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NOVEMBER 2014 - President's Message
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President's Message - NOVEMBER

Jennifer Romano
WLALA President 2014-2015

Over the last couple of weeks, I have received multiple emails forwarding a link to a recent TED Talk by Susan Colantuono. Ms. Colantuono is a management consultant who focuses on gender in the workplace, and in her talk, she addresses the question of why there are so many professional women mired in the middle of organizations and what must be done to take them to the top. The gist of Ms. Colantuono’s message is that women need to do better in developing and demonstrating business, strategic and financial acumen.

Ms. Colantuono has found that professionals are recognized and ultimately promoted based on their ability to use their own greatness to achieve and sustain extraordinary outcomes, by engaging the greatness in others. She breaks this up into three skill sets: (1) personal skills, talents and abilities, (2) ability to work with others inside and outside the organization, and (3) business, strategic and financial acumen. 

What Ms. Colantuono has found is that the third skill set – business, strategic and financial acumen – is much more important than the other two when it comes to promotion to senior roles.  This skill set includes understanding where the organization is going, what the strategy is, what the financial targets are, and understanding your own role in moving the organization forward.  Ms. Colantuono has also found that this skill set is often missing in professional development programs for women, and rarely included in informal mentoring for women as well. 

Traditional advice for professional women often focuses on the other two skill sets:  (1) personal skills/talents - by teaching confidence, goal setting, being assertive and developing a professional brand; and (2) working with others – by teaching self-promotion, negotiation and communication skills and networking.  But, few programs address the importance of developing and demonstrating your understanding of your business and its finances, where it is headed and your role in taking it there. 

Why does this issue matter to WLALA members?  First of all, some of us aspire to lead our departments, offices, or even our organizations.  To do so, we need to develop and demonstrate our business, strategic and financial acumen, and ultimately, it is our own responsibility to seek out the opportunities internally and externally to develop these skills.  In addition, it seems to me that these skills are helpful for promotion at any level as a lawyer.  Even if you don’t aspire to lead at a senior level, if you want to gain more responsibility on your matters, learn how to develop business or earn more money, you can show your value by showing you understand the big picture beyond your task and you can provide valuable strategic insights for your matter and organization.

My hope is that we can explore these issues more as a bar association and discuss strategies for how to develop these skills.  One of our events this month will present an opportunity to begin this discussion.  On November 6, the Los Angeles County Bar Association and WLALA Joint Task Force on the Retention and Promotion of Women will present “Gender Equity and Generational Shifts – Can Millennials Bring Us Closer to Parity?” with nationally recognized speaker on diverse and multi-generational workforces, Lauren Stiller Rickleen.  Ms. Stiller Rickleen will discuss new insights about Millennials and analyze critical aspects of law firm life, including how Millennial women are changing the dialog about the path to success and leadership at law firms. The program is generously sponsored by Jones Day and White and Case and with your registration, you will receive a copy of Ms. Stiller Rickleen’s recent book, You Raised Us – Now Work With Us:  Millennials, Career Success, and Building Strong Workplace Teams.  Please CLICK HERE to learn more about this program.

Also, back by popular demand, on November 10, our own administrative assistant and Second City Conservatory Graduate, Lindsay Audette, will present “Improv for Lawyers.”  The session provides a comfortable, non-threatening setting to learn about how to better think on your feet, listen more carefully and react in the moment with confidence.  Please CLICK HERE to learn more about this program.

Finally, on November 14, our Family Law Section will present a program applicable to all attorneys, entitled “Identifying and Managing Dismissive and Bullying Opposing Counsel.”  This program is generously sponsored by the law firm of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.  Please CLICK HERE to learn more.

Before we embark on a very busy time of year, we hope you are able to take a little time to explore these professional development opportunities in November.