In deciding whom to select as first chair for a major piece of litigation, lead counsel in a complex transaction or heading a law firm, the questions are the same: Does the lawyer have the expertise and experience? What results has the lawyer achieved? There are volumes written on how to gain expertise, experience and results in the actual practice of law. While the criteria may be similar, the path to law firm leadership has a significantly different goal. Leadership means bringing a team; swimming alone isn't leadership. It also takes more lead time and, perhaps most importantly, requires the successful candidate to decide affirmatively that she wants to lead.
A recent survey by the public relations firm Zeno Group found that just 15 percent of women between ages 21 and 33 would want to be the head of a large organization. The number is about twice for men.
The first step, particularly for women, is to ask: "Is there any possibility I will ever want to hold a leadership position?" If the answer is "no," don't discount that you may feel differently in the future. Goals can change.
Originally published in Texas Lawyer on 9/23/2013.
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