Nearly 50 trial lawyers gathered at the Women’s Leadership Forum on Jan. 21, 2020. Held during the National Trial Lawyers Summit in Miami, Florida, the forum marked the first time the annual summit hosted a dedicated leadership development session in support of women lawyers.
The event was designed and developed by co-chairs, Betsy Miller, partner and co-chair of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll’s Public Client Practice, and Hali Marsocci, associate at the Romano Law Group. The goal of the event was to empower, connect and inspire women lawyers by presenting a framework for seeing how to embrace power authentically.
In Miller’s words, “Successful women often find themselves pulled between two opposites: ‘Should I be tough or should I be nice? Should I push for change or should I play the game?’
It turns out that these aren’t either/or choices – we do much better when we begin to understand that there are benefits of doing both/and. This is especially important for high-powered women working in the male-dominated field of elite trial lawyers.”
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Only about 200 of the 1,000 attendees at the summit were women, according to Miller, who also served as the keynote speaker and serves on the National Trial Lawyers Executive Committee.
“The fact that our inaugural event attracted more than 25% of all the women trial lawyers in attendance – and that attendees represented every level of career seniority – tells us that we have identified both an interest and a need for this type of programming,” Miller said.
Miller, who – in addition to being a high-powered litigator – is also a certified leadership coach and an adjunct professor of negotiation, gave a keynote address on the importance of stepping into positions of power with authenticity and compassion. She then guided the forum attendees through a facilitated workshop focused on harnessing the benefits of adopting a “both/and” mindset. The material was presented through an emerging area of study called “polarities,” which helps leaders to identify and integrate opposite qualities that actually need each other to thrive. The conversation was organized into four of these “polarities,” including:
- Candor and diplomacy
- Navigate and pioneer
- Develop self and develop the team
- Focus on home and focus on work
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We asked six leaders from the forum about lessons learned while working in the legal profession. Here’s what they shared:
Betsy Miller, Washington, D.C.
Co-chair of the Women's Leadership Forum, Member of National Trial Lawyers Civil Plaintiff Executive Committee, Co-chair of Cohen Milstein Sellers and Toll’s Public Client Practice, Certified Leadership Coach
“Strength is not just about power. It is about courage, and it is about being forgiving enough of yourself and of other people that you can go out into the world, give it your best shot, and stay curious about what you learn from those experiences. That isn’t easy to do in a profession that rewards winning and being right, so I am working to shift the culture of the legal profession. We must value the importance of continuing to learn while also rewarding achievement and expertise. The science is clear – effective leadership does not exist without emotional intelligence and a resilient, growth mindset. These are necessary ingredients for anyone seeking to have long-lasting impact.”
“I am empowered in the workplace when I show up as authentic and grounded, because that's how I know that I can be my best self, even when I make mistakes. And in that mode, I'm able to be present for what people need to tell me. I can internalize feedback and I can give candid feedback without apologies and without awkwardness.”