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Editor’s note: On Oct. 27, Texas Lawyer assembled an all-star panel of women in the legal profession to offer their advice and insight on a variety of issues that affect women as lawyers and judges. Held in Dallas at the new Women’s Museum: An Institute for the Future, panelists discussed mentor/mentee relationships, attaining positions of power in the profession, and balancing work and family, among other things. The discussion, conducted by Texas Lawyer Editor in Chief Colleen McGushin, appears below and has been edited for length and style. COLLEEN MCGUSHIN, EDITOR IN CHIEF, TEXAS LAWYER: … I’d like to start with a general question to the panelists regarding what we’ve heard a lot about in recent years: women in the profession breaking the glass ceiling. What are your thoughts on whether this has been accomplished? NANCY B. RAPOPORT, DEAN, UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON LAW CENTER: … Well, I can tell you, it has not been broken. I have heard the word “shattered” a lot. I don’t even think it has been shattered. I think that we have accomplished a lot. I think the profession is growing. I think there are many opportunities in the profession for women, but I think that we have a lot more to do in the profession before we shatter or break the glass ceiling. I think the glass ceiling is alive and well. MICHELE HEDGES, GENERAL COUNSEL, ASSISTANT CORPORATE SECRETARY, BENCHMARK ELECTRONICS, ANGLETON, TEXAS: Well, I think the glass ceiling is really an allegorical statement about the state of people’s consciousness in the practice of law and all the other professions. It’s really not a glass ceiling. It’s people’s willingness to look content-neutral or androgynously at the qualifications of the individuals who perform their job. You know, the industrial revolution was incredible. It brought a lot of things to the table. And we’re now in the midst of a technological revolution. And what that means is, it’s brain, not brute, that makes the difference. But people haven’t adjusted psychologically to address this because what that means is, it doesn’t matter what race, creed, religion, background or, in my case, height you may be. You can get the job done or you can’t. So I don’t think there’s going to be any shattering. I think on an individual basis, people either show their merit and their capabilities and what they’re able to do or not. I think that the axiom [that] we’re all created equal is kind of a misnomer. And what that means is we’re all given the same opportunity. Some have to go a little further to prove themselves than others. And I think females, as a general rule, are still in a situation having to go a little further to prove themselves because they start out with the unfair bias of people believing they may not be able to get it done. RAPOPORT: This is one of the things that’s been interesting to me. There are 184 ABA-accredited law schools, and about 10 percent of all law deans are women. This is up drastically from two years ago when I started. They have something called Baby Dean School for brand-new deans. And my class of baby deans in 1998 was the first class with five women at once. And of that class, two of us are now on our second deanships. But I don’t know whether academia is a bit different. It has always been a brain thing, but there are still subtle issues that I believe academics have to face. It is nice to see more of us in administration, though. And at some point over the next few years, we’re going to run out of room at our women law dean’s mid-year meeting dinner, and we’ll actually have to go to three tables. KATHLEEN WU, MANAGING PARTNER, DALLAS OFFICE OF ANDREWS & KURTH: … It sounds sort of depressing. And this is the reality, I think, in a law firm environment, because that’s what I’m more familiar with. But there is good news. I mean, we’re measuring the promotion of women in the law in incremental or geologic time, but it’s happening, and we’re having forums like this. … Would one have existed, say, five, eight years ago? DEBORAH G. HANKINSON, TEXAS SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: Well, I think that progress has certainly been made on the public side in terms of the judiciary. There are now 336 women judges in Texas, which, if you were to look at the numbers 10 years ago, you would be amazed at how large an increase that is. But it’s a very recent phenomenon. The first woman was not elected to the Texas Supreme Court until 1992. That’s how recent we are. There are now three women who serve on the court. The last time three women served was in 1925. And I don’t know if you all are familiar with that case, but back in 1925, a case came before the court and involved the Woodmen of the World, which was a fraternal lodge, and all the members of the court belonged to it. And when the governor looked around to try to find lawyers or judges to be able to sit on the case, he had to appoint women because they couldn’t belong to Woodmen of the World. So three women decided a case in 1925 for the Texas Supreme Court. We had two women appointed at various points in time back in the 1980s. One chose not to run for election after the appointment. The other one was defeated. And so it wasn’t until the last 10 years that we have had women serving in any kind of a continuous basis on the court. So I agree … that we’ve made a lot of progress, but look at how recent it is. And certainly there are a lot of positive things on the horizon. KIM J. ASKEW, PARTNER, HUGHES & LUCE, DALLAS: In fact, when the ABA appointed the Commission on Women in the Profession in 1987 … it was the first time that the profession started to take a serious look at what women were doing in the profession, and that was because of the public outcry. I mean, people were beginning to say we’ve got all these women coming out of law school, very successful women, who had done well in their law school classes, but the issue was in regards to what happens when they get into the profession, and why aren’t they achieving? Why isn’t there parity with their male counterparts? The commission again looked at the issues in 1995 and issued a second report called the “Sisyphus Factor,” and we know Sisyphus, you never get that rock up the hill. And the allegory, I think, is very clear why they named the report as it did. And I think what we saw was that women had made a lot of progress within that 10-year period. We really began to discuss the issues. We issued charges to law firms, to corporations, to the profession in general, to look at ways to better integrate women in the profession. We also did a report on law schools, which is where the issues really start, and found really startling differences in how men and women are educated in law schools, just based on the societal norms that we all know. … [W]e must have leadership, management, deans in schools, law firm management start to look at those issues. … [I]t has to be something that starts at the top to really begin to address these issues and continue the progress that I think women are making. IRENE JACKSON, SOLE PRACTITIONER, IRVING, TEXAS: My theory of equality for women lawyers would be to see average women lawyers doing as well as average male lawyers. When I graduated from law school 25 years ago, the superstar women were just getting hired by large law firms. It was a really big deal to get an interview with a big law firm. And over the years, we’ve got superstars now in management positions, but I don’t think we can say that we’re there until the average Jane does as well as the average Joe. TERRI MOORE, ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, FORT WORTH, TEXAS: … I think the original question was, “Have we broken the glass ceiling?” And my feeling on that is not even close. But as long as we’re still saying “the first woman to do this, the first woman to do that,” we’re in the baby-crawling stages. WU: But there is this heightened political awareness now of these issues, so hopefully the change won’t -� MOORE: The heightened political awareness is just recognizing women in the first place. We have got so much hell-raising yet to do before we can even come close to the issues that really matter. And not, “I’m your token in the office,” but “Pay me the same way you would pay him.” There are a lot of things that