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MAY 2014 - Cynthia Cohen
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It's Not Just One Thing

by Cynthia R. Cohen, Ph.D., Verdict Success LLC


How do you become a leader and secure a board seat, judgeship, or be a rainmaker? WLALA’s recent panel revealed great ideas to climb the ladder and what to do when you get there. The speakers’ life stories demonstrated excellent paths in fulfilling careers. Kernels common in leadership are ripe for communication tips to be shared. Effective leaders are continual learners absorbing new information. They direct and inspire others, rather than dominate. Skills involved in getting the position and skills involved in managing the position are not necessarily the same.

Communication skills take many forms. My views come from graduate studies of leadership, small groups, and communication. Personally I love to organize and make friends with bright people. Here are suggestions for connecting and moving your career forward. Choose what works best for you.

Shared Experiences. Getting into that leadership position is about connections through relationships. Connections are nurtured every time you communicate with people. Walking the dog, working with others on cases, playing softball, socializing at the golf course, kids’ activities, wine tasting groups, dinner clubs, and more notable networking such as WLALA events. Rarely a one-time meeting changes your business life. Continuing to show up, follow up or follow through on tasks are key to developing trust and credibility inherent in relationships. Spend your time with activities that energize you. You might not be the parent who wants to attend the PTA, but you might find the Education Foundation fundraiser to be delightful. It is filled with like-minded people who care about the community’s health and welfare.

Leadership Classes. Many communities have leadership classes. Join one! If you are in Manhattan Beach, I’ll direct you to their info night. Leadership classes help build skills and learn about the community. There is a class project that contributes to the city and gives you an opportunity to connect in meaningful ways.

Bar Association Committees. There are many different bar associations and getting involved with committees develops shared experiences and better connections. It is a pleasure to be around verbal energetic people. As Vice Chair of the ABA Section of Litigation Trial Practice Committee, I get others involved in programs. Creating your own position comes from owning a task, whether it is writing program proposals, getting sponsors or organizing a networking event. Be active in connecting others. The more you benefit others, the more doors open for you.

Asking Questions. Attending CLE gets you credit – asking questions gets you noticed. Speak up not just to get noticed, but contribute comments that benefit others.  Lawyers make a living asking questions in depositions or client intake. Time is short, be involved in seminars when the opportunities arise.

Speaking Opportunities. It is difficult to differentiate yourself among peers when only with your peers. Find an organization that could benefit from your talents and offer to organize a panel for their continuing education (e.g., CPAs, bankers) or try your local Chamber of Commerce or an alumni group.

Social Media. Facebook and LinkedIn provide a platform to connect quickly. I love LinkedIn in for the professional content that my connections share and staying in touch professionally. I joined Facebook to stay in touch with nieces having babies in other states. I reluctantly connected with professional friends on Facebook, since my family connections are personal. Now I blend more relaxed and human contact with professional colleagues. My colleagues accepted that I shared a lot about my dog! Those colleagues turned into friends and career opportunities. Twitter works for me during ABA meetings because I comment during CLE.

WLALA Golf League and WLALA SCGA Club. I would be remiss to not mention our WLALA Golf League or WLALA SCGA Club. Many who started lessons in our golf clinic bonded together, while overcoming fear of what it is like to be a beginner. Our team building and encouragement on the course is phenomenal. And business develops on the 19th hole.

Circle of Connections. To complete the circle of connections, I started a Manhattan Beach Women Lawyers networking group a few years ago. Another woman invited Amy Brantly and subsequently Amy invited me to speak at a WLALA Litigators Forum. The story of how our WLALA Golf League started is in the April issue of FORE magazine. Last week when I did a CLE for Amy’s firm, a question evolved on presenting trial evidence. The next day we both attended an ABTL CLE. I presented the question to one of the speakers, a fabulous trial attorney and afterwards LinkedIn. She saw the SCGA WLALA Club on my page and wants to play golf with us.

Balancing multiple leadership positions simultaneously throughout my life, I’m a bit lopsided on the professional end and embrace the challenge when I have a vision for organizing an association. I became Chair of the Board of the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce after playing in their golf league (I started as a beginner and knew no one.) I involved our high school and public community in a Brown v. Board of Education Law Day program. After my term at the Chamber, I became President of the American Society of Trial Consultants where I started a social media policy. As President of our SCGA Advocating Women Lawyers Golf Club, I get to be outside in the fresh air. Thank goodness for golf!

WLALA Member Cynthia Cohen specializes in jury research, trial strategies, and settlement decision-making at Verdict Success. Dr. Cohen can be reached at 310-545-7914 or