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Women in Law Roundtable Discussion 2022

The Legal Intelligencer

The editorial staff of The Legal has always been aware that the hiring and retention of female attorneys is an ongoing issue in the legal community. In an effort to discuss some of the specific problems facing female attorneys and present potential solutions to those problems, we invited 11 practitioners to talk about how to bolster the role of women in the law. After two-and-a-half years into the COVID-19 global pandemic, and our use of Zoom for meetings being so common, we opted to once again hold the discussion via a videoconference.


Sophia Lee: Hi, good morning, everyone. Sophia Lee, I am a litigation partner at Blank Rome, and also serve as Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Emeritus, and a co-chair of the diversity, equity, and inclusion committee. I’m in the Energy, Environmental, and Mass Torts practice group and also have a DEI and ESG practice. Thank you.


Lee: Let’s recognize it as being a real dynamic and we’re certainly seeing this play out in the profession. In terms of what we’re doing, I think we need to re-engage and really help to reinforce the culture that was in place prior to the last two and a half years of remote and hybrid working. And so how are we going to—there’s so many ways of approaching it. For example, we have our Women’s Leadership Summit. It takes place every year. It had taken place remotely for the initial two years of the pandemic and for the first time we met in person earlier this year, in the spring. It was so wonderful to have people come back together, engaging personally, learning from each other in ways that I think can only happen when you are live and in person. And so, it’s about re-engagement efforts. It’s about asking people where they need support whether it’s in mentorship opportunities, how they want to be sponsored, or how to champion for their professional success. So broadly speaking, it is re-engaging, sponsoring, mentoring, and making sure there are ways to engage in fellowship.


 Lee: In terms of what a post-COVID work environment looks like, I would suggest that the same characteristics that we’re engaging or the same tactics we’re engaging to combat the great resignation apply to the post-COVID work environment. And that is again engagement. And thank you, Jason, for bringing up intentionality. I hope we’ve learned some lessons. I know for myself, personally, my own thought process has changed over time about what remote work looks like. And certainly, at the beginning of the pandemic, we needed to pivot and adjust quickly. What was so interesting in appearing and being present for one another on a Zoom screen was that we all took up the same amount of space, right? We all had the same little square and so how interesting that it became an equalizing force in some ways. And people were working, hopefully, from some sense of comfort and security in their own homes where everything accommodates the individual. But as we’ve gone through this process, there are certainly pros and cons of meeting and being present in this way; the question is, "how are opportunities now going to present themselves?" I keep thinking about this intentionality piece. And thank you, Danielle, for bringing up this idea of how we are going to be there, be top of mind, and be available. In many regards, we are social beings and it is kind of who you see immediately. So, it’s really like availability bias. But then also it's being intentional about who you choose to be on your team. I will say that over the course of the pandemic, this is a real story, a few of us were coming in regularly because we were preparing for trial and realized that we needed additional help. And literally, because there was a first-year associate who was coming into the office every day and just happened to be in his office as we were walking by his office to get to our own offices we stopped in, we asked, "what are you working on?" and "do you have time to work on this case with us?" He was rewarded in a way for his physical presence in the office. He sat at trial with us for four and a half months at the Counsel table simply because he made a choice to be physically present in a way that others, for whatever reasons under their own personal circumstances, just couldn’t be there in the same way. So, I would suggest as we look forward, and optimistically we have learned a lot of lessons about how to be mindful of engaging people, we all have to collectively be more intentional in how we choose our teams and how we ensure that opportunities for advancement are available for all of our colleagues.

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"Women in Law Roundtable Discussion 2022," was published in The Legal Intelligencer on October 11, 2022.