I have listened to Abby Wambach’s commencement speech to this year’s graduating women of Barnard College more times than I should admit publicly. Before you go any further, please do the same – click play, above, or click here to read it.
“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for..."
I hope that her message is widely shared for its humanity during times of uncertainty, flux and growth – not simply for its impassioned, inspired feminism, of which there is plenty. Abby’s principles of leadership matter to all people, not only to women – and I am sharing them here because I think they will especially resonate with my friends and colleagues as we dedicate ourselves to success as in-house legal marketing, business development and client services professionals:
1. Make Failure Your Fuel
Anyone who has experienced a failed project launch, a pitch loss, a botched communication, a lost opportunity, or a mismanaged expectation in a law firm knows the pain of that sting.
Temporary setbacks should give you an exhilarating sense of purpose, of focus, of clarity...
In her first leadership principle, Abby notes that athletes inherently see more value in learning from a loss or perceived failure. To the rest of us, failure is seen mostly as a negative, instead of as a teachable moment from which to learn and avoid repeating again. Those who decide to grow from that experience (or better yet, share with others so they may avoid making the same mistakes) choose to use the heat of failure to fuel a fire within to succeed, no matter how many tries it takes.
Temporary setbacks should give you an exhilarating sense of purpose, of focus, of clarity. Those who see this are often the most strategic and effective leaders, being both humbled and enlightened by these experiences, instead of letting themselves be derailed.
2. Lead From The Bench
It goes without saying that there are many times that we, as in-house legal professionals, find ourselves in behind-the-scenes roles: coordinating day-of logistics for a client event instead of being able to attend; editing a thought leadership piece to change the tenor to fit the intended audience for the author in the byline; coaching our attorneys in preparation for a pitch instead of making that pitch ourselves; spending countless hours on an RFP that goes out the door with the lead attorneys name on it and ours nowhere to be found. The list goes on.
That leadership, guidance, and support is invaluable to the success of the team, just as Abby mentions a leader in sports can add value from the bench by supporting and advising teammates when she herself can't be on the field. We actively seek those coveted seats at the table, but there are still parts of our jobs that are low profile, yet nonetheless incredibly valuable to the team.
3. Champion Each Other
Those of us involved in LMA often reference the organization as “framily,” but there still exists a healthy amount of competition amongst colleagues. We volley for the same jobs at the same prominent firms in the same major metropolitan areas. We apply for the same promotions within those firms. We submit for the same accolades to shine light on the projects we work so hard to complete to move the needle.
...a win for one of us raises the profile of the lot of us.
Remember: a win for one of us raises the profile of the lot of us. If we can advocate for our profession as a whole, we all benefit at the end of the day. Don’t consider someone else’s advancement or success to be a blow to your credentials, but instead shout it from the rooftops so the rest of the industry can see how far we have come.
As Abby said, “You will not always be the goal scorer. And when you are not – you’d better be rushing towards her.” In the long run, a concerted and cohesive effort towards advocacy for our sector of the industry will benefit each us and our individual careers.
4. Demand The Ball
Ask for what you want. Do so unabashedly, confidently, and thoughtfully. Sitting around waiting for your next opportunity to advance, to get more involved, to be lauded for good work, or to change your trajectory is a waste of time.
Don’t settle for less than what you think you deserve...
Be strategic, but purposeful, in everything you do; know your audience, have innate emotional intelligence, and keep your eye on your end goal.
Abby advises that part of leadership may require you to hang back, teach, and be patient; but, at at other times, you must demand the ball. Remember that we are hired for our expertise, and should advise our internal clients with that in mind; just as they are thought leaders in their respective fields, we are also in ours. Don’t settle for less than what you think you deserve, whether that involves additional job responsibilities, a level of respect, additional compensation, or anything else.
5. Strive to Be Forgotten
Abby wraps up with a key fifth point – the truest measure of accomplishment is to allow oneself to be forgotten.
Aim to influence your landscape to the point where future generations do not remember you specifically, but instead remember the impact you had via the change you effected. Put more emphasis on the future of our profession than on your own agenda, and you may be surprised to see how rewarding that experience can be.
We have come so far, and still have so far to go; but, rest assured, as Abby said, “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for; we will unite our pack, storm the valley together, and change the whole bloody system.”
[Jenna Schiappacasse is director of marketing and business development at Baltimore-based law firm Rosenberg Martin Greenberg. She currently serves as President-Elect of the Mid-Atlantic Region Board of Directors for the Legal Marketing Association, and as an adjunct member of LMA's Advocacy Advisory Council Connect with Jenna on LinkedIn and follow her additional writings on JD Supra.]
comments powered by