You do the Work, It's Time You Reap the Benefits Too

by admin 12. November 2013 11:14

By LESLEE COHEN 

At this year’s annual Leadership Forum of the Coalition of Women’s Initiatives in Law, several of the young associates asked very good questions that I think are worth repeating, together with my own thoughts on the issues. I will address these questions in my next few blogs.

One of the questions was what policies law firms might put in place to help young women associates with business development. My response is that partners with business should be required to take very young women associates with them to, and include mid-level and more senior women associates as participants in, business pitches and other client meetings. One of the very subtle ways that women are discriminated against in law firms, which is widely discussed among more senior women partners, is when female associates toil away on a transaction for months, lead the signing and closing process and then the almost-always male partner walks in at the very end of the closing day, tells the client how lucky he is to have this wonderful woman (the associate who did all of the work) then leaves with the client to celebrate at a dinner. THE WOMAN WHO DID THE WORK SHOULD BE THERE TOO!! I can’t promise that this will be an enjoyable evening—it will probably be very uncomfortable. However, it is imperative that we learn, starting as a young associate, how to “talk the talk” and interact with clients and prospective clients.

This closing dinner scenario happened to me many, many times during my career. Hopefully, the firm I was working for hired me with the anticipation that I would develop business for it eventually, which would be a win/win for both of us. Accordingly, why wouldn’t the partners want to expose me to the in’s and out’s of schmoozing clients as early as possible? Because the client wants to talk about topics women wouldn’t be comfortable talking about? That’s absolutely ridiculous to me. We may not all know as much as a male client and the senior male partner knows about sports, but I have no doubt that each client has some interest that the woman who did his work may know much more about than the male partner. So, that would be my advice to any of you who are in a position to influence policy at your law firms—create policies that require all women associates, in fact all associates, to be included in pitches, closing dinners and other opportunities for client contract.

 

Leslee Cohen is a principal at Hershman Cohen LLC, a boutique corporate and securities law firm in Chicago that stands out from the crowd, combining big-firm experience with small-firm rates and relationships.  Leslee lives in Deerfield with her husband—the true love of her life—and her two amazing boys, ages 13 and 10.  She was a co-founder of the Coalition of Women’s Initiatives in Law and continues to serve on its board of directors, and she is very active in the Small Business Advocacy Council. Her interests outside of work and family include fashion and politics, and her passion is helping younger women rise to the top of their professions.

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Leslee Cohen | Life on the Lattice | Women at Work

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