[For Women’s History Month, we invited some of our alumni to provide their reflections as guest bloggers of the month. This post is from Lynne M. Halbrooks, L’88.]
In the three decades since I became a Marquette Lawyer, I have had the opportunity to cross paths with dozens of woman lawyers early in their careers. I have mentored, hired, and worked with tremendously talented young women who have had diverse and amazing professional experiences. I watched them struggle, overcome obstacles, and excel in their jobs. The same is true for my law school friends and women I had the privilege to work for over the years. My experiences as a government lawyer, in private practice, and now as in-house counsel have introduced me to women lawyers working in a wide variety of jobs across the legal industry. The following five tips for a rewarding legal career are based on my own experiences and my observations of how successful women lawyers have navigated their careers.
1. Work with people you like. You will spend a lot of hours at work, especially if you’ve chosen a career in private practice. There will be teamwork, meetings, lunches, and maybe even travel and dinners together. It is important that you like your supervisor and your colleagues. Continue reading “Advice for a Rewarding Career as a Woman Lawyer”
[For Black History Month, we invited some of our alumni to provide their reflections as guest bloggers of the month. This post is from Kristen D. Hardy L’14.]
When probing and prodding at the legal profession’s existential, ever-persisting diversity and inclusion (D&I) crisis, race and gender are routinely discussed in separate vacuums. Thus, inclusion efforts focusing on the improvement of gender diversity have largely come to consider only one subset of women — the majority. Similarly, inclusion efforts targeting racial diversity also tend to focus on the majority, which in most cases refers to men. Articles and conferences promising to break down barriers and unpack bias for women lawyers either completely ignore, or barely mention, the added layer of complexity for women lawyers of color. And without the voices of minority women attorneys, spaces promising to offer diverse perspectives begin to feel homogeneous and exclusive.
There is no denying that many women, regardless of race or background, share similar instances of gender bias and discrimination. But women of color must grapple with a separate set of unique challenges that remain largely disregarded. When the D&I conversation shifts to improving gender diversity, the challenges associated with women of color are frequently, perhaps unintentionally, ignored. Consequently, solutions intended to eliminate barriers for all women in the profession are falsely presented as equally effective for White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Indigenous women. This phenomenon is not only isolating, but arguably detrimental to the progression of minority women within the legal profession.
Double-Bind and Double-Barreled Bias
Most know, at least anecdotally, about the double-bind bias apropos to women in leadership. This type of implicit bias is a haphazard blend of gender stereotypes and ostensible leadership characteristics that gum together to form what feels like a catch-22 for women. Continue reading “Don’t Forget About Women Lawyers of Color”
Ah, yes, the Baby Lawyer™. The finished product of the intense demands of law school, crisp diploma freshly in hand, joining the fray of the courtroom or the boardroom, ready and oh-so-willing to tackle each and every problem he or she is about to face. So full of life and hope, chock full of caselaw, best practices, tidbits from internships, faculty blessings and encouragement, and an undying love for the Oxford comma. We are blindingly sure that all of our preparation will be enough as we strut into the hallowed halls of the legal profession, away from the strictly regimented last three years . . . and its safety net of office hours and a curved grading scale.
I can say with some certainty that the baby lawyer experience is relatively similar throughout the generations. Some new attorneys begin in the proverbial “mail room,” getting coffee, delivering senior attorney mail, and living in a three by three foot cubicle that they have determined to make their own with pictures of friends and motivational quotes from Target. Baby Lawyer is our name, legal research is our game, and we have embraced “other duties as assigned” as our personal motto.
Some First Year Associates (i.e. the Baby Lawyer With A Title) may have a trial by fire. They will be handed a brown accordion folder, a case of their very own.
I recently had the privilege of interviewing an incredible colleague — and friend — Isioma Nwabuzor. This intelligent, passionate, and compassionate woman has served as a role model for many youth of color in the Milwaukee’s legal and social communities. Please enjoy her thoughts and insight into the good work she is doing for our city and for the future of the legal profession.
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Isioma Nwabuzor and I am a transactional attorney at Baird. I am originally from Nigeria, West Africa, but was raised and lived in Milwaukee for as long as I can remember. I am a member of several professional and/or service organizations, including Rotary International, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and the Association of Corporate Counsel.
How has your journey to and through the legal profession been influenced by your life and roots?
My maternal grandfather was a high-court judge in the country of Nigeria. I come from a long line of attorneys on my mother’s side, so my family always jokes that my inclination towards a career in the legal profession is hereditary. However, from a different facet, all that I am motivates me to give a voice to the voiceless. My experiences as a member of several minority demographics (I’m a Black woman and an immigrant) has inspired a passion and fight in me that, I believe, lends itself well to adversarial careers, such as the legal profession.
Tell us about Dreamer Next Door, your new 501(c)(3).
