IntroductionThe Ohio Women’s Bar Association (“OWBA”) began in 1991 as a result of a suggestion by Justice Alice Robie Resnick in a speech she made to a group of women attorneys in April of that year. The effort to make the OWBA a reality occurred in parallel to the work of the Ohio Joint Task Force on Gender Fairness sponsored by the Ohio State Bar Association (“OSBA”). According to the Executive Summary of the OSBA’s report on gender fairness, “An Ohio Women’s Bar Association was created to ensure the development of leadership skills and to recognize the unique needs of women” in the legal profession1.
To advance inclusiveness within the legal profession and supplement the professional skills of women lawyers by enhancing their leadership, business development, and communication skills for the benefit of the diverse communities in which they work, live, and serve.
1) Practical Business Development Strategies and Rainmaking
A key to success for lawyers is gaining business, in other words making money, not just for a lawyer but also for the lawyer’s firm or company - whether this is gaining clients, increasing billable hours, investments, etc.
One recommended goal of the Leadership Institute is to provide practical strategies on how to generate business as well as how to utilize contacts more effectively.
2) Effective Leadership
Many women have difficulty promoting themselves to others and taking credit for accomplishments, particularly since women generally are more focused on collaboration. One recommended goal of the Leadership Institute is to instill in its members the importance of investing time into developing effective leadership skills to benefit the diverse communities in which they work, live and serve. Part of being an effective leader includes being recognized as a leader so practical methods for gaining recognition will also be covered.
3) Executive Coaching and Career Strategy
In this economic time, everyone must engage in strategic career planning to benefit their employer as well as their own career. One recommended goal of the Leadership Institute is to provide class members with the opportunity to be assessed and receive executive coaching. This will assist participants to determine what roles they should seek to benefit their employer as well as their community. The training will also include practical methods for bypassing roadblocks, demonstrating their value and lateral transfers. Members will also learn the value of mentors and champions as well as how to best cultivate such relationships.
4) Effective Communication Techniques
One recommended goal of the Leadership Institute is to work towards the view that women and men are judged based on their performance. Effective communication techniques are critical to achieving this goal. In a 2006 report entitled, “Charting Our Progress,” the American Bar Association Commission on Women made the following statement: “[b]oth men and women report that women lawyers are viewed as insufficiently aggressive, uncomfortably forthright, too emotional, or not as serious as men about their careers. When women opt for family leave or report sexual harassment, these stereotypes are reinforced.”13 The opposite can be true and women can also be seen as too bossy or too aggressive.14
This program will cover the influence of cultural beliefs on the effectiveness of communication and the OSBA Gender Fairness Survey as well as practical information from successful women leaders in communications, business, law firm practice and the judiciary.
5) Social Media: Trends and Ethical Considerations
Social Media is quickly becoming a major part of people’s lives. It can be a valuable branding and marketing tool when used effectively. There are special ethical considerations for legal professionals when using social media. This program will cover information about these ethical issues as well as upcoming trends in social media.
The program will include training on the major social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as well as hands on workshops to assist participants in improving and/or setting up accounts to take advantage of these valuable relationship building tools.
6) Public Speaking Skills
One of the recommended Leadership Institute’s goals is to ensure that members have ample opportunity to practice their public speaking (including in critical stakeholder meetings) skills as well as practical training on how to keep their audience’s attention and communicate their messages clearly. Practice and ongoing speaking opportunities tends to be the best way to maintain this crucial skill.