So you’ve achieved your dream of working for a good firm in the legal sector, but where do you go from here? Although, as we’ve seen in recent blogs, law is a well-paid and promising career for women with nearly two thirds of law graduates being female, women are still facing obstacles when it comes to reaching senior and leadership roles in the profession. This is nothing to do with female ability of course – law firms are enthusiastically hiring women and over 50% of new entrants to the profession are female. The issues impeding advancement are less to do with talent, and more to do with a lack of flexibility and vision on the part of law firms when it comes to adapting to women wanting to combine their legal careers with raising families.
If you want to succeed at the highest level in the law then, how do you find the confidence and determination to buck the trend and overcome the structural gender biases and barriers that exist?
Find a role model
One useful technique is to find a role model, someone who has achieved what you want to achieve whilst embodying the values you admire. Being able to put a human face to your dreams helps to bring them alive – and makes achieving them seem possible. It brings positivity, clarity and inspiration. ‘Look at where she’s got to and how she does it – if she can do it, perhaps I can do it too!’
Take ownership of your career
But what if your company is lacking in female role models? We know there are some amazingly talented female leaders in the legal sector, some of whom are also mothers – the late Frances Murphy of Slaughter and May, for example, was a hugely inspirational figure, an outstanding corporate lawyer and mum who paved the way for women in her field. Natasha Harrison, managing partner at Bois, Schiller and Flexner is recognised as an extremely skilled banking litigator and champions diversity and flexibility in her management capacity in her firm. By all means research, read widely and be inspired by these dynamic and successful women lawyers. But what if you don’t personally know any? What if you don’t identify with the values of the women in senior positions around you in your workplace? The answer is simple and empowering – take ownership of your career and your future by looking elsewhere for inspiration. Create your own personalised role model.
Think about what you are looking for in a role model.
What do you need to be inspired? Don’t just concentrate on what your potential role model ‘has’ – status, financial success etc, but instead look at their qualities, values and experiences; for example confidence, perseverance or integrity.
Think outside the box.
Your role model does not need to be someone you know personally – or even someone in the law. There are many celebrated women throughout history who have qualities to admire and experiences to learn from. Your role model does not even need to be female. If you see a man who has achieved the career and family life balance you aspire to, use him. Use several role models – you don’t need to find all the qualities you are looking for in one individual. Take inspiration from different facets of each individual.
Actively search for role models.
Look through magazines – identify people you find authentic and genuine. Be curious about people you know and people you meet – find out their stories. Look closer to home away from your work sphere – amongst family and friends; people in your community. Look online for inspirational women – this website is a great source or check out www.womeninthelawuk.co.uk which has resources, talks and workshops by inspirational female lawyers.
Explore how these role models relate to you and your life and career goals.
Don’t just write a list of names – work out exactly what exactly you can learn from these people. Match each to the quality, value or skill you want to model in your own life and career.
Together with self-reflection, finding and creating good role models to emulate will help you clarify what is important in your life and secure your future balancing a successful legal career with family life. Listen to Episode 2 of the podcast here to learn more about the importance of finding a role model to help you achieve your life goals. Get involved in the conversation!
Caroline Flanagan is a Keynote Speaker, Babyproof Coach and Author of Babyproof Your Career, The Secret to Balancing Work and Family so you can Enjoy It All. Caroline believes passionately in the dream of having it all, and founded Babyproof Your Life to train and prepare ambitious career women for the marathon of working parenthood so they can find their own way to #enjoyitall and #makeitwork. You can reach Caroline at firstname.lastname@example.org