A few months ago, while scrolling through my Twitter feed, I came across a tweet from attorney Carolyn Elefant calling on lawyer moms to come together in the virtual world to learn how to “practice, parent and profit during a pandemic.” As a former practicing attorney, business owner working with lawyers, and a parent living, working and schooling through a pandemic, the call to action resonated with me, and I registered for the Lawyer + Mom + Owner Summit on the spot.
I am so glad I did.
The two-day Summit was created by lawyer and My Shingle blogger Carolyn Elefant and co-hosted by Long Island lawyer Jeena Belil. The goal was to create a new kind of conference to show lawyer moms not only how to survive but to thrive in this new virtual world — and did they ever achieve it.
Last month, sitting in my home office in Rhode Island, I watched an incredible lineup of women speakers from every corner of the U.S. (and a few from beyond) talk openly and honestly about their personal journeys.
Here are a few of my takeaways:
1. Embrace the Life You Are Living Now
This year has certainly thrown us a few curveballs. When 2020 started, no one bargained for an out-of-control pandemic, a reinvigorated racial justice movement, or the most divisive election of our lifetimes converging like the perfect storm. You can’t run from it, so you have to decide what you are going to do about it.
But this conference wasn’t limited to 2020 issues. Speaker after speaker spoke honestly about the challenges they had faced throughout their personal and professional lives. Their stories about thriving under difficult circumstances were both inspirational and aspirational. For example, Ally Lozano’s story about living the dream in Mexico until a hurricane wiped out her home along with everything she owned. Finding herself pregnant and homeless, she had to restart her law practice from scratch. Now she runs a seven-figure law firm … in 2020 … in the middle of a pandemic.
Yes, times are tough, but you can be tougher.
2. Diverse Voices, But Shared Experiences
The conference organizers put together a diverse speaker lineup — the most diverse I’ve seen at a legal conference. Speakers represented diversity in race, age, educational background, practice area and work experience.
While I’ve never had the experience of running for judge against a well-funded incumbent, like newly elected Florida Judge Christy Collins, or let go from my job after giving birth, like attorney Ticora Davis, I could find something in almost every story that resonated with me. Being let go from my job unfairly? I’ve been there. Starting a law firm with a 3-year-old in tow? I’ve done that. Figuring out how to market and sell professional services? I’ve read so many business books that I teach the business of law at Suffolk University Law School!
If we don’t talk about these shared experiences and support each other, future lawyer mom owners will struggle in the legal profession.
3. Storytelling Is an Important Skill During a Pandemic
It is so refreshing to go to a legal conference where you are not lectured to or sold to from the stage. So many of the speakers were amazing storytellers. Why is storytelling an important skill in 2020? It’s easy to get distracted while sitting in your home office, watching someone blab on and on about something you don’t really care about. Whether presenting on Zoom or counseling a client, you don’t want your audience wondering, “Should I go put in a load of laundry and grab a snack or sit here and listen to this person drone on?” Well, I was not bored. I loved listening to the stories of how these women built their businesses, and I learned a lot from them.
4. Practical, Actionable Advice
Inspiration and storytelling are great but learning something new at a conference always makes me feel like I got my money’s worth. I learned so much at the LMO Summit. Ethics rules, managing remote staff, and digital asset succession planning during a pandemic were all covered in the first panel alone. (Can someone access your digital assets if something happens to you?)
Let’s be honest. The pandemic has changed how lawyers practice law. Whether it’s virtual court appearances, or finding new software to ease client experiences, working in a virtual world has created new challenges for business owners. Carolyn and her team found experts to address some of these challenges. Catherine Tang showed us how she uses Instagram to market her legal services. Chelsie Lamie explained women-to-woman networking. And attorney stylist Melanie Lippman spoke on personal branding — and taught us what to wear on Zoom. (This might sound like fluff, but women are judged harshly on their appearance, and I’ll take any advice I can get about how to look better on camera. BTW, dark colors don’t look good in virtual meetings).
One of the best things about going to conferences is meeting new people. That can be difficult in the virtual world. At so many conferences, networking rooms and breakouts can feel like an afterthought. That’s why I was so impressed with the networking aspects of this conference.
After every speaker or panel, attendees could take advantage of a virtual networking room expertly facilitated by Andrea Cannavina, who Carolyn brought on board to assist with event planning and execution. Bringing her unique combination of enthusiasm and humor, Andrea made sure attendees engaged with each other, whether we were talking about the last panel or a recent struggle.
It Takes a Woman …
Like many things in 2020, I can’t believe it took a pandemic to bring us together to talk about the unique challenges women lawyers and lawyer moms face as business owners. I’m hopeful that the LMO Summit is the start of a community that supports each other throughout this pandemic and in the years to come. Women lawyers need a support system that helps them not just stay in the legal profession but thrive.
Who best to seek advice from than others who are doing it, too?
Visit www.lawyermomownersummit.com to learn more about the conference and ways to keep the conversation going.
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