You know Sheila and Nina, right? I'm talking about that Sheila, as in Birnbaum—and that Nina, as in Gussack. We just visited with those super rainmakers in my last post ("Can Rainmakers Have Work/Life Balance?").
As you might recall, they weren't optimistic that you can make rain and be home in time to make dinner too. The demands of the workplace, both said at a recent New York City Bar event, are more intense than ever.
Despite that pressure, Birnbaum and Gussack are optimistic that women are well-positioned to attract business. As Birnbaum noted, it's a changed world: "When I started, there were no women GC. . . but now there's many women in-house. . . . Your ability to socialize has changed dramatically."
Yes, women should be making buckets of rain—except they're not. So what can women do? Here are some tips from Birnbaum and Gussack about women and business development:
1. Be nice—you never know where business will come from. Gussack: "It could be the paralegal that you paid attention to, the assistant you impressed, the expert witness you dazzled. . . . It's all of a piece."
2. Embrace rejection. "Fear of rejection is your worst enemy," summed up Gussack. She added that men handle rejection much better because "boys in high school know that you have to ask for dates, and they know there's a good chance they'll be rejected." Sooner or later, though, they'll get a date.
3. It's okay to feel depressed and drown your sorrows—for a while. Birnbaum: "I'm a terrible loser; I take it to heart." Gussack: "There's more rejection than success." Have a drink, talk it out, she advised: "Allow yourself one week of wallowing and no more."
4. But find out what went wrong, and keep up with the client that got away. Gussack: "Most important thing is figuring out why you didn't get [the assignment.] Call and ask." Birnbaum: "You tell [the client who didn't hire you] that if things go bad, we'll bail you out later."
5. Be socialable—but don't bother with people you can't stand. Birnbaum: "People want to give business to people they like." She advised that junior associates take junior people on the business side to lunch. She added, "A lot of your classmates will go in-house—don't lose track of them. . . . [But] don't bother if you don't like them."
6. Don't take up golf or duck hunting—unless you're into it. Don't get hung up about how men bond on the golf course or in the woods. Birnbaum: "Don't ever do something that you don't like because you think it will lead to business." Gussack: "Don't join something that you won't show up at." The key, both said, is to do extracurricular activities you actually like.
7. Don't be the nice girl at the firm. Nice girls often get screwed on compensation, client credit, and promotion. If male lawyers are trying to bully you out of client credit, fight them. Birnbaum: "You can't be a nice little girl. . . You have to say, 'This is mine, and I brought it in,' or you go [complain] to the person in charge." Gussack: "It boils down to you can't act like a girl. . . . Men will say, 'I'll take your lunch money or I'll take your business.' "
8. Remember: You got swimsuits. Gussack told a delightful story about the great Yogi Berra in which his granddaughter, a sports writer, told him about her interview with a heartthrob tennis player. The exchange went something like this:
"You should date him," Yogi urged.
"He dates a swimsuit model," replied his granddaughter.
"You got swimsuits," Yogi said.
Yep, we've all got swimsuits. So, ladies, shouldn't we just dive in?
Related coverage: TheBroadExperience.com
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