DRI's version of the View has just taken center stage and they are conversing about women's initiatives in the small, medium, and large size firms. The dynamic trifecta proved well-accomplished, well-respected, and each a true leader in her respective firm, community, and DRI.

This blockbuster panel gave us a host of ideas on how to foster women initiatives at our respective firms.

The ideas included:

Increase the number of female lawyers in the firm. There is strength in numbers and this seems to be key across the board, regardless of firm size.

Refer business to your fellow female lawyers intra-firm and inter-firm.
Flexibility is key to retention in small firms. In contrast, large firms are focusing on the finances and business development second to flex schedules, etc. Money is power at the big firms.

Our mid-firm representative discussed her firm's establishment of a Women's Advisory Council made up of equity women leaders in the firm.

Conduct womens' retreats to promote internal marketing and mentoring among the 130 women lawyers between 11 offices of the mid-size law firm represented by the panel.

Small firms set long term goals to build momentum and continuity within the initiative. They also recognize achievements when the long terms goals are met.

Some of the challenges to such initiatives include:

Maintaining morale, momentum, and mentoring proves difficult with these initiatives.

The small firms lack resources, e.g., funding, and lack depth of expertise, e.g., someone to prepare the newsletter.

We were encouraged by the number of women lead law firms represented by the seminar attendees and even more empowered by the number of attendees who worked at firms with management/executive committees staffed by at least one female lawyer. Hopefully, those numbers will continue to grow!

At lunch, we also touched on this subject and were reminded by Keri Bush that DRI recently prepared a White Paper on Retaining Female Lawyers-- yet another resource on this topic.

Marisa A. Trasatti
Semmes Bowen & Semmes
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Categories: Women in Law

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Our next speaker coached our oratorical skills to shape us into top notch personal and professional communicators.

Step 1: Dress for success- as superficial as it sounds, don't underestimate how your appearance influences jurors. Also, don't be afraid to wear color to stand out in Court. Our speaker donned a bright red suit jacket. Yeah for color! She also said women can wear pants in the courtroom. I think this still requires judgment and filtering.

Step 2: Have presence and interact confidently. There will be people in the room who may still stereotype you as a paralegal, but get past it and think of yourself as the host. Be diplomatic and make a good impression.

Step 3: Surprise- Men can interrupt the dialogue without being cast in a bad light. Women who interrupt don't have that luxury. Just don't do it. Always allow a lull or a pause after a comment and before you make your point. Don't get into a war of words.

Step 4: Think out loud, but enumerate your points- for example, say, Two points I want to make in response . . . . Some of us have short attention spans, but listeners will stick with you if you tell them how long they have to wait for the punchline.

Step 4: Vocal components affect how one is perceived by jurors. Be aware of this effect. Videotape yourself and be objective. If you sound like Alvin in Alvin in the Chipmunks, be cognizant of it and fix it. If you sound monotone, learn how to be conversational.

Louder volume also tends to engender more credibility. Don't be a bully pulpit pounder though.

In terms of rate of speech, most people speak at 150 words per minute but our listeners can hear up to 300 words per minute. That said, for those of us with turbo tongues, s-l-o-w-d-o-w-n a bit without losing your dynamicism (I think that's a word).

Step 5: Don't be afraid to pause and use silence. It is effective with jurors. Don't use "Ummh" or "So" to fill the silence. Instead of using those silence fillers, swallow it (not gulp), and soon you will find that you will use those crutches less.

Step 6: Read the nonverbals of your listeners and also give nonverbals (nod your head in validation, lean forward to show you are engaged-speakers love that!). The speaker says we women are better than men at doing this. Talk with your hands and be animated. (Read: Not a problem for this writer-partially attributable to my caffeine intake and partially attributable to my Italian heritage.)

Step 7: Avoid passive voice. It is stilted. Speak in the singular-- "You can do this," as opposed to "all of you out there." The former is more personalized. Avoid "I" and "me." Let the message talk to the listeners.

This was one dynamic and motivational speaker.

Marisa Trasatti
Semmes Bowen & Semmes

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It was like old home week at last night's cocktail reception as we reconnected with some old friends, but also made some new friends. Everyone was ecstatic to be here and networking away.

Dinner gave us all an opportunity to debrief about flights, work focus, and catch up on family events. There are a few new expecting moms here--Congrats to them!

We also had a chance to experience the local cuisine and of course, find the nearby hot shopping spot called the Promenade. Starbucks is a mere 3 blocks away for the coffee junkies in the crowd.

This morning, the rain has stopped, the sun is shining bright, and we have an amazing view of the beach from the hotel. What more could we ask for? The locals seem laidback and diverse--think very fit and tan surfers to the pin stripe suit business types--and the architecture is a combo of electric and edgy.

Today's early bird speaker, a professor at Stanford, was a hit. Her topic was happiness and she summarized years of research on the topic and our 'Survey Monkey' responses, as well as providing pointers on how to achieve balance between work and play. It was a lively, interactive presentation, rich in insight, and practical pointers. The perky Kelly Ripa video clip evinced a loud roar of laughter from the crowd.

She spoke to us about minimizing multitasking and regimenting ourselves to increase productivity and improve work product. Learning when we are most creative and productive (that is morning, noon, or night) can guide how we carve out our day. Find your "temporal sweet spots."

The takeaway from this one: Go to more DRI Women's Seminars in Cali and . . . The meaning of happiness is personal and defined differently by each of us. Stay away from people who "deplete" you and gravitate toward people who energize you. Stop chasing instantaneous happiness (i.e., instant gratification Gen-Xers and Yers) and instead, seek long-term real enrichment. Work smart, not hard, and laugh often.

Marisa A. Trasatti
Semmes Bowen & Semmes

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