How Women Can Help Women Succeed in Law: In-House Edition

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on November 13, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

On Monday, we posted about how women attorneys could help other women in the legal industry. Today, we look at the same issue through the lens of in-house counsel.

As only one department among many, in-house attorneys are in the unique position to help women advance their careers, whether in, or out, of the legal department.

Here are some steps you can take right now:

1. Mentor.

If there's one thing we took away from Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In," it's the influence a mentor can have in shaping a person's career. And while having a mentor is hugely important, women have a harder time finding mentors -- mainly because they work for men. As in-house counsel, try to mentor women in your legal department. If there are not many women in the legal department, look to other departments like finance, where women may be under-represented and in need of mentoring.

2. Teach How to Mentor.

It's one thing to stop the pattern of lack of mentoring, but it's quite another to start a new pattern of mentoring. Not only should you mentor, but you should teach how to mentor. Again, don't be afraid to cross the departmental divides at your company. When it comes to career advancement for women, the end result is the same whether you are in the law or marketing department.

3. Share Your Story.

Women need to hear the success of other women to push them to reach for their goals. Being constantly bombarded with claims of not being able to "have it all," women need to hear some positive experiences about how successful women in the company made it happen. And success stories should not be limited to just female in-house counsel. If your company's CFO is a woman, invite her to speak to the other professional women in the company.

4. Influence Your Clients.

We recently wrote about how general counsel can have an impact on gender pay equity at the firms they hire. As in-house counsel, use the same influence to not only effectuate pay equity, but career advancement as well. Ask for women to be assigned to your case, and give your "rain" to women "rainmakers."

5. Lean On.

We get it, we know we should lean in, but what we should really learn to do is lean on -- lean on one another for help when we need it, that is. Take a cue from moms' groups and plan for a dinner exchange where people make big batches of dinner, freeze and trade. You'll all have one less thing to do at home. You can also check company-wide for people to carpool with. Or, it can be as simple as not scheduling 7 p.m. meetings. You know the obstacles you face in balancing life and work -- consider them before creating obstacles for other moms in the department, or company.

Though women comprise half of all U.S. law students, they are not half of the GCs, or partners. While advancement is slow, we need to stop waiting for men to help us, and we need to start helping each other. That's the only way that real change will come about.

What have the women in your company done to help women attorneys and business people? What have you done to help other women? Let us know by tweeting us @FindLawLP.

Editor's Note, January 17, 2017: This article was first published in November, 2013. It has since been updated.

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