are going to have to be talked about. And, yeah, there’s a little heightened awareness, but we’re still at the token woman stage. ASKEW: And that’s why I continue to use the words “glass ceiling,” because I think there is a ceiling still. And that is not to say that women have not made tremendous progress. But I’m looking at the women at this table and we aren’t the everyday women in the profession. … I want to see women across the board achieve a level of success in the profession. I hope that there are a whole lot of Justice Hankinsons, and there are a whole lot of general counsels. And I think that’s our charge, and not just for women, but for the profession. HEDGES: I’d like to make two closing comments on this question in response to that. I feel compelled … to give a few statistics. Only 17 percent of the general counsel right now are women. And that’s at major corporations in America. So that’s an extremely small percentage, but growing. And I would point out that it’s only been in this last decade that we’re seeing medical tests and studies done that target and pinpoint illnesses in women. So it’s not just in the legal profession that there’s a heightened awareness of issues relating specifically and uniquely to women. I think it’s across the board. MCGUSHIN: Well, let’s talk about hell-raising, since Terri mentioned that. MOORE: I’m for it. MCGUSHIN: There are men in the profession who are mostly in the positions of power. How, as women in the profession, do you attain those positions? RAPOPORT: Well, from my perspective, some of it involves really good mentoring from very early on. I got to where I am both by women mentors and by male mentors, who walked me through the people I needed to meet, showed me a little bit about the culture. Honestly, if people don’t tell you what the culture is, you’re going to make big bone-headed mistakes that people are going to hold against you. And the importance of networking is, I think, crucial to that. We now are starting to have in academia an old girls network, and we bring up brand-new potential professors through that. I contact my friends at the other law schools and say, “Have you seen this woman?” And it is that mentoring and that giving back that I think we are, as a group, particularly good at, and it is vital for our success. WU: I couldn’t agree more strongly with that. I think another component of that, too, is attrition. You look at these statistics, particularly with women, in the average law school classes, which are now 50 percent women, the attrition from years one though four is astounding. It’s approaching 70 percent across not only the legal profession, [but] across industries and across the different types of institutions within the legal industry. Hankinson: And I think that’s because women have not been afraid to make choices. They have not felt wedded to sticking with the good ole boy path along the way, if that’s the only path that’s in front of them. I think what women have done is women have not changed the legal institutions to a way perhaps that they are as comfortable with, and so frequently along the way, women have made other choices. And I certainly have worked with some outstanding women lawyers who, along the way, because of that, have made other choices. RECRUITING AND RETENTION MCGUSHIN: … Let’s talk about recruiting and retention a little bit. It’s been a problem. Do you have thoughts on what could be done to keep more women in the profession? ASKEW: I don’t think recruiting is the problem. I think attrition is the problem. Those women who are coming out in the tops of their classes — and I think this is maybe three or four years ago — the senior editors, or the managing editors of the top law reviews in the country were all women, so they’re getting jobs. The issue is how do we keep them in the profession? For me, being a partner and a member of management in my law firm, it’s an issue that I think about all the time. It’s not just getting them in the door, but it is keeping them there, and not just as an associate, but at the partner level also. … [Y]ou get over one hurdle and then you face a new set of hurdles. And I think we have got to have awareness in law firms in all the areas in which we practice, trying to make sure that we address the issues that women face. HEDGES: Well, I think attrition is the issue, but it’s not the root cause. The root cause is in management — the hierarchical, patriarchal management structure of many firms and corporations as they exist today. I think women inherently have a different approach, and you see this across professions. They tend to have more of a collaborative, cooperative type of approach. And that’s not necessarily what you encounter in firm practice or in corporate America. That’s been my experience. And what you really need to see is a melding of these cultures. As you know, if you are a big history buff, if you look at history, there’s always been certain divisions of labor. I mean, even if you go back to the hunting and gathering society — I digress, sorry — maybe the men are out there doing the hunting and the women are doing the gathering. But at some point, you’ve got to merge the skill sets of both parties. One should not outstrip the other if you’re going to create the kind of environment that’s going to be user-friendly to women as they move into the higher echelons of both corporate America, firm practice, and I guess I should add academia as well. We don’t want to get in there with our swords and duel every day necessarily. We want to find insightful, collaborative, decision-making processes that are going to work on behalf of the entity. … And I think part of what needs to happen is on the women’s part, an enlightenment to the fact that change really does have to occur from within. If you get in there and it’s painful and you’re not being ratified in the approach you’re taking, hang in there, continue to lobby for change, continue with your collaborative, cooperative approach. Continue to show the numbers and statistics, the progress that you’re making in getting done what is allocated to you, and times will turn. We don’t have the same kind of role models that men have had over generations. I mean, you look at your mother or father, at least for the folks in this age group, and, you know, what are we looking at, Clara Barton … I mean, people who want to go out there and change the world and do social do-gooder activities. And then all of a sudden, the folks who are here are looking at the kind of role models who’d go in and really fight some pretty significant duels and don’t have the psychological mind-set of saying, “You got to get on the inside, you got to go through this grueling process until you can get some recognition and get some ratification that your approach is successful and can be integrated into these pre-existing structures.” I think that’s the problem. And I think that’s the root cause of the attrition. … WU: And I think fundamentally, whether culturally or societal, women want to be liked; men want to be respected. And I think there’s something to be said for the latter perspective. … [I]t’s incumbent upon us, I think, to expend a little political capital within these mostly male-dominated professions that we’ve chosen. ASKEW: … The secret to success in the legal profession, at least from a private firm perspective that I come from, [is] its clients. We have got to give women access to clients. I notice sometimes with women associates that they don’t want to be on the front line. You have got to get on the front line. You have got to demand the right to work with and have the direct contact with clients, to take responsibility for those clients, because your biggest base of success is with your clients. If you’ve got clients who believe you are a competent and effective lawyer, the structure has to listen to you because the source of all power in a law firm is a client. And that is part of our charge, I think, as those who educate women, as a partner and working with women, is to give them access to those clients, introduce them to clients, and that is something that has not happened as much as it should have in the past. … That is where it all begins. That’s our charge. MOORE: I agree with that. Now, I come from a governmental perspective, so it’s not private industry, so I don’t have clients. I