Women attorneys have a terrific tool to create financial security and to live life on their terms – it’s their careers. And yet, many women attorneys are not living the life they want now and are not on track for financial security in the future. Why is this? Because they are not leveraging their careers from both a compensation and quality of life standpoint.
How women manage their careers makes all the difference to their ability to live the life they want. In fact, it can make the difference between financial freedom and having a good quality of life, or continuing on the treadmill that denies you the life you are working so hard to achieve.
For the past decade the number of women equity law partners has stalled at 19 percent. And these most accomplished of women attorneys suffer from a gender pay gap. They earn between 82 and 94 percent of their male counterparts. And the pay gap is even larger at the associate level with women making 77.5 percent of male associates.
Clearly there are challenges for women in law with respect to leadership and compensation. In fact, how women manage their career or business is one of the four key derailers to financial freedom. This isn’t cause for discouragement, rather it’s an opportunity for strategic planning. And bringing in to play those resources and tools that can get you where you want to be.
Good career management is going to be different for every person. That plan, as you might expect, is created with compensation at its core. Your paycheck is the not-so-secret weapon that enables you to live your ideal life. It’s the tool that allows you to fund the goals that are important to you.
Your career strategy starts with a close look at what you need to fund. Once you’ve identified that, the questions become more about quality of life. You may love being in law and aspire to equity partner at your firm. On the other hand, you may want to create more flexibility in your schedule and have the option of working from home or for yourself. Perhaps you are approaching retirement and want to dial back the number of hours you work, but not leave law entirely. These options are possible if you take the time to plan around what you want.
FIVE STEPS TO MANAGE YOUR CAREER & LEVERAGE IT TO ENHANCE YOUR LIFE
No. 1: Think through what goals are important to you personally, professionally, and financially. These are all closely tied to your career. You are able to fund those goals with your career, so you’ll want to look at your job as a compensation source. But don’t forget to also look at it from a quality of life perspective. We know the average attorney works 60-80 hours every week. It is especially important that as a woman attorney you think through how law will fit best into your life.
No. 2: Assess where you are now in your career relative to where you want to be. Are you paid adequately? Are there gaps in your skill set that need to be addressed? Is your job allowing you to have the quality of life that is important to you? Where is your life now relative to where you want it be? Get a good sense of where you are right now.
No. 3: Once you know what you want and need from your career, identify the gaps. This is where you’ll want to see what needs to be done so you can identify solutions. We know women attorneys have challenges around equal pay and getting leadership positions. If these are areas that are your hot buttons, you’ll want to get resources here to help you successfully reach your goals. This might mean finding a senior female equity partner at your firm to advocate for you. Or engaging with a business coach to help with negotiation skills to get paid what you are worth. Whatever the goal is for your career, once you know what you’re lacking, get the help you need to successfully tackle this.
No. 4: Write your plan of action down. Studies show that once you’ve put pen to paper, your chance of reaching your goals is greatly increased
No. 5: Take incremental steps. Rather than try to accomplish everything all at once, incrementally tackling action items one at a time tends to work best for busy professionals. You’ll have a sense of accomplishment, and you’ll continue to engage with your plan.
The right resources will make a huge difference in your ability to close the gaps and reach your goals.
LEVERAGE THESE RESOURCES
Business or Lifestyle coach: Find a coach who specializes in law and is familiar with what it takes to succeed in law, and the challenges women in the law have.
Mentor or Sponsor: We know that having an advocate in your firm can help when it comes to securing leadership positions. Seek out senior women at your firm to help advocate for you and get you the visibility you need for those senior roles. The ABA reports that law firms with established women’s initiatives have a smaller pay gap than those firms with less mature women’s groups.
Certified Public Accountant: Whether you are running your own firm or considered a 1099 employee at a larger firm, your CPA is one of the most important members of your financial team. You’ll want one who can strategize with you on how to minimize taxes and collaborate with your financial planner.
Certified Financial Planner™: This is the quarterback on your financial team who will help you create the team of resources needed to leverage your career for your goals, and collaborate with all of your trusted resources to make sure you are on track, or getting there.
A network of like-minded women: As stated in a recent article in hbr.org “There are massive benefits for the individual and the organization when women support each other. “Having a network of peers provides for support, sharing successes and challenges, and collaboration among women. Find your tribe and build a small group of meaningful relationships.
As a woman attorney you have a tremendous opportunity to leverage your career so that you can live the life you want. Because their time is so precious, attorneys tend not to allow themselves the time to think about what they’d really like their life to look like, and how to get there. We encourage you to spend some time thinking about what is most important to you in life now, and in the future, and to get the resources you need, and you’ll find living life on your terms a reality, not just a dream. BRIDGET VENUS GRIMES