Job Title: Shareholder, Greenspoon Marder
City: Miami, FL
How did you attain your current position?
I became a shareholder of Greenspoon Marder in July of this year, and prior to that I was a co-founder of a mid-size litigation firm. As my practice grew, and my clients grew with me, transitioning to a full-service firm with nearly every imaginable practice area was not only appealing, it was necessary.
Which woman inspires you and why?
Julie Kane, shareholder at Colson Hicks Eidson and President of the American Association for Justice. Julie is a top-notch trial attorney, community leader and mentor. You will never hear Julie complain without a solution offered, and she goes out of her way to mentor women in her firm and in the community. Julie has three fantastic children who have learned from Julie the importance of hard work and giving back. Watching Julie advocate in a way that does not alienate has inspired me to address issues in the legal community that are harmful to women and minorities in our quest for equality and opportunity.
What are the unique challenges faced by women in your area of practice?
Developing business is more difficult for women than men – I think most statistics prove that. Implicit bias plays a role, and I have witnessed male friends “not wanting to do business with female attorney friends,” yet they don’t hesitate to hire male friends. As a woman marketing herself to potential male clients, I have learned women have to prove themselves to potential clients in a way that male counterparts do not. I often network with female general counsels and female decision makers, and I find securing business from them is a much more organic process.
How important was a mentor or sponsor in your career development?
I would not be where I am today without my mentors. I think women make the mistake of thinking they need female mentors who look like them. Find a mentor who runs in a different circle, who can make introductions and open doors for you. When I ran for my seat on the Florida Bar Board of Governors, the support I received from trial attorney Ira Leesfield was truly remarkable. He reached out to attorneys a generation ahead of me and opened doors for me that I could not have opened on my own. He has always been an advocate for women, and women need to align themselves with men like Ira as they rise through the ranks.
How important is civic and/or professional involvement to you?
Practicing law can be extremely rewarding, but it is, at times, a grueling profession. My civic and professional activities make it all worth it at the end of a long day. My friends from Miami-Dade FAWL are like sisters, and we are fiercely loyal to one another. I know that I can call them for advice, to vent or to just shoot the breeze after a long day. We also refer each other business, whenever possible.
What do you think will be the biggest challenge for young women lawyers in the next 10 years?
Women need to insist on changes that make it possible for them to stay in the profession if they decide to have children. Women continue to leave the profession in droves during childbearing years, and we need to advocate for necessary change so that this does not continue to happen, and needlessly so.
What advice do you have for young women lawyers?
Don’t be afraid to speak up and shine a bright light on issues and acts of injustice. There is a way to advocate for yourself and for other women without alienating yourself. Find a mentor who does this well and work with him or her. And to steal a line from Judge Beatrice Butchko – no matter how much you may dislike another female attorney, don’t say it out loud. Judge Betty, as we affectionately call her at Miami-Dade FAWL, has a good message – it is hard enough for women to achieve high levels of success in this profession, and women should be building each other up not tearing each other down.
How can the legal community promote young women lawyers, whether in firms, in-house, or government?
If the Florida Bar is serious about retaining women attorneys in the profession, it should pass a Rule of Judicial Administration that is known as the Parental Leave Rule. Craig Leen, City Attorney for Coral Gables prepared a proposed Rule so that a parent can obtain a continuance of trial when having or adopting a baby. Several community leaders and organizations, including Miami-Dade FAWL, CABA and the Dade County Bar Association believe that a rule is necessary to ensure that parental leave trial continuances are granted more frequently, and to ensure that attorneys are not required to give up their cases when they seek parental leave (which helps clients as well as it ensures they can keep the attorney of their choice). I believe that parental leave always constitutes good cause and that the only issue that should be considered in ruling on a motion for continuance is whether there is substantial prejudice to the other side. Even in those circumstances, the court should seek to provide as much of a continuance as possible under the circumstances. My message to the Florida Bar is this – if you are serious about ensuring women do not feel pushed out of the profession when they have children – do something about it. We do not need more studies, commissions and meetings, what we need is action.