have defendants. But I have victims. So I can’t get real cozy with them. But I do have victims of crime, and I do have all sorts of crime, whether it’s white-collar or violent crime or whatever. But I think that I have a lot of contact with juries. And this goes back to your question a minute ago on how do women get in the inner circle that’s generally run by men. I think you have to get on the front line in order to get in that inner circle. And we do bring something to law that I think we bring to any profession, really, whether it’s medicine or whatever. And it’s sort of a more human element. It’s more of a caretaker. … And if clients can feel that in the private sector, I know my victims can. I know I am the best person to sort of shepherd a victim’s family through a death penalty case, for example, or just communicate with juries. So we have to get on the front lines, and we have to build a record of success to get in that inner circle. WU: I think the critical thing is how does a young woman lawyer get this? Where do they start? And I think if they really hone in on their craft and they become competent, [that] competence will beget confidence, [and] that confidence will beget trust. And trust is what you need in the private sector relative to a judge, relative to a client. So women shouldn’t be behind the eight ball but for some reason, we still are. JACKSON: I think you have to let young women know they are going to have to take risks if they want to succeed, [that you] have to be flexible no matter what field you decide to practice in. That field may change and not be there anymore in 10 years, or it may be an entirely new field. A lot of people took the risk going into Y2K litigation. Well, that didn’t pan out so well, so they have to switch to something else. And if you’re not willing to do that, then you probably are not going to be successful. And you just have to let the young women know that, and know not to be afraid if they have some failures along the way. Just pick themselves up and keep trying. That’s what you’ve got to do, is keep going. ASKEW: And it’s important to build your base, not just in the law firm, but outside of the law firm. Clients generally come from outside the law firm. Women need to be involved in the community. They need to be involved in their state and local bars. You need to know judges. You really need to get out and let people know who you are and what you’re bringing to the practice. And, of course, it’s just a fun thing to do because it gets you outside of the law firm and you get to meet really neat people, which is how so many of the women on this panel know each other. Since we practice in different areas, we probably would not have had a lot to do with each other in the way of direct practice, but we were involved in bars. And there are a lot of women bars out there that give women the opportunity to get to know other women. You look around this room, there are judges in this room, there are very serious practitioners in their fields. Get to know them. You will be surprised at how open and friendly and wonderful they are and how supportive they will be. Do it. AUDIENCE MEMBER: … What about one of the leading reasons for attrition, and that is, the tremendous pressure of billable hours and all of the time that you have to put into your profession? And a lot of women I know who are young lawyers are leaving because they want to have a family, or they want to have an outside life. And every year, the bar seems raised for the number of billable hours, and the monetary incentives, and whether or not you’re going to make it as to … how much time and how much of your life you devote to your firm. I’m coming from a law firm perspective, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts on that. HANKINSON: Well, I think that goes back to my comment earlier that women have not effected change in the institutions themselves yet. And women have not been afraid to stand up and say what the priorities in their lives are, and as a result, make other choices. And I think it goes back to what Michele was saying about the fact that the truth is, if we can start on a clean slate, and we were making some of the choices along the way, the practice of law might not look the way it looks and might not operate the way it operates, because we do bring something different to the table and do bring different priorities. And to a certain extent I think it’s a real credit to women, that they have not been afraid to stand up to the institutions, and if they haven’t been able to effect change, to not feel like the institution has to govern their lives. And they have made some other choices along the way. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could effect change in the institutions? — Given the importance of the priorities that women see in their lives, in addition to their professions, because I think we would all be better for it. And that includes the men that we practice law with and share this profession with. RAPOPORT: I’m going to say something that’s not very flattering about law schools, because I think we’re part of the problem. Before I went into law school, I didn’t have very many lawyers in my family. I wasn’t sure really how lawyers worked together. I never heard about large law firms. And suddenly, sometime during that first year of law school, large law firms were held out to be the brass ring that everyone had to attain or they didn’t get their tickets punched. … I did work in a large law firm, and I enjoyed the work that I did. But I think until law schools start emphasizing more of a variety of different careers, which may match your particular brass ring, and let people start thinking from the very beginning about what is right for me — since they’re all fascinating careers — we’re going to be forcing people back into this single mode. One of the best careers, I think, for women, or anyone who wants to have an unstructured day, is academia. We get paid to read what we want, write what we want, say what we want, teach what we want, when we want. It’s a perfect job for an only child, let me tell you. And that flexibility was one of the things that drew me to academia. I’ve lost that as a dean, but as pure law faculty, I could work anywhere and at any time. We could do more toward encouraging people in law school to think about that as a career. JACKSON: I agree on that, being the only solo practitioner in the group. We have to think about what our definition of success is. And if we’re talking to younger women, ask them to examine that and not get caught up in “if I don’t get with the big law firm, my life is over” or “if I don’t stay with the big law firm, my life is over,” because there are many paths to success. And, also, since women live longer than men, it’s likely you may get to try more than one path, and to try alternatives and see what you like the best. I worked for a number of different government agencies early in my career, and I was with a couple of small law firms, and now a solo practice, and have been for about nine, 10 years. And everything has trade-offs, so you just have to not get caught up in that there’s only one road to success and happiness, because I think there as many people as there are can try different things. I also agree with the comment about the law school. Somehow, in the last few years, it dawned on me that none of my professors in law school ever encouraged alternate kinds of practice or government service or running for office. It was either become a judge or go with a big law firm, and that was all that was ever talked about. And, consequently, I think some of the people coming out of law school felt like they were not successful because the first job wasn’t in either of those fields. But I think as years go on we gain some wisdom, and we have to find what we’re comfortable with. And you just need to let the young women know that they have lots of choices and they can have lots of opportunities to try different things in their life. RAPOPORT: And I do want to elaborate on my comment because I’m talking about law schools generally. But one of the things that we do that I’m really proud of at the University of Houston is that we try in the first year to expose students to different types of practices as they start. First-year students start being able to deal with