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Lawyers Club of San Diego is a specialty bar association committed to advancing the status of women in the law and society. We use this space to share articles written about Lawyers Club events and programs and items of interest to our members which are relevant to our mission. The opinions outlined in content published on the Lawyers Club of San Diego blog are those of the authors and not of Lawyers Club. All members are encouraged to participate respectfully in discussions regarding the topics posted on the blog. Guest writers are welcome. Guidelines for writers may be found on the Leadership Resources page.

 

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Guest Blog - Taking Ownership of Weakness: Leading Despite Uncertainty

Posted By Frantz Farreau, Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Guest Blog - Taking Ownership of Weakness: Leading Despite Uncertainty

 

I remember when I first started leading a counseling group at RJ Donovan State Prison. I was incredibly unsure of myself. Who am I, I thought, to lead this group, filled with people who are all so much older than I am? I felt thoroughly unqualified, and I believed that the group members would inevitably question my right to lead them. At the time, I did not realize that feeling unsure was a normal part of leading. I thought that leading a group meant that I came in with all the answers. I thought that I had to know exactly what was going to happen, exactly what I was going to say, exactly how people were going to respond. It was an unrealistic expectation, because everybody has uncertainty. All people, including people leading, are unsure of themselves at some point.

 

Ultimately, I opted to address the question head on. I told the group members that I was feeling unsure, and I wanted them to know that I would try my best, but to let me know what I could improve to help them as much as possible. By talking to the group members about my uncertainty, I was taking ownership of the fact that I was not perfect, but I was still in the lead. By addressing my uncertainty, I allowed both myself and the members of the group to see that I was able to lead even though I did not have all the answers.

 

When I decided to present my uncertainty to the group, I was quite surprised by the response: I found that the group members not only had no qualms about my being a leader, but were also thankful that I had demonstrated that it was okay to be unsure. When they saw me talk about my concerns, they saw me model what they needed to do to address their concerns about their own lives. In showing my vulnerability and uncertainty, I was still leading them because I was showing them what they needed to do to achieve their goals: ask for help. And they respected that. It is easy to sit from a facilitator chair and talk to the participants about the importance of being vulnerable. That is not true leadership. True leadership is being able to demonstrate so others can learn.

 

Going through that experience helped me understand that a leader continues to be inspiring, even in moments of vulnerability and weakness. Leaders are not inspirational because they have no uncertainty, they are inspirational because they show us that having foibles is okay. They are willing to be open about facing challenges and in so doing demonstrate strength. When leaders take ownership of their weaknesses, it makes us realize that we are strong enough to lead and inspire ourselves.

 

Frantz C. Farreau wrote this for Lawyers Club’s Leadership Development Committee, and is an attorney, real estate agent, and the volunteer coordinator for the Restorative Justice Reentry Prep Program at RJMP in San Diego. 

Tags:  confidence  Donovan  guest blogger  insecurity  LCB  leadership  leadership development  prison  reentry 

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Guest Blog - Leading Lawyers: Choosing Vulnerability

Posted By Guest Blogger, Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Leading Lawyers: Choosing Vulnerability 

This summer, someone I knew took his life – the brother-in-law of one of my best friends. I did not know him well. I know his wife better, and have watched his teenage kids grow up over the years. I became peripherally involved at the last minute: Asked to assist with legal insight and advice navigating work-related litigation; talking and texting with his concerned and anxious wife; determining if I could possibly help relieve his fears and anxiety.

I never ended up actually communicating with him directly. Instead of making our scheduled call, he chose to opt out of life. His family had been worried. They knew he could be at risk. They tried to get him to seek help – not simply legal, but psychiatric. As I understand it, he refused, not seeing an avenue out other than the one he chose. 

When something this sad happens, it leaves everyone with questions. A main one for me: Why is there such a continued stigma in our society about seeking support for depression, mental illness, or for a really bad, it-just-keeps-getting-worse time in life?

Particularly in the legal culture, heaven help those who show vulnerability. We are a culture of advocates, warriors, and, quite frankly, bullies. The old “take no prisoners” mentality gets equally applied to those within our firms and sometimes families. It happens all the time; I know from decades of personal experience and observation.

For our own health and the well-being of our profession, that antiquated mentality needs to change. Yes, we are tough—tough enough to make it acceptable to ask for help and support when we need it, without the accompanying stigma and shame. We lose too many brilliant lawyers every year. Even more suffer silently from depression and substance abuse issues. We all know the statistics.