Yesterday, September 17, 2019, the Milwaukee Association for Women Lawyers (AWL) Foundation honored two Marquette University Law School students with scholarships.
Jana Budet, 2L, received the AWL Foundation scholarship. The AWL Foundation Scholarship is awarded to a woman who has exhibited service to others, diversity, compelling financial need, academic achievement, unique life experiences (such as overcoming obstacles to attend or continue law school), and advancement of women in the profession.
Attorneys often speak of mentorship as an essential building block to a career in the legal profession.
Indeed, one of the first pieces of advice bestowed upon young attorneys is to find a mentor, cultivate that relationship, and soak up all advice like a sponge. Mentorship roundtables, “speed networking” events, and student-attorney mixers are stylish events celebrating these connections, encouraging both sides to learn, grow, and expand one’s worldview. And yes, mentorship should be important to legal practitioners across the board, from students fresh from their first briefs to attorneys with long, successful, and active careers.
But why does one need a mentor or a mentee and how does one find a perfect match? Do I click my heels together three times, whisper “Please help me,” and one will magically appear like a fairy lawmother? What if my mentor or mentee doesn’t suit me or even like me? Let’s discuss. Continue reading “The Art of Mentorship”
When I was asked if I would—together with my daughter Micaela—write a blog for the Marquette University Law School Faculty Blog, I wanted to make sure it was known I haven’t practiced law full-time in fifteen years. So, fair warning, this is not going to be a technical legal discussion.
Let’s start with a short background: I graduated from MULS in 1989. In fact, I just celebrated my thirty-year reunion (quick shout out to my classmates: You guys rock! We had the highest turnout of any reunion class!). It was wonderful catching up with old friends, some I have kept in touch with; regrettably, some I have not.
As I stood in the Zilber Forum (as I have done several times previously, more on that later), I reflected on my law school experience at Sensenbrenner Hall, and, despite feeling envious of the students who are privileged to study law in such a marvelous facility, was transported in back thirty years to the year I graduated from MULS. I remember the hope, the promise, coupled with the uncertainty and anxiety I was feeling at the time. Not to mention the excitement of my impending marriage one month later to my beautiful wife of thirty years, Ellen, whom I met while we were both studying at Marquette (she was earning her Masters in Analytical Chemistry at the time).
I was recently posed an interesting question which I thought would make a great topic for discussion and,while I’m unsure of how this post will be received on the faculty blog, I hope it will spur conversations as interesting as those I’ve had about the subject over the past month.
Next year I will graduate from Marquette Law School along with my fellow classmates. What is particularly noteworthy about our class is that, having first come to campus in the summer of 2017, we will be the first class to graduate who started law school under the current presidential administration. Whether you voted for Donald Trump or not, one cannot deny that his presidency has created an interesting climate not just in politics, but for the law in general. So, I was left to ponder how that interesting factoid has colored my law school experience and might affect the legal field for first year lawyers next year and in the near future.
My first intuition when pondering that question was to discuss how divisive politics and social media appear to be impacting the teaching and practice of law, but I can’t presume that my class is novel in thinking that these are tumultuous times in the legal field. I can’t personally speak to the law school climate in the past, but in my own experience being a law student can be a bit a political minefield, especially outside of Eckstein Hall. Throughout my time in law school, all of my friends and family have been eager to ask me about or to debate about constitutional issues the president has raised that month. But that is almost to be expected, as I have been told by some of my family members who are in the field.
On April 29, 2019, I moderated a panel discussion for the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Diversity Counsel Program titled “Closing the Gender Leadership Gap.” The following statistics were shared at the program. According to a study by the American Bar Association, “A Current Glance at Women in the Law,” half of the students graduating from law school with a J.D. are women. Yet, only 22.7% of law firm partners are women, 22% of state court judges are women, and 26.4% of Fortune 500 general counsel positions are held by women. A significant barrier for women in the workplace is implicit bias. After serving on this panel, I was curious to explore how the concept of implicit bias might contribute to the gender leadership gap in the legal profession.
Implicit bias is the term that describes how the subconscious mind categorizes people. The concept was first developed by psychologists Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald in the 1990s. Through the use of implicit association tests (“IAT”) Banaji and Greenwald evaluated the time it took for a participant to categorize concepts such as family or career with gender. The quicker the applicant could categorize concepts, the stronger the implicit association. The most frightening aspect of implicit bias is that a person may be consciously opposed to gender discrimination but may unknowingly discriminate against women due to an implicit bias that exists only in the subconscious mind.