career services in November. And we take them through large-firm practice, small-firm practice, government practice and have them actually go on-site. I sure wish they had done that for me in law school. HEDGES: I’ve seen a lot of trends … in the industry and on a global basis. I work with a global corporation, so I get a chance to see a lot of different firms, a lot of strange, idiosyncratic practice areas. And I’m seeing [what] happened with medicine and accounting, large consolidation going on in the legal area, and along with that consolidation, a lot of automation of, if you will, some of the more rudimentary practice areas. I mean, you look at Clifford Chance [Rogers & Wells], Squire Sanders [& Dempsey], they’re gobbling up firms at an incredibly rapid rate. There are a lot of global law firms. And within those firms, you see a lot of different tracks. You see, obviously, the partners who have their pictures on the glossies that come out to you from wherever … but then you also see a lot of people who are of counsel, and you see a lot of part-time options. And then I’m starting to see in a lot of these big monoliths, a lot of the options being driven by the clients such as us. And one of the things that we’re driving [at] is, you need to have work-life options for your people. That’s fine that you can give us a team that’s going to be working 24 hours around the clock, but please don’t send us 40 people who are just so rigged up on No-Doz and coffee for the entirety of this deal that we’re having to walk around with toothpicks in our eyes. Give these people some options. Give them day-care opportunities. If you want to have part-time people, have part-time people. We don’t care how you structure it. We care that you have the optimal people who are going to be devoted and dedicated to the project. The other thing we’re seeing — and it’s kind of interesting — is there’s more that we can do in-house on our own without the expertise. And I think it’s very interesting that within the next 30 days, we’re going to see a new domain name pop up on the Internet. And, by the way, it’s phenomenal the kinds of things you can get off the Internet. We’re in the process of responding to one of the biggest patent cases nationwide right now, and I’m able to download all of my pleadings right off the Internet. All I have to do is fax them to some person in the proper venue and say, “Please fill in our name and file it, and I’ll pay you a hundred bucks,” versus, “Can you draft this complicated, convoluted response?” and, you know, it’s going to cost $50,000 for us to get our non-infringement and validity opinion. I’m doing it myself. … But dot-law is going to be for lawyers. And I think that that’s going to take a lot of the pressure off of firms to force associates to do very mundane things. Now the flip side of that, which is very ugly … is [that] the increase in salaries puts a concomitant increase on associates to just work around the clock. And that may well not be worth it. There are many firms who are opting out of the … 2,800-3,000 billable-hours-a-year program. That is not lifestyle-friendly. I think over the long haul, there has got to be something to address that just absolutely mind-numbing rate of work. ASKEW: It’s very important, and I think this is something that law schools can really help with law as a profession, but much of it is also about business. Somebody has to generate the hours to create the revenue to pay those salaries that are just going through the roof. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the profession, because I think something is out of whack here when I look at the salaries that we are now paying associates. Clients are making demands and wanting to know what value they’re getting for that. But I think associates have to be realistic about the work that’s required to support those salaries. So when we talk about lifestyle changes and lifestyle friendliness, those are things that law firms grapple with all the time. I know my law firm in particular has different categories of lawyers. We have partners. We have associates. We have of counsel positions. We really try to deal with the particular issues in people’s lives at a given time. I mean, we’re people who happen to practice law. But I also believe that you must be a part of that process. You’re not going to get paid the salaries that the market now generates and work 1,400 hours a year. It’s just not going to happen. So it’s a two-way street there. And I think that you’ve also got to be creative in bringing ideas to firms and [ideas on] how to help you handle the different issues in your lives at a particular time. So, again, it’s about choices, and it’s about thinking about what you want your life to be, and being brave enough to go to a firm or wherever you are … and say, “This is what I’d like to do at this particular time,” but also understand that there may be an adjustment or trade-off with respect to what you’re paid. HEDGES: I think that you hit the nail on the head when you said value, because speaking in a generic fashion for corporate America, I think that what corporate America has, in essence, on its shopping list, is value. You’re trying to bill hours, and we’re looking for value. What value does this bring to us? And I think that the trend in corporate America is to look for alternative billing arrangements that [give incentives] to get the deal done without killing them with billable hours. And if it’s litigation, we’ll do a hybrid contingent fee. If it’s a deal, we’ll give you a bonus on successful completion or integration. ASKEW: As a partner and manager of cases, that’s what I look for. I look at those bills every month, and I ask, what value did this bring to the client? I’m not looking at how many hours are on that bill. If I gave you value that is commensurate with what I’m billing you, I’m going to bill you for all of it. But I know what it takes to get the job done, and so I’m looking at it. I want a result. I want value, because I want you to bring your legal business back to me. And if I give you value, you’re going to do that. If I just hit you with a lot of hours that you question, you may go to the next lawyer. And that’s not what building a relationship with the client is about. FAMILY DECISIONS AUDIENCE MEMBER: Did you have … children before you became a partner? Or did you have them after? And how did you fit that in? Did you just resign yourself to the fact that for a certain amount of years, until I become as successful as I would like to be, I’m not going to be spending the time that I would like to spend? Or how did you structure that? WU: My nanny became my MVP. Seriously, I mean, I did have my child — who’s [now] 5-and-a-half years old — I did have him after I made partner, not because of [the] partnership track at the firm I’m with. It was purely personal as opposed to professionally driven. In retrospect, was it easier that I had a solid client base and had made partner well under my belt for a couple of years before? Absolutely. But I don’t encourage that to be part of your personal decision-making. ASKEW: Just having worked with many women who are partners in my firm who have children, they had children on all phases of the partnership track. And I will tell you what they have told me. You live your life, and you have your children, and you work those decisions around it. I have no personal standing here, but I think women who have done it will tell you that it’s very much a personal decision, and that the partnership decision should not be the thing that dictates when you decide to have your family. WU: Somebody talked a little bit earlier about what women bring to the table. One of the biggest pluses we do is our ability to multitask. I’m convinced of that on a personal level and a professional level. So if there is any person who’s able to balance … having a family and the commitments that come with that, as opposed to the office commitments, you can do it. I mean, you have to get the right people on board to help you out, and you have to have cooperation within the household, but it’s very doable. ASKEW: And watch some of the mothers who you work with. You will learn so much about organization. I’m amazed at what they can fit in a day and do it very well, and they must be getting sleep because they all look fabulous. AUDIENCE