthfully respond when directly asked about his or her settlement authority.

The survey also found that 22.9% of the participants incorrectly responded that you do not need to correct an opponent’s misimpression of a material fact based on an erroneous statement. Id. at 275.  According to the RULES OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY, an omission of a material fact can be unethical in certain cases. Id. at 272. Most importantly, the law of fraud for both tort and contract law requires correction of a misimpression. Id. (Citing RESTATEMENT (SECOND) TORTS, §551(2)(e) and comment l 1977; RESTATEMENT (SECOND) CONTRACTS, §161(b) 1981). Although attorneys generally do not have a duty to correct a misunderstanding of the facts by their opposing counsel, they do if it is based on an erroneous statement.

Wondering what other ethical dilemmas you may encounter on the road to resolution? Consider attending the 2014 DRI Women in the Law Seminar, Clients and Counsel: Partnering for Success Seminar, which will be held February 5-7, 2014, at the FireSky resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.  The seminar includes an interactive mediation/negotiation workshop for in-house and outside counsel.  Chrys A. Martin of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP will explore the ethical issues that need to be foremost in the mind for both in-house and outside counsel from the time negotiations begin until the settlement agreement is fully executed. Click here to register today. 

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Categories: DRI Committees | Seminar | Women in Law

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The Art of Negotiation

Posted on October 8, 2013 03:33 by Sarah E. Lovequist

There have been a number of attempts in the past 15 to 20 years to significantly increase the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), particularly mediation, by parties to civil and commercial disputes. Several law schools now offer comprehensive ADR courses, and courts regularly certify mediators to help facilitate expedited case resolution. Likewise, judges presiding over class action or mass tort/MDL litigations regularly schedule mediation proceedings at or before the initial case management conference.

According to BTI's "Litigation Outlook 2014" survey, 60.7 percent of clients expect to see a jump in litigation matters, yet resolution rates are expected to reach nearly 40 percent. These statistics, coupled with findings from AlixPartners' "Litigation and Corporate Compliance Survey," that 84 percent of corporate legal departments are trying several ways to lower legal costs, including resorting to alternative dispute resolution (ADR), indicate that counsel should quickly hone mediation and negotiation skills.
Short of enrolling in a class at one's local law school or signing up for a one hour CLE on the topic, a practicing attorney has several avenues to take to improve her ADR skills. One such avenue is attending the 2014 DRI Women in the Law Seminar to take advantage of the Seminar's Mediation/Negotiation Workshop. This interactive Workshop includes sessions on both ADR and the art of negotiating, and is designed for both in-house and outside counsel. In addition to this groundbreaking Workshop, the Seminar as a whole promises to offer both practical and networking sessions aimed at enhancing the practicing attorney's total being. 

The 2014 Women in the Law Seminar will be held February 5-7, 2014, at the FireSky resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. Register today by visiting here

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Categories: DRI Committees | Seminar | Women in Law

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People often ask me why they should join DRI. After all, there are lots of organizations out there for lawyers.  Joining a legal association costs money and can take away from billable time. 

So then, why DRI? 

Bang for the buck. 

That’s right. Bang for the buck. There is no other group that will give you back as much as you put in.   If you are looking for a way to expand your referral network, enjoy the highest quality continuing legal education, and make friends that will last a lifetime, there is no other place to go. 

But don’t just take it from me. After all, I’ll admit it. I’m biased. I love DRI and the Women in the Law Committee (WITL).  It’s been the most personally and professionally rewarding organization I’ve ever been involved with in my fifteen years of practice.  Instead, let me share with you what several dozen other women had to say about the WITL Committee.

In June of 2012, nearly three dozen women gathered together in Chicago for a WITL Committee Leadership meeting.  During the meeting, I asked the women in the room to tell me why they joined DRI’s and the Women in the Law Committee.  I wanted to know if the same things that drew me to this dynamic group were the things that others recognized as well. 

The result was overwhelming. As I stood at the blackboard and wrote down the words and phrases that the women in the room called out, I realized that we had something very special - - something that so many other women would want to be a part of. 

So, what did the women in the room say about WITL?  Here are some of the things they said:
-Skills development
-Business referrals 
-Genuine friendships
-Lots of opportunities
-Women helping women
-Professional growth and development
-Leadership training
-Cross-generational access to other women lawyers
-Means to help younger women lawyers
-Positive impact on community
-Mentoring inside and outside of DRI
-Opportunity to meet in-house women
-Inspiration and “re-charging”
While these items are from all women, they can all be said of all DRI committees.  If these things appeal to you, then consider joining DRI and one of our 29 substantive law committees (including Women in the Law).  After all, when’s the last time you did something so beneficial to your legal career that was also “fun”!