Vulnerability is strength.

How as a leader in your life and law firm do you embrace and model vulnerability? How do you acknowledge that it is acceptable to be human and still be a strong, brilliant advocate? How do you show up for others by demonstrating with your mere honest presence that they do not have to do life alone?

Somehow, in the legal culture, we need to accept and acknowledge that it is okay to be vulnerable. That in our vulnerability, contrary to popular opinion, we actually demonstrate strength – a strength of perseverance and surrender that opens the door to true meaningful connection with others, a connection that might just help us heal, that might just help us find a path forward out of the dark, both as individuals and in the collective.

The fact is, we all need help at one time or another. Unless you live in a Teflon bubble, life gets the best of everyone at some point. Sometimes our only way through is by accepting that we cannot do it alone. It is too big. Too messy. Too unknown. Just plain too much. And, that has to be acceptable.

A paradigm shift starts with individual leaders. Begin to be brave and dare to challenge the idea that vulnerability means weakness and failure. We are all human and imperfect, accept that fact and life gets easier. It just does. 

My heart goes out to my friend, her family, the kids, and loved ones. Take time to care for you and yours. Remember, success is a team sport – you don’t have to do it alone.

Michele Powers, Esq., wrote this for the Leadership Development Committee and is the owner of Elite Lawyer Coaching (www.elitelawyercoach.com).

Tags:  authentic  career  guest blogger  LCB  leadership  legal profession  strength  vulnerability 

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Chasing the Last Wave: "What's Diversity Got to Do With It?"

Posted By Molly Tami, Tuesday, September 27, 2016

What’s Diversity Got to Do With It? 

  

      Throughout the history of feminism, women as a group have been the “other” gender fighting for equal rights and equal opportunities. While women make up almost half of total law school graduates, the data confirms that women are not equally represented in law firm partnership, in corporate counsel offices, on the bench or in other leadership positions in our profession. We are all familiar with the explanations and reasons given for this, and we continue to struggle to change this reality.

 

     Our hope for change is fueled in part by the notion that legal employers want to boast of a “diverse” workforce to attract diverse candidates as well as to meet their clients’ expectations and demands for a diverse group of people to work on their legal matters. The arguments for diversity are indeed compelling. But isn’t it perplexing that women, particularly those with family responsibilities, feel at times that they have to stake their claim to executive positions or positions of leadership in the name of diversity rather than equality?

 

     I’ve been thinking about that question since spending a weekend with five corporate lawyers, all working in the auto finance field in the mid-west (a male dominated arena). These women are all very accomplished and successful. One of the women in her mid-forties was struggling with a decision about whether to pursue an even bigger job at her company. In reality, she felt that she was already doing most of the duties of the elevated position but not getting the recognition or pay for it. At the same time, she values her current work arrangement which allows her to leave in the afternoons to pick up her child at school, and then return to work either at the office or at home. And on Fridays, she works remotely from home. She wanted to pursue the new position, but did not want to lose this flexibility and ability to manage and enjoy both her work and family life.

 

    She was discussing with our group how she might approach her boss about taking the new position/title while keeping her current work arrangement. Her proposed argument to the boss went like this: the company wants and values “diversity” in executive roles and as a working mother she provides that diversity. My immediate reaction to that argument was this: why do women who have both proven their worth in the workplace and value their family role have to pitch their worthiness for a promotion in the name of diversity? What’s diversity got to do with it? Women are at least half the population in this country, and according to the U.S. Department of Labor, 70% of women with children under 18 participate in the labor force. So why do we still view the ideal worker norm as an individual (male or female) whose work life exists in a vacuum void of consideration of family responsibilities?  

 

    This is a difficult issue that I will attempt to explore in subsequent posts. For now I raise it to bring awareness to it as a major obstacle that we must address. When it comes to women being equally represented in leadership positions within the legal profession, we are definitely still “chasing the last wave.”

 

This blog post was authored by Molly Tami. Molly Tami serves as the Assistant Dean for Career & Professional Development at USD School of Law.  She previously designed and taught a course on Law, Gender and the Work/Family Conflict and is passionate about advancing women in the legal profession.              

Tags:  bias  Chasing the Last Wave  diversity  family responsibilities  feminism  feminist  gender  LCB  leadership  legal profession 

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