MEMBER: I have a question. I wonder if any of you find that you get to try cases because your bosses think that a client or a jury [will] respond better to a female? And if so, do you resent that? Do you think you should get a good case because you’re a good lawyer, and no other reason than that? HANKINSON: Well, I’ll go back to my associate days in a large law firm, which was a long time ago, and, yes, that did happen. And, frankly, that kind of depends a lot on what your attitude is. You can either have a chip on your shoulder about it and say, “Well, I can’t believe they did that,” or you can run with it and say, “Boy, this is a great opportunity, I get to work for this client now, and I get to work on this great case, and I get to have the chance to build a relationship with this client and convince this partner that I’m a fabulous lawyer, and that the next time the opportunity comes along, there’s not going to be another associate that he or she wants to work on the case besides me.” And that has a whole lot to do with your personal attitude toward it. And I think a lot of times women have reacted differently and been resentful of it. I would view it as an opportunity. And why would I ever turn my back on an opportunity? And then I think back into what was said earlier by one of the panelists, and that is, you have to be the very best that you can be, so that they forget about the reason that they wanted you there was because you were a woman, as opposed to the fact that you were the best lawyer for the job. ASKEW: But traditionally, clients have asked that question with men. I don’t consider it a negative thing that a client might say, “I want a woman on this case because of a particular issue that you’re facing.” Sometimes they say, “I would like a more senior lawyer to handle this because of the issue,” or “I would like a black woman to handle this because of the issue.” So it’s not a negative thing. It is one of those things that clients have the right to look at. I think what you’ve got to look at is what the client is asking for. If they’re saying, “I don’t want this person who has blond hair” … that’s a different issue than saying, “I want this lawyer because of the particular skill set and life experiences of that lawyer.” RAPOPORT: The law firm that I used to work at in San Francisco, which, for years has been on Working Mother‘s top firms to work for, once fired a client who resisted having a woman work on the case. They said, “If you don’t want this woman, you don’t want our firm.” HANKINSON: Well, I fired a client one time when I was an associate. … I had been given the opportunity to work for a client who was not particularly receptive to having women lawyers, and the firm kept pushing and kept pushing. And they treated me very, very badly. I had a lot of other clients who were asking for me. I did everything I could to build the relationship and finally decided that the best thing that I could do would be to stand up and say it wasn’t all right for me to be treated that way. And in light of the other clients who were interested in having me work [for them], I went to the partner on the case and said, “I’m not going to do this anymore.” And I hope that by doing that, I communicated a better message than having stayed in the position and allowed myself to be treated the way I was being treated. MCGUSHIN: Well, we’ve touched a little bit on the strengths that women bring to the profession, but are there things that women in the profession do to negate themselves or negate their successes? WU: Absolutely. Resoundingly absolutely. Women don’t take themselves seriously. We have got to have confidence in ourselves. I don’t think we buy into our own PR sometimes. Women just feel uncomfortable, or they downplay or omit their successes to their own detriment, and we’ve got to believe in our own marketing in order to succeed. RAPOPORT: I want to ask the audience something. How many of you have thoughts during the day relatively frequently on, “Oh, if they only knew I really don’t know how to do this.” … If we really wanted to be honest about it, there’s something called the, “Oh, Gosh, the Imposter Syndrome,” and if you haven’t read about it, look it up online. It’s a fascinating issue of a lot of bright, talented people who think that they got where they got by accident. And if only people realized they weren’t qualified, then they would be back where they started. And there are a lot of us out here who have had to deal with that and acknowledge that maybe our internal self-criticism is just a little askew, given what we’ve accomplished. HANKINSON: I went through law school like that. Every semester I was sure they were going to find out about me the next semester. AUDIENCE MEMBER: The issue that Dean Rapoport just brought up — and I’ve heard some of it on the panel today from several people — is that there’s a presumption that I always associated with the good ole boy network, which was “prove yourself to me.” To me, that was always sort of something that happened in the man’s world. I’m assuming that [the] presumption is “you’re not really competent, prove to me that you are.” And I don’t feel that way as a woman. … I assumed the opposite. I assumed that it isn’t rebuttable. I know that it isn’t a rebuttable presumption for each individual person. But I assume that they are competent. I know as a first-year law student at the University of Texas, that people — other students, my peers — actually came up to me and asked me, before they asked me my name … how did I feel about the fact that I was taking someone else’s place who might have been more competent or better qualified than I was. … And that person had never seen [my LSAT scores] or never knew, had no evidence, had no fact as to my competency level. But they worked under this presumption. And, unfortunately, I heard a little bit of that from some of the panelists. It’s always prove yourself, prove yourself, prove that you’re competent, and then they’ll give you the opportunity. … But the problem is we all are created equal. I do believe that. And I know absolutely that we are not all treated equally. And there is a big, big difference. The definition of choice is, you have to have equal opportunities. You have to treat people equally or they’re not making a choice. It’s not a choice when you tell a group of people, “You cannot drink from this fountain” and then they go elsewhere. That’s not a choice, by definition. So you have to start with equal opportunities and treat people equally and maybe change even our own mind thoughts and our own patterns of how we perceive each other and other people. Then you open doors and we can help each other, rather than just perpetuate the cycle that we’re all trying to live in, and to say, “Well, I survived, hear me roar.” It’s not enough. HEDGES: Well, that’s fine and good, but actually, I heard a very apt description when I was first clerking at a large firm. There was a fellow who had come down from up east, and he said, “I don’t know how it feels for you to be one of only two women in this large clerkship class, because this really is like just a large game of chicken.” And I think that’s a very apt description of what’s going on; it is like a large game of chicken. Nobody is getting treated particularly well. Women are not acculturated to accept that kind of hazing or treatment, just like what you’d get in a fraternity. I think men come to expect it when they get in that kind of organization. There’s going to be 30, 40, maybe 50 percent fallout, and the rest are going to migrate up the course. We’re looking for something that’s going to offer ratification, and you’re not going to always get it in a workplace. In spite of that, the issue is, can you stay in the game? I don’t think that attitude or culture is going to change overnight. And part of it is really women coming to the awareness that although we may all be created equal, not everybody is going to be the leader of the parade. And if you can get beyond that — what still tends to be something of a game of chicken at the inception — understand that what you can accomplish has to do with those people treating you badly saying, “Excuse me, step aside, I have something to do.” Then you have the opportunity to move further down that path, and once you achieve a position … you can make a difference