Jonelle Vold 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Like many industries, the last few years have wreaked havoc on the legal industry. We have seen law firms collapse, an unprecedented number of attorney lay-offs, and complete overhauls of long-standing economic models. All of this chaos has drawn increased attention to the plight of women in the law and, looking at the most recent survey of women in the law, the future looks bleak. Women continue to comprise a mere 15% of equity partner positions in law firms; a number that has not changed in 20+ years • The hiring of women in "Big Law" declined in 2011 • More women are moving to non-partnership tracks (www. nawl.org) Yet, the most sobering fact of all and the one that gives the clearest picture of the future of women in the law is this: Despite increased focus and effort, the majority of women are struggling to bring in business. More than eight percent of AmLaw 200 firms report having no women among their top 10 rainmakers. The numbers for smaller firms are not much better. For women to survive in the law they must generate business. It is a harsh reality, but the ONLY job security any private practice lawyer has is the ability to generate revenue. At the end of the day, even the most progressive law firm is in business to turn a profit. Attorneys who contribute to that mission by bringing in new revenue have access to leadership and power. Attorneys who do not bring in revenue find themselves in the precarious position of serving at the beck and call of the business generators. Far too many women find themselves in the unhappy position of having no real control over their time, their salaries, and their futures because they are not contributing enough revenue to call their own shots. If you are really serious about seeing women succeed in law, you must get serious about business development. There are many hypotheses as to why women struggle to bring in business; they don’t have time to network, they cannot participate in evening and weekend events, they cannot invite male clients to 1on1 events, lack of female role rainmaker models, and several other surface-level explanations (Gender and Business Development: 6 Predictors of High Originations for Women Lawyers http://tinyurl.com/7zsuumr). While all of these barriers certainly exist, they are too superficial to really provide any insight to the real problem. I propose that the real problem is the legal profession’s resistance to the simplicity of the problem. For women to survive in private practice they must contribute revenue. Period. It really is that simple. Yet when you take a hard look at the way many women attorneys (and the firms that employ them) allocate their resources and create priorities, you will see business development at the bottom of the priority list, improperly resourced, and rarely discussed. Business development is not something you do when you find the time- It is a part of the way successful attorneys practice law. Any attorney who is too busy to spend time on business development is missing the big picture and the reality of law firm economics. Being too busy to hunt today will translate into a lack of clients tomorrow. The old adage, “Do good work and the clients will come” is antiquated and harmful to the advancement of women in the law. While doing good work is essential to succeeding in the practice of law, generating business is essential to succeeding in the business of law. To make it in private practice you must excel at both. The good news is business development is a skill. It is one that can be taught and one that can be learned (http://knowyourtalents.com/ canyou-teach-someone-how-to-sell).If you are a woman attorney committed to making it in private practice, make business development a top priority in your career. Need traininggo get it. Need a mentor-find one. Need more marketing dollars-go ask for them or pay it yourself. Help other women. Find referral partners. This is your career—you are responsible for its success. Building a book of business may be difficult and it may take time, but this will not be the first or the last time you succeed at tasks that are time consuming and difficult. Recognize the importance of revenue generation to your long-term success and treat it as the priority it actually is. If you are an advocate for women’s success in the law, continue the dialogue about the importance of business generation. There are lots of factors that have historically held women back. The easiest solution to solving any of these is access to power and leadership within a law firm. The quickest path to power and leadership in a firm: business generation. If you are a firm wondering how you retain your top female talent, get serious about business development training and supporting their business development efforts. Take a hard look at the numbers. Are the women in your firm succeeding at business development? If not, have an honest conversation about what is holding them back. The answers may surprise you. http://tinyurl.com/womenlaw
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