Lana A. Olson
Lightfoot, Franklin & White, LLC
400 20th Street North
Birmingham, AL, 35203 
(205) 581-1514

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Let It Rain - Women in the Law 2013

Posted on February 13, 2013 07:20 by Sarah E. Lovequist

As revealed by the National Association of Women Lawyers’ 2012 Survey, women are not credited as rainmakers at the same rates as men: “Almost half (46%) of all large firms report no women rainmakers among their top 10 business generators . . . women partners are less likely than men to receive credit for even a relatively modest book of business . . .” While business development can be a relatively straight-forward process, it is also arguably one of the trickiest areas for women to navigate. 

So how does one join this traditionally male-dominated conversation and hold one’s own? Fortunately, the first step is as easy as attending DRI’s Women in the Law Seminar, March 13-15, 2013 in Miami Beach, Florida. Marianne Trost is kicking off the seminar by leading a hands-on workshop that promises to help any female attorney hone her rainmaking skills so that she may stand toe-to-toe with male rainmakers. Additionally, DRI’s seminar offers sessions on practical skills from time management to selecting a favorable jury to delivering a killer cross-exam. And, of course, there will be plenty of time to network with and learn from fellow seminar attendees’ real life experiences. March is right around the corner, register today!

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Last month the National Bureau of Economic Research released results of its recent research that indicates more women receive raises than their male counter parts, largely because women are more likely than men to haggle and negotiate salary when there is an opportunity to do so. This fact in and of itself is great news – women are taking charge of their careers and sitting down with employers to have “difficult” conversations.  TribeHR decided to delve deeper and create the TribeHR Pay Raise Index – TribeHR concurs with the NBER’s data and found that women receive more pay raises than men - 7.4 percent compared to 6.2 percent. 

What these recent figures do not explain, though, is that, despite these efforts, women as a whole are still earning less money than their male counterparts. Although women seem to receive more raises, men who receive raises are rewarded with higher pay. According to TribeHR’s research, when reviewing pay raises of 5 percent or greater, 60 percent of these raises went to men while only 38 percent went to women; men were three times more likely than women to receive a raise over 25 percent. This data, coupled with findings from the National Association of Women Lawyers’ 2012 Survey that women attorneys typically earn only 89 percent of what their male counterparts earn and account for 70 percent of staff attorneys in the nation’s 200 largest firms, undoubtedly contributes to women unnecessarily fleeing the legal profession altogether.

Wondering how to take control of your salary and career? Consider attending the 2013 Women in the Law Seminar – in addition to practice-related topics, The Careerist Vivia J. Chen will present a session entitled “The Careerist’s Top Ten Tips to Advance Your Career” and offer practical advice on what drives success in the legal field based on her own experience as a practicing lawyer. Caroline Turner from DifferenceWORKS LLC will further empower attendees with a session on enacting gender initiatives within firms and corporations. And nothing compares to networking with fellow women practitioners facing the same professional challenges, brainstorming how to navigate around these statistical detours while continuing on the path to success. Hope to see you in Miami, Florida, March 13-15, 2013! 
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Women in the Law

Posted on December 10, 2012 04:33 by Kim Tran

According to an article in Inside Counsel this week, which cites to U.S. census figures, women now hold one-third of all jobs. This figure includes legal jobs which corresponds directly to the recent rise in women attending law school.  Yet despite our gains in the workforce and in the legal sector, we have yet to make significant gains when it comes to leadership and partnership roles.  

Exactly why that is still unclear, and everyone seems to have an opinion.  Often the argument sounds like a chicken or the egg debate.  Is it that women simply choose to leave or turn down top positions to raise families or is it because those positions and opportunities are made less available to them?  Maybe the answer is a mixed one and one more dependent on that individual woman’s circumstances and nothing a corporation or law firm should worry about, or maybe there is a something that law firms and corporations can and should do to ensure that there is a more equal distribution of females holding top positions.  Regardless of your position on the topic, the uptick of women in the workforce, and in law, is not likely to change any time soon.  How do you think this trend will change the discussion?  Do you think that the gap will eventually close itself with the rise of women workers or do you think that the gap will only close if proactive measures are taken by both existing leadership?  
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Categories: Law School | Women in Law

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