by showing your degree of competency and ability to bring something to the table. … But I don’t think that you have a voice if from the outside you’re looking at that structure saying it doesn’t work. MOORE: Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever had that experience. … I’ve never had somebody say, “Well, you must just be taking up space in law school, or taking up space in this trial section, let a real lawyer come forward.” … I do think we have to prove ourselves. I think most lawyers do. I think that’s [what we have] in common with men. So it’s not just a female problem. I think we have to prove ourselves a little more to get that promotion that they would just kind of automatically give to the guy. And so we do have to work harder, and we do have more to prove, but I don’t think I’ve ever just been presumed to be incompetent. … So, again, that goes back to taking the risk, putting yourself out there and not negating yourself. … Do you resent it if somebody wants a woman? Well, if you have a chip on your shoulder and you resent it, then you are negating yourself and you are making yourself less competent instead of saying, “Great, let me have this opportunity, let me get out there and build this record and show you, use that as a chance to show you that I can really stay in the game.” ASKEW: … You look at who you are, what you are, how you approach the world. I believe I’m the most competent lawyer you can hire. And if I didn’t, you’re not going to hire me. So it starts with what you think about yourself. You know, that’s what my mom and dad taught me. I went to a very competent, effective law school. I have been trained by some of the best lawyers. You’re absolutely correct. I do believe I’m competent. Because if I don’t believe it, nobody else is going to believe it. And I think that’s something that we must teach not just young women in the law, but young men in the law. You cannot go before a jury and lack confidence. That’s what I do. Confidence, trust, those are things that make lawyers. And then you get beyond yourself to “how do I interact with others in the profession?” And what I know and what every lawyer knows is that you do have to prove yourself over and over. I have to win the cases I get. They don’t bring them to me to be nice with them or to sit on them. They want me to get a result for them. So, yes, with every case on my docket, I am proving something. … It is a profession that keeps score. … They keep score on me. They want to know what cases I’ve handled. And what did you do? Did it settle? Did you win it? How many summary judgments? They’re keeping score. A jury grades my card every time I get up there. And women have to get used to that. It’s a tough profession [and] not just for women. It is a tough profession for men, because their cards are graded, too. When I walk into your office, you want to know what I can do for you. That’s what we’re measured by. And so if women are thinking that the law is going to be something else, you probably are going into the wrong profession. … I’m a trial lawyer, and that’s the most adversarial part of the system. Nobody is loving and hugging on each other. People want to win. So you have got to understand what part of the profession you’re going into and what’s required of the profession, and that’s not based on gender. WU: Going specifically to your question, though — and I agree with everything Kim said — do women have to try harder? Yes. Do women of color have to try harder? Yes, exclamation point. But it’s doable. I mean, that’s what I think [is] the overriding message. I’m a transactional lawyer, so, luckily, I … [have a] different kind of scorecard. But when I hand in the document, or I close a deal, I don’t think it’s strange that I think it better be perfect, and that document better be so clean anybody can eat off of it. And if you don’t take that perspective to the table, you’re in the wrong profession. So it applies not only in the litigation sense, but as well in the transactional sense. MCGUSHIN: We’ve heard a few stories of sexism some of you have encountered. I’m wondering if others of you have similar stories, what they are, how you combated the sexism, and what advice you might give to women in the profession to combat such sexism. RAPOPORT: You know, it’s interesting, when I started teaching, women in my law school dressed differently from men. We tended to start out much more formal. The men were wearing khakis and jeans, and the women were wearing suits. And it comes back to your issue of proving ourselves first and then backing down from that and becoming more us. As there are more of us out there teaching, I notice a change in both the way we wear our uniforms and the way we present ourselves in class. There is an advantage to having a variety of different women representing different teaching styles out there. However, there is still, in some sense, the first time [when] you meet with someone who is going to have some influence over you, a need to show your stuff and a need to establish your credentials. I don’t think that’s necessarily different for men, but I think the degree to which we are sensitized to it, based on our own experience, is different. Yesterday was the first time I can remember speaking to an entirely male audience. And I did one of those “Sesame Street” things — which one of these things is not like the other? It dawned on me about halfway through, “Oh, that’s what it is, I’m the only woman in this room.” There are some changes, but I do think we are just more sensitive and aware of how we project our competence. WU: … When I’ve encountered it, which I have and still do regrettably, you just have to out-lawyer them. You have to prove your technical competence out of the box and stop it right there when you sense it, because when you sense it intuitively — another one of the pluses I think women bring to the table — you’re usually right. So just whatever you can do to out-lawyer them, technically, whatever the substantive issue is from the get-go, do it. It will shut them down, and hopefully you won’t see it creep in again. RAPOPORT: One of the nicest things about that is, occasionally, they will underestimate us. HANKINSON: Oh, absolutely. That was the best thing as a former trial lawyer, I knew when I was dealing with adversaries who were perhaps not thinking I would go to the courthouse, and that was what I always kept thinking: just wait until we get to the courthouse. And you had to be prepared to go down and try lawsuits. And there was a great deal of satisfaction when you got them down to the courthouse. MOORE: I’ve heard male lawyers say so many times, “There’s a girl lawyer on the other side.” And I just hope that they were thinking that about me, because I would be real sweet. And then, of course, the truth is, it would just set you on fire, right? You do that little external lawyerly, real sweet, nice thing, and then you [would] have this abundant amount of energy so that when you got down there, you were going to kick his ass. You were not only going to win the case, but you were going to show him something, too. But you just had to kind of control it all, and … it was just great. So I think it just gives me so much more energy when there’s a little sexism in it. You know, a challenge. So in a weird kind of way, I guess I like it. HANKINSON: Now, I have to go back — even though I’ve related a couple of stories — and say that my experience in private practice with the law firm was very favorable. I never ran into the problem of my male peers being paid more money than I was being paid. I really feel like I had a docket of cases that was as good or better as any of my male peers. I feel that the people who were mentoring me gave me good opportunities. There were a lot of good things going on out there. And, again, I think a whole lot has to do with your attitude. There are lots of barriers. We’ve been talking about them today. You have bad experiences. So much depends on what your attitude is. And I view this as a wonderful opportunity for all of us. We have a challenge in front of us. We can make a difference. We have a lot to contribute. And so when I look back on my 17 years now as an attorney, I view this as having been a good time to be in the profession, because I think we’re making a difference. So you’re going to have the