Studies suggest that implicit bias may play a role in explaining why men are systematically preferred for positions over women. For example, a Yale study demonstrated a statistically significant preference for men in the field of science. The study involved sending a fictional resume to 100 faculty members at top universities. The only difference was that 50 fictional students were named John, while the other 50 fictional students were named Jennifer. Even though the candidates had identical experience and qualifications, faculty members were more likely to find John competent and were more likely view him as a suitable candidate for lab positions. Continue reading “Implicit Bias and the Gender Leadership Gap”
When asked to write a blog for the Marquette University Law School blog, I was provided several general topics that I could have considered, as I have never blogged. But it was also suggested that I have an interesting personal story: I always wanted to be a lawyer in my hometown, a city with fewer people than are enrolled as students at Marquette. I have always had a desire to return to Ashland, Wisconsin, and practice law, raise my family and live the lifestyle that I enjoy. I don’t find my situation to be unique or interesting, but maybe that’s because northern Wisconsin is such a wonderful location that it pulls many people home, and my story isn’t unique among residents here. However, someone who grew up in an urban area may be apprehensive that there will be “nothing to do” in a small town. To that I say: only boring people get bored. So rather than discuss a legal topic, I plan to discuss my legal practice, and why being a small-town lawyer is a fulfilling and interesting career. The State Bar of Wisconsin has also recently encouraged small town practice and tried to connect new lawyers or those looking for a change with lawyers in rural areas. Small towns need lawyers.
I grew up in Ashland, located on the shores of Lake Superior, enjoying the big lake and the big woods (Chequamegon National Forest). In the summer and fall the activities were hunting and fishing, in winter it was hockey rinks and ski slopes, and the in the spring, well that was just mud season. I have been teased for the pride I take in talking about my home, my high school, and the general area I grew up in. Unlike larger areas, my high school represents my community and is smaller than most. Ashland has just over 8,000 people and the county has just twice that many. There was no other high school, so it represented us as an area. It represents my home, so I take pride in its success and sorrow in its failures.
In law school I had academic success having offers from large firms and was a summer associate at one. I graduated magna cum laude and moved back to Ashland the day after being sworn in to the Bar. While my big firm experience was positive, I knew my long-term happiness was north. When asked why would you want to live up there, my response was typically the same: “Why do you vacation in northern Wisconsin?” To many people, Elkhart Lake was “up north,” while I consider Highway 8 to be the dividing line between north and south Wisconsin. I find cities great places to visit on weekends but I find the small town is the place to live. I think many lawyers would find small town practice rewarding both professionally and personally. Continue reading “The Rewards of Being a Small Town Lawyer”
On April 10 I participated in a panel discussion sponsored by the Law School Chapter of the Federalist Society. The presentation was entitled “Lawyers, Plaintiffs, and Professors, Oh My!: Janus v. AFSCME.” The other panelists were Adjunct Professor and Director of the Law Library Elana Olson, Alumnus Daniel Suhr from the Liberty Justice Center , and Mark Janus, the name plaintiff in the case of Janus v. AFSCME. What follows are my prepared remarks.
In June of 2018 the United States Supreme Court held, in the case of Janus v. AFSCME, that it is a violation of the First Amendment for State and public sector unions to assess mandatory agency fees to non-consenting employees. The majority of the Court held that forcing non-union workers to contribute money to support non-political activities which benefit all workers violates the Free Speech rights of non-consenting employees.
In so holding, the Court overruled a precedent of over 40 years, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, a 1977 case that had upheld the practice against a First Amendment challenge.
Opposition to labor unions and collective bargaining rights is a policy choice held by many political conservatives today, but it was not always the position of the Republican Party. One of the early icons of the conservative political movement in the United States, Whittaker Chambers, was himself a union member at times in his career, he was supportive of the labor movement, and his wife and many of his relatives were union members.
This icon of political conservatism in the 1950s and 1960s supported collective bargaining rights so much, that when the parent of the conservative National Review Magazine gave an award named after Whittaker Chambers to our guest Mark Janus, in recognition of his participation in the Janus v. AFSCME litigation, the family of Whittaker Chambers objected to their father’s name being associated with the case. Continue reading “The Costs of Janus v. AFSCME”
Shannon Strombom (3L) has been chosen as the winner of the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Outstanding Public Interest Law Student of the Year.
The criteria used to determine a winner of this award includes a demonstrated commitment to working in the public interest, public interest involvement before and during law school, exceptional volunteer work or activism in the community, and a commitment to helping others.
Strombom is also the two-time recipient of a Public Interest Law Society fellowship. She has focused her fellowship work on immigration law, working one summer with Catholic Charities Legal Services for Immigrants and the next summer in the Arlington, Virginia, Immigration Court.
As for her plans after graduation, Strombom plans to build upon past experience and practice immigration law in a government, non-profit or small firm setting. Strombom particularly hopes to focus on family-based immigration law or humanitarian immigration law, such as asylum.
Strombom is an inspiration to us all. We are proud she will soon be a Marquette Lawyer.