Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bring Something to the Table - and We're Not Talking Desserts

"Bring something to the table". Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, gave a great lecture a few years back about women leaders in the workplace, and her advice about bringing something to the table really stuck with me. As a woman in a profession dominated by male leaders, I can attest to the many frustrations and struggles women face every day at work. Of the infinite number of challenges present, trying to "fit in" and have a voice are the top two on my list. Fortunately, the number of women in the legal field has greatly increased during this generation and the number of women in law schools are at about 50%, give or take. In fact, my summer associate class had more women than men, and my entering class had a LOT more women than men. However, I think the issue lies in who our leaders are. Not many women last - it's the reality. And of the women who have "made it", I can't say that there are many that I have met that I actually admire. I really don't want to look like I'm 20 years older than I am, frumped out, stressed out, or with no children. And I especially do not want to become one of those hard ass women who have spent years trying to be "one of the guys" and have lost any sense of femininity along the way. No thanks. In comes Sheryl Sandberg. Her advice was, if you want to be valued for your work and recognized for your abilities, always bring something to the table. If there is a meeting or a conference call, or even just a quick chat in the hallway, say something that contributes to your work. There are tons of people who are good workers. But there aren't many folks who really contribute to a case and bring new perspective. There are many ways to do this, even if it's just posing a question or pointing out something you worked on that may help. The point is that you show that you are bringing something, or trying to bring something, that others may not have thought about.

As a junior attorney, it's hard to do this because for a majority of the time I'm still trying to figure out what is going on. Junior attorneys are not always included in all of the meetings or phone conversations and so there are always missing pieces. But another piece of advice a senior (male) associate gave to me was, reduce things to what you know, and then try to think of what's important. For example, oftentimes I'm given an agreement to review and I have no idea what the heck all of the terms mean or what the effects of them are. But then I think, ok...this is an asset sale. I am trying to buy something from you. Like buying a vintage gucci messenger bag from ebay (which I did). I want to make damn sure that what I'm buying is real and that it's everything you told me it is. If it's not, I want something in writing saying that I can return it upon a material misrepresentation! Another way to contribute is by working on your client/business development. I may not know a lot about what I'm doing, but I know we can't do any of this if we didn't have clients. So if I'm at all able to reach out to someone who may one day be a client, or can direct me to a client, I'm going to take you out for drinks. On the firm. Hey, if you can't find a way to add to the case, you mine as well get a good meal. A girl's gotta eat!

Try it out. You'll be surprised at the positive results.
I leave you with a pretty hard core picture of Hillary Clinton at work. Now this, looks cool.

1 comment:

  1. i liked this post alot. I saw the article on Sandberg, and was pleasantly surprised by her perspective :)