bad things happen and [go through] things that are difficult, but a lot depends on what your reaction is and how you handle it; [that] is what can ultimately make a difference. So if you view it as the opportunity to make a difference, it can be a good experience to be at the forefront as we are today. ASKEW: The big issues are still … in the courts. I think virtually most of the states, and certainly all of the federal circuits now, have done the gender bias studies. It is much easier to handle these issues in the firm because you can talk to partners. Management can make things happen. It’s a totally different issue when you’re dealing with systemic problems: judges and people in court who did not afford the same level playing field to women and to minorities. HANKINSON: And I think that’s why women in the judiciary do make a difference. I don’t think that there’s any question that if you are a judge, you bring not only to the table your education, [but] your experience as an attorney, your knowledge of the law, your life experience and your perspective. Because making judicial decisions involves knowledge of the law, a commitment to fairness and common sense. And it’s interesting, particularly being on appellate courts where the decision-making is a joint project as opposed to individual. And it’s always interesting to see, sitting around the table with men and women, how the women in the decision-making process tend to come up with some different things to think about in connection with deciding the case than the men do. And oftentimes, we joke at the supreme court where they’ll look around, and the guys will say, “Well, there go the women again.” … The three women may not have talked about it before, but when the case comes up for discussion, you hear all three of us pop off on something. And we work with a group of men who are very open to listening to what we have to say about these things, [and] it causes them to think about it. And I think 15 years ago, if there hadn’t been three women at the table, then that probably wouldn’t have come up, because our life experience and our perspective is different. And as we [have] talked about today, what really can make our judicial system work … is when we are all represented in all perspectives [and] are a part of the process. … AUDIENCE MEMBER: Just to echo that, that’s why it’s so critical, in my opinion, that this profession become more diverse … because as we live in a society that is made up of everybody, the law has to reflect that. HANKINSON: … I certainly don’t want people to get the impression — [people] may be suspicious about women being in the judiciary — that we’re just going to come in and put the law aside, and [that] we’re not able to deal with those tough things that come along because we’re going to just be soft on something or just let our emotions govern what we do. And so I have to be careful about saying that. I mean that the law is always the starting point, and being competent and knowledgeable about the law and understanding the job that judges do and how the job is to be done is critical. But the different perspectives do affect the decision-making process. And it makes a difference in terms of the system. I think it makes a difference in terms of how the courts are run, too. Some of the women in the judiciary in this state are the most active in terms of looking at issues, about the courthouse being open to all Texans, that the way we manage cases in efficiency and things like that become very, very important, the multitask concept. So we bring something different to the administration of justice as well as the judicial decision-making process. And I think that the women who are in the judiciary today, and those who aspire to be in it … need to have an obligation … to our justice system and to all of the people that it serves, to recognize some of the special things that we can contribute. TRUST IN WOMEN AUDIENCE MEMBER: ... If you look at Tarrant County in the last judicial primary, I think every woman ran in one. And if you look down in Kaufman County’s four-person race — three men, one woman — the woman won. Do you think the public apparently trusts women more? HANKINSON: It’s interesting. The political consultants tell us that the strongest people on the ballot for judicial positions and for a lot of nonjudicial positions, are women. … Apparently, literally women are scaring off opponents. … I haven’t heard any studies about why the voters are going that direction. But when you talk to political consultants, they will say to you that if a man or a woman is thinking about running against an incumbent and they have the choice of running against an incumbent woman or incumbent man, they typically pick the man. … They stay away from the woman candidate. I don’t know that there are any studies about the why, but I was told when I was running that the fact that I was a woman with male opponents, both in a primary race and a general election, was worth two points out of the bag in my favor. … MCGUSHIN: … As we go into the 21st century, I would like you each to give one piece of advice for women out there who are just entering the profession. RAPOPORT: From my perspective, the best piece of advice I ever got was dream a lot bigger than you expect, because the only thing that limits you is your own self-restriction. Dream big. HANKINSON: I think I’m kind of Pollyanna about this, but I still think that the law is a wonderful profession, and I like the law a lot. And I think it presents wonderful opportunities. … I think we should seize those opportunities, whatever they may be, in whatever direction they may take you in the legal profession, and use it as the opportunity, not only for you to grow yourself and move forward professionally, but for you then to create other opportunities for those who come along behind you. HEDGES: I think oftentimes society tries to characterize us as a bigger-than-life caricature of some kind of professional person. And the fact is, we’re all human beings. And I think that Tao [Te] Ching stated it aptly when he said, “When the family unit in your personal life is healthy, then society is healthy.” And don’t lose track of who you are, and just the humor in all the idiosyncratic strange situations that you’re going to encounter, and especially those recounted by all of the women on the panel. Keep a sense of humor about the things that you encounter and about your life. And most of all, keep your sense of what your life is about. It’s not your job. Your job is a portion of your life. Do it well. But do your entire life well. MOORE: … I think, also, we have to be real conscious of not being just sort of steered into a certain direction or herded. You know, “Oh, women go to family law.” And that kind of goes back to “dream bigger.” Don’t be herded. Make your own conscious choice with what you want to do, keeping in mind the quality-of-life issues. Don’t be timid. Take challenges. Take risks. And pursue happiness. And, truly, I think we can change our own definitions of success if we do that. But don’t be timid. Take some challenges. Don’t drop out when it doesn’t work out right off the bat. Keep pushing. ASKEW: The law has always been a profession, and it always will be a profession. I’m certainly a lawyer because I think it is an honorable profession and one that I wanted to be a part of. I think lawyers who are successful in the profession understand the most important thing about lawyering, and that’s serving the needs of clients. This is about clients. And as long as you keep the needs of the clients at the front of everything that you’re doing, I think you’re going to be a successful lawyer, and that will go a long way in letting you have a happy life. WU: … I’ll say it succinctly: You’ve got to take yourself seriously. And I hate to use sports metaphors or commercialism, but “Just Do It.” JACKSON: … I had said earlier, never be afraid to take risks, and that includes not being afraid to fail, because if you fail, then that can take you on to a new opportunity because you end up looking at things a different way. … Whatever you decide to do, you’ve got to be persistent. Since I do a lot of litigating … I have to attribute a lot of my success to persistence. I’m not necessarily a brilliant strategist, but I don’t give up. I keep coming back. And you have