Susan L. Harper

I have the honor of being the first Chair of the new Women in Law Section of the New York State Bar Association. Our Section’s mission is to be an active voice and catalyst for change to advance women in the legal profession and for all women under the law.

As members of the bar, we are in a unique position to lead, advocate and use our power individually and collectively to develop and implement innovative ideas, reforms and workplace solutions that will advance women.

Where should you begin? Here are 10 actions you can take today to advance women in the New Year.

(1) Cultivate a Culture You Wish to See—Develop a deliberate tone from the top and workplace culture that makes advancement a strategic priority for all staff, practices, divisions, and teams. Hold your teams accountable to meet goals and report on progress. Review and share metrics to ensure everyone is on track.

(2) Be a Mentor—The best professionals are well mentored professionally and politically. Advise your employees and associates on development of skills for success. When they grow and prosper, it will benefit clients, your organization, and the bottom line.

(3) Assignments—To create equal opportunities for all, ensure women have meaningful assignments, including taking and defending depositions, arguing motions, participating in negotiations, examining witnesses, leading cases and deals, and interacting with clients.

(4) Adopt the Mansfield Rule—Like the NFL’s “Rooney Rule,” over 65 law firms have “pledged that women or minorities will make up at least 30 percent of candidates for any leadership or governance positions, including lateral hires and equity partner promotions.” For more on building your bench, visit

(5) Client Relationships—The power is with the clients who are demanding diverse legal teams. Take women to pitches and give them active responsibilities at client meetings. Ensure women have substantive roles on matters. Develop training. Track metrics, review and adjust.

(6) Compensation and Advancement—Work with management and compensation teams to ensure equal pay, credit for client origination and development. Be transparent about compensation criteria.

(7) Be a Sponsor—Advocate and actively support promoting women’s appointment to lead, serve as executive management, practice leaders, committee chairs, task forces and speakers at events.

(8) Amend the Rules—Consider revising your rules to encourage giving junior attorneys (oftentimes women) greater speaking roles in court. Also, encourage inclusion of women on trial teams with active roles.

(9) Build Visibility—Encourage participating in professional associations, writing articles, speaking engagements, and committees. Increase promotion of women’s accomplishments.

(10) Commit today to be part of the solution to advance change—Join 623 women, men, and over a dozen committees who make up the Women in Law Section. Attend our Jan. 15, 2019 Annual Meeting program, luncheon and networking reception: “Secure Your Seat at the Table: Becoming a Leader and an Indispensable Lawyer Who Champions Women.”

Be the change that you wish to see. The moment is now.

Susan L. Harper is the managing director NY/NJ of Bates Group.