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Too Many Women Lawyers are Like Oz’s Dorothy, Partner Says

Posted Jul 8, 2009 9:10 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Women lawyers looking for advancement would do well to study Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, according to a law firm partner who founded the Opt-In Project.

“Dorothy was a true leader,” writes Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe employment law partner Patricia Gillette in a post for the Am Law Daily. “She identified the tasks at hand, formulated a plan, and overcame obstacles to reach her goals: a brain for the scarecrow, a heart for the tin man, and courage for the cowardly lion.”

But Dorothy had a failing, much like many women lawyers. “When push came to shove, what did Dorothy ultimately ask for herself from the Wizard? Nothing,” Gillette says. Too many women lawyers are like Dorothy, asking for no credit, reward or recognition, she writes. “And thus, no one knows what she has done and no one thinks of her as a leader.”

Gillette says women need to take a more active role in managing and advancing their careers, in part by courting clients, socializing with firm leaders, touting their capabilities and pressuring firms to expand leadership opportunities for women.

Law firms also need to do their part by changing systems that have held women back, she says. Gillette’s Opt-In Project, founded with another lawyer, was designed to find out how firms can do a better job retaining women lawyers.

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