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As it turns out, there is an answer to the age-old question “What do women really want?” � at least at Mayer Brown. When the firm’s New York office formed its Women’s Forum, the group found an almost universal desire for access to the keys to success that often are not equally shared with women attorneys in major law firms: opportunities for networking, strong relationships with mentors, opportunities for business development and consideration when leadership roles are delegated. Thus, the mission of the Women’s Forum � composed of women associates, counsel and partners � emerged: Promote the success of our women lawyers by creating networking and marketing opportunities both internally and externally. The group found its mission fulfilled through an event that began with a few casual comments and resulted in an associate-driven, associate-organized, partner-approved client-networking event. The (male) head of litigation at a major pharmaceutical client mentioned to the (male) relationship partner at Mayer Brown that the client was interested in women’s initiatives. The partner mentioned this to Paula Garrett Lin, who was a fifth-year associate at the time and had worked with the client in the past. Lin brought the opportunity to the Women’s Forum. At the partner’s suggestion, Lin contacted a midlevel litigator in the general counsel’s office at the client � a woman with whom Lin had worked on a previous case � and suggested a luncheon among the women litigators from the client and Mayer Brown. Together, they planned an event that would not only capture the interest of the women at the client but also give the women from both organizations a real opportunity to interact with one another. They opted for a Friday afternoon luncheon at La Grenouille, followed by a tour of the Museum of Modern Art. Lin held a preparation session for all of the Mayer Brown women attending the event to provide networking tips to the younger women attorneys. At this session, Lin shared with the firm’s women information she had gathered on the practice areas and interests of the women at the client. Approximately eight women from the client and 13 women from Mayer Brown attended the event, which took place in May 2007. The results? First, a client relationship was strengthened. By focusing on one client, the event offered a real opportunity in an intimate setting for the women at the two organizations to get to know one another. Lin selected a private venue in order to eliminate distractions and to focus the participants on the purpose of the event. Seating was assigned according to similar professional expertise and interests, which encouraged conversation. This attention to detail and planning paid off � the client continues to comment on the success of the event and Mayer Brown’s commitment to women’s issues. Second, a visible leadership opportunity was provided to a female associate. Not only did the client send more business to the firm but the client requested that Lin manage the new case. Third, the firm provided its women litigators with direct client exposure and a valuable networking opportunity, demonstrating in a tangible way its confidence in, and commitment to, its women attorneys. Finally, more of these networking events are in the works � a true testament to the event’s success in the eyes of both the firm and the Women’s Forum. The lessons learned here are important for developing successful women attorneys: Women need to ask for such opportunities. If we don’t, you can be sure that nothing will happen. Women should ignore the myth that networking is an innate talent or requires pre-existing connections. The key to successful networking is careful planning and strategic thinking. Rainmakers and networking coaches alike emphasize the need to follow up. Providing early networking and client development training to women associates will give them the tools they need to take advantage of every opportunity. Mayer Brown believes that in order to begin to change the cultural fabric of a law firm world in which there are inherent obstacles in the path of female attorneys, law firms must be willing to empower their women associates and counsel and to view those efforts as a benefit to the firm � not simply a favor to women lawyers. Events like this one have the potential to hasten the slow process of changing those cultural obstacles. At Mayer Brown, that process is well under way. Terri Mazur is a partner in Mayer Brown’s New York office and chair of the firmwide Women’s Initiatives Committee. Therese Craparo is a sixth-year litigation associate in the firm’s New York office and a co-chair and co-founder of its New York Office Women’s Forum. She helped Paula Garrett Lin organize the event described in this article.

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