Press For The Progress That You Deserve: International Women’s Day 2018

Author

Sarah Breen

Sarah is the National Director of In-House Search at Parker + Lynch Legal, Special Counsel's Lateral Attorney Search Division.

The 2018 International Women’s Day theme is #PressforProgress, which unquestionably means different things to different people. However, I think it’s safe to say that most all women support gender equality and equal pay, and want to work in a safe environment where they feel valued for their professional contributions. While the legal field is certainly not immune to gender parity issues, being a female and an attorney does not necessarily mean you’re forever disadvantaged against your male counterparts.

First, not all women want the brass ring of partnership, and many make a conscious choice to leave the law firm environment. Sometimes, we bid the billable hour adieu for (what we see as) greener pastures, like becoming an in-house counsel, taking on an internal firm management role, or jumping over to the business side into an HR, compliance, or contracts-focused role. Other women, like me, transition into an alternative career by default and end up in a better position than we ever would have been had we stayed in traditional practice.

Think Outside the Box

Like so many of my peers, I didn’t seek out to become a legal recruiter. It’s not something I actively avoided, but it just wasn’t on my radar. Then, the recession hit and I lost my law firm job in 2009. Legal recruiting provided an opportunity for me to remain in the legal field and learn a new skill. It also allowed me to capitalize on some of my strengths that, frankly, were not really celebrated or appreciated when I was practicing law.

Within my company, my story is not unique. My colleague, Marisa Simmons, left her job as a litigation associate because she “needed a challenging career that would provide the flexibility to be a mom and a professional, where [she] could still pull [her] weight financially, and be happy.” Another colleague, Victoria Mathias, was incredibly burned out working as a tax attorney and was looking for something that would allow her to flex her creative muscles and work in a more social, client-facing environment.

Similarly, Leeron Malloy in our Richmond office was less than thrilled with life in private practice and loves that her work as a recruiter is fulfilling on multiple levels. She feels like she’s actually helping people, and she loves being able to access and thrive off of her competitive nature while also interacting with like-minded individuals. My colleague Alyson Galusha left the traditional practice of law because she felt something was lacking in her career as a litigator turned in-house counsel. “Switching to recruiting filled that missing puzzle piece for me. It gave me an outlet for my creative side, and I did not have to put aside the knowledge acquired during my 16 years of practicing law.” Another colleague, Tori Keith, also got into recruiting by accident and finds it rewarding because she is “still in the industry, working with lawyers and learning new things constantly.” She loves “helping bright people think outside the box and accomplish their goals.”

Press for Change

I’m not going to slow down my #PressforProgress; but I’m fortunate to be working for a company with a very transparent compensation system where I am guaranteed pay equality, and where I’m afforded mutual respect by my peers, supervisors, and senior management. I know that it’s easier said than done, but if you feel that gender parity is preventing you from advancing, you should absolutely press for change.

But you can also investigate alternatives that will allow you to fully realize your true professional potential. You can talk with the women in your life who seem the happiest and most fulfilled in their careers, and brainstorm with them about how you can emulate their professional satisfaction. It could be through an industry pivot, change of employer, internal transition or taking your career in a completely new direction.

It’s up to us to toss the brass ring aside and go for gold. We deserve it.

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