to keep coming back, whatever you decide you want to do. And if you keep coming back, then you’ll achieve a measure of success. HELPING HANDS MCGUSHIN: … I wanted to get a sense of whether you think mentor/mentee relationships really work. And as women who have made it in the profession, do you feel that you owe something to women just starting out in the profession? HANKINSON: Absolutely. Mentoring should be an important part of the profession for both men and women. I certainly would not have been able to have the opportunities I did if people hadn’t decided to mentor me, and that was both men and women. I feel a very, very strong commitment professionally to mentoring new lawyers as they’re coming along. I did it in the private side, and I [do] it at the court [by] working with the lawyers who are just out of law school who are coming to clerk for the court. … The first thing I tell the briefing attorneys when I know they’re hitting [the] law practice is go find a mentor. That’s got to be one of the first things you do whether you’re going into a corporation, you’re going to work for the government [or] you’re going to a law firm: find a mentor. It may be more than one mentor for different kinds of things, but that’s what makes us a profession and makes it something that is good to be a part of. And if you really are going to be able to progress and get satisfaction out of it, you have to do that. And I think we all have an obligation, having been mentored, to turn around and mentor. That’s where we can really make a difference. MOORE: I agree with that. I know when I was a baby lawyer, there were no women lawyers in better positions than me. We were just kind of all down at the bottom together. And so my mentors were men. And I had a few people take me under their wing and help me, and I’m very grateful for that. And I think it was more of a lawyering thing — I mean, it wasn’t sexism. It was just really, really good. And we all helped each other. We knew we were trying and that we had to prove ourselves. So even though we were all down at the bottom together, we were helping each other, and I think that you’ve got to turn around and give that back. You just have to. ASKEW: I think most successful women and certainly, I’m sure, all the women on this panel would say that their success is due in part to having been mentored by other successful people. I was very lucky in beginning my practice. I worked with a federal judge who has always been one of my mentors. He’s someone that I could talk to about anything. [Then] I went into a law firm. It’s very unusual because I was … a black woman, but I’ve always had mentors. I’ve had people who would give me advice, who would take me under their wing. I do that today. My firm has a mentor program that is formal where we actually assign lawyers to our associates to make sure they are mentored. Our associates grade us, as partners, on our mentoring skills. And we’re held accountable for it. So that’s very important. I think it’s important, though, to also remember that you can be mentored by a lot of people and not just women. Most of my mentors in the profession have been men, just because of when I came into the profession and who was there to teach me. I also believe in the concept of what I call “stealth mentors.” The people that I’m looking at, I want to sit in a room with them [and] I want to watch them do a deposition. You can learn so much. When partners walk into your office and they say, “Would you like to go to the Bar meeting?” unless you have a brief due the next day, you ought to put down what you’re doing and go, because it’s the opportunity to talk to them, to be introduced to other people. So look for those opportunities. Look for women in your practices that can help you. But don’t forget, this profession is still composed of men, and many of them are very, very supportive and helpful of women. They certainly have been in my career. HANKINSON: Plus, you never outgrow the need for a mentor. ASKEW: Absolutely. HANKINSON: I have mentors now that I don’t know what I would do without them if I couldn’t pick up the phone and call them [and] be able to have them help guide me through what I do. When I became a judge, it was like starting all over again. And I needed a whole new set of mentors in terms of people helping me learn how to be a judge and all the ins and outs of that. So it’s all the way through the profession. You never get too far along the road to be without the need for a mentor, and no lawyer should be without one or more. ASKEW: They become your best friends. … HEDGES: You look at the broader meaning of the word “mentor” and it also means “role model.” And in that sense, everybody here, I think, is aware of the fact that we really have the power to set the tone of honor in the relationships we have. If you’ve achieved this level in your life … people are going to be watching what you do and what you say. And so, part of mentoring is setting a good example, not to be Biblical, but turning the other cheek when you encounter situations that are very unfavorable. That [way] you can set the tone for the engagement in a relationship with others and [by] conducting yourself in such a way so that even if you are not in a one-on-one situation with someone else in your organization, if they were to encounter you, they would find, by example, that the way you’re conducting yourself or the way you’re engaging with other people is something that they would like to emulate. Oftentimes, you’re mentoring, and you’re not even aware of it, which is why setting a tone of honor in the way you conduct yourself professionally and personally is of utmost import. RAPOPORT: … And I would also like to add that the people who are in the process of being mentored have an obligation to reach down to people much sooner in their own development. Women who are just starting out as lawyers should be reaching out to high school girls and giving them a sense of what’s going on, or elementary school girls, for two reasons: 1) it is important to them to visualize what they can become; and 2) it is important to you to realize how much talent you have and can give to other people. JACKSON: Even in a small firm or solo practice, you have opportunities both to be mentored and to mentor. If you belong to a local bar association — which I recommend to everyone, especially if you do go into a small firm practice — that’s your opportunity to get help and assistance and mentoring from others. When I first opened my own office in Irving and was taking almost any kind of case that came in the door, even though I didn’t know what I was doing on a lot of them, I would go to bar association meetings, which were made up of mostly male attorneys, and I can’t tell you how generous they were with their time. I worked on a criminal case and just walked up to this attorney that did criminal law and said, “I’ve got this problem, can you give me some guidance?” And the next day, he sent me this whole raft of pleadings, said, “OK, use this, this will help you out.” I took a title case and was trying to help somebody clear up a title, and a male attorney at a title company said, “Come over, I’ll help you do it,” and he was carrying me through metes and bounds. I didn’t know what we were talking about, but he helped me do it, and I got paid, and I did a good job. So I certainly think that there are opportunities everywhere, and likewise, that it’s our obligation to help anybody. If you have a little knowledge about anything, then you are in a position to be able to pass that on to somebody that needs some assistance. And I think part of mentoring is when you are in a position where you can invite someone to be on a board or give them a job or position of some kind, then that’s your opportunity to find a qualified woman. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I think it’s seldom you’re going to find two people that are exactly qualified in every area. Just like men for years would favor a fraternity brother over someone that went to another college. There is nothing wrong with getting a qualified woman to be on your board or whatever opportunity you have to offer someone. And I think that’s a thing that a lot of the women, as you move on up the ladder, will have the opportunity to do. …

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