Not Just Another Breakfast

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Building Relationships

Too often women are left on the sidelines at firm retreats, conferences or company outings. At an ABA Section of Litigation Corporate Counsel Committee Annual Conference in Phoenix, I could see the beautiful golf course from the lobby. Convinced that I needed to start playing golf rather than sit on the sidelines, I heeded my golf mentor’s advice and it changed my life. Now, I’m a golf coach on top of my day job.

Developing relationships occur organically through communication, repeated meetings and psychological connections. Golf builds relationships. Golf sums up what you want to know about a person. Do you enjoy being around this person? Do you trust this person? How does this person cope with frustration? Is she interested in yours or others’ activities? Would you want to work with her? In building relationships, not everyone connects in the same way.

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Women Lawyers Business Development Through Golf

I’m a data driven, big picture person and not particularly athletic. When I first expressed impressions that those guys out on the golf course were good, my golf mentor said, “Oh no, they aren’t!” So with the candle lit, I explored golf schools and what to do before the next annual conference. I didn’t have golf clubs or friends who golfed. Our local chamber of commerce ran a golf league. Knowing no one in the chamber, it felt safe to embarrass myself there. I ended up organizing the chamber golf league and became chair of the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce board. Seems I’m better at organizing than breaking par.

Golf was still sporadic for me, as it is for most working professionals. Business development should be fun — at least hang out with people you like. I went to a Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles (WLALA) event to hear Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. Afterwards in the parking lot, I discussed with WLALA’s incoming president Ruth Kahn, what could be done for experienced women lawyers’ business development. The light bulb lit. The Business Development Through Golf Seminar and our WLALA Golf League was born.

The WLALA Golf League is a series of once a month scramble tournaments with an optional golf clinic in the mornings. We reached over 100 women in our first four years. Beginners start with the WLALA Golf League. Seventy-five percent of the women in the golf league were brand new players. A parallel piece dealt with the Southern California Golf Association (SCGA). I developed an SCGA Advocating Women Lawyers Golf Club (SCGA WLALA Golf Club) for advanced beginners and intermediates where we play once a month around Los Angeles County. We are licensed through the SCGA to record handicaps and members can play anywhere in the country and record scores. Registration for both the golf league and association are through the WLALA.org website.

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Keeping Score

Our members’ handicaps range from 6 to 40. If you consider results in terms of confidence building and new business, we have winning scores. Members refer cases to one another, law students become new hires, lateral hires are happier and in-house counsel play with company executives.

Ready Golf

Ready Golf is a concept that could apply to the workplace or trial as well. Be ready: (1) Always keep an extra ball in your pocket. If you lose one in the water or in the rough, be ready to play the next shot. In trial, consider technology backup too. (2) Choose what club you want to use as early as possible. Pull a couple clubs before walking up to your ball to save time from walking back to the cart to get a different club. Decisive strategy for examining expert witnesses can take erratic turns into left field. Knowing how to take a shot with different tools gets you more directly to your goal.

Ready Golf women can play with almost anyone. Teaching Ready Golf and confidence in playing is another part of the coaching. “Don’t apologize for bad shots,” needs mentioning. In coaching, I answer questions about playing with our WLALA group or tournaments rather than teaching swing technique. I field teams for the LACBA Counsel for Justice tournament, the BHBA Foundation tournament and the LAIPLA Annual Spring Conference tournament.

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Tips for Women Who Play Golf With Men

Men may be encouraging to female players. Women play from the forward tees unless you have a low handicap. Men won’t care that you play from a closer tee box — in a tournament scramble you will be an asset. Men hit first. Get out of the cart and stand at their tee box to see where their ball goes. You will also get an idea of how the course is laid out.

Guys often hit far, but their erratic shots may be on the next fairway. Your short straight shots are fine. At least you will know where your ball is. When you take more shots to get to the hole, volunteer to pick up your ball and shoot from where your cart partner’s ball is if you are a beginner. Pick up your ball after 10 shots on a par 5 (if you don’t have a GHIN number).

Share responsibilities for driving the cart to keep fast play. Par 3s may be cart path only (don’t drive on those holes). Fancier courses have automated iPads in the cart above your head that tell the distance to the next hole and the shape of the hole. It’s very cool when it shows how far you are from the hole, any water or sand traps. the men will probably spend more time looking for lost balls than you will, so be confident that you can keep up with them!

Get Out There

For swing technique, I leave that to the pros. Take lessons before you get to the course.

Have fun! Cynthia Cohen, Ph.D. 

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