Graduated from law school in 1977. I had planned to be a lawyer for a few years, gather some foundational training and leave to change the world. Much to my surprise, I remained for over 30 years, but have nonetheless done my best to change my small corner of the world.
My law school graduating class was 12 percent women and there were almost no women or diverse partners in law firms. Much has changed, but the profession remains a challenging environment for women and diverse lawyers – I often still find myself as the only woman in large meetings, and when I look around the room I see few, if any, diverse men. And, as I continue to work inside the walls of law firm life to press the value of diversity, I consistently rely on a number of solid premises based on many of the lessons I’ve learned:
Value and leverage diversity. Diversity by its very nature breeds innovative solutions to problems and brings a valuable element to any business environment. Learn to leverage these perspectives – they will be appreciated by the people you work with and the related community.
Stay true to yourself. Never compromise your integrity, ethics or values. That said, there are ways to do this without being self-righteous. Drawing attention to points of view in an even, persistent and respectful way can be very persuasive.
Imagine the future. In my career as an IP and technology lawyer, I have carefully watched the trends and how technology has changed business. I’ve learned that one can constantly re-envision one’s career trajectory – I’ve done this numerous times in the course of my life. There are many ways to be creative in the legal profession and in business. If you can imagine the future of your area of specialization, you will be ahead of the pack and, with some creativity, invent new pathways for your career.
People matter the most. Many women of my generation thought that hard work was all that was needed for success. They often ignored that businesses are run by people. Your relationships with people will be the most important element of your career. Building positive relationships with people at all levels of your organization, clients, customers, and in your community, will be the key to success. Listen. Learn. Connect. Be generous with your time. Help others reach their full potential. You can make a difference.