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Imagine getting an invitation to spend the weekend with former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro and TV’s domestic maven, Martha Stewart. Thanks to Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, more than 50 woman general counsel and C-level executives are getting a chance to do just that from Thursday through Sunday during the firm’s first ever all-women retreat at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Fla. The all-expenses-paid weekend is just the most recent example of women-geared events becoming increasingly popular at Am Law 100 firms. And while there’s still a plethora of cocktail parties and receptions � such as Holland & Knight’s upcoming San Francisco Women’s Initiative at the Blanca Cafe in North Beach, or Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal’s evening reception featuring prominent women winemakers � firms are also hosting elaborate events aimed at developing relationships with top-tier executives. “Getting to know your clients as a human being is one of the smartest tactics” for a firm, said Elizabeth Lampert, a legal marketing consultant. “The speakers that [Paul Hastings has lined up] sound like phenomenal women who have dealt with and come through adversity in their own lives. I can’t imagine anyone not wanting to go.” At Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, an all-women client-lawyer retreat has been a firm staple for the past nine years. More than 110 clients attended the firm’s event in February at The Breakers in West Palm Beach, Fla. � about double the number that came to the first retreat almost a decade ago. Past keynote speakers have included Shalala; Shirley Ann Jackson, president of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; and Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, the first woman in the country to hold a three-star ranking in the U.S. Army. “We don’t seek exclusively women in corporate America,” said Skadden partner Celeste Greene. “They encompass the entire realm of what women can do.” Another reason why firms like hosting these types of events is because it allows them an opportunity to cross-sell clients. Paul, Hastings, for instance, will host its retreat this week with Global Consulting Group, an agency that offers services in international investor relations, corporate communication and public affairs. Paul, Hastings and Global Consulting already have some clients in common, and even some of the event’s keynote speakers have ties to the two businesses. Ferraro serves as a principal with Global Consulting Group, while Paul, Hastings has represented one of Stewart’s companies. Similarly, lawyers can develop business opportunities they might not otherwise hear about. Junior partners get a chance to develop relationships with clients, and lawyers at all levels make new connections. “What’s nice is that � the male partners who are the engagement partners are OK with the women partners hosting their clients,” Skadden’s Greene said. Ultimately, each firm differs in its philosophies about how much fun to incorporate into its events. “Our goal for the event will be to have all very relevant topics and outstanding panelists and speakers to address those topics,” said Paul, Hasting partner Barbara Johnson, who’s based in Washington, D.C. Another all-woman event was held by Latham & Watkins’ Los Angeles office � a spa weekend in the last year for its women clients. But the firm supplemented the lightness of getting facials and pedicures with a Manhattan-based roundtable on making the right decision in the boardroom and effectively managing crises. Nancy Brinker, founder of the Susan G. Komen Foundation and a former U.S. ambassador to Hungary, was the keynote speaker. Attorneys say hosting all-women events makes business sense because the women clients like attending them. “A lot of women like going to an event that is all women,” said Sonnenschein San Francisco partner Kara Baysinger. “The social dynamic is different. What I find when I walk in the room is that the conversation is a little more lively and a little personal and seems to be less cocktail-party chit-chat and more substantive communication.” “Women do things very differently in a social context than men,” added Latham partner Tracy Edmonson. “We actually spend very little time talking about our next deal, but about getting our children into kindergarten and getting them to the next soccer game and how we struggle about coming home late.” That makes a difference later in cementing the client relationship, she said. The best events aren’t always the most expensive, either. Edmonson said that one of Latham’s most successful events for women was a cooking class at Sur La Table in San Francisco, where Bay Area business leaders made tapas, drank wine and talked. “I think firms have often, and off and on, focused on high-profile women events,” said Mozhgan Mizban, a legal consultant with Zeughauser Group. “I’m happy to see that these things don’t die.”

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