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Skadden Hires a Den Mother

Vivia Chen

August 1, 2011

Rosenberg_sheli I don't know if this will start a trend, but the young women lawyers at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom are getting their own guardian. She's Sheli Rosenberg, a Chicago lawyer with a long string of accomplishments (Chicago Tribune broke the story of her hire; hat tip: ABA Blog).

Okay, Rosenberg's title isn't officially "guardian" or "guru" or such. Her real title is "of counsel." And her job has two components—client relations (I think that's a polite way of saying that she'll be using her contacts to help bag clients) and mentoring. The mentoring part, Rosenberg tells me, is not extracurricular—"it's an official part of my job."

Plucked from retirement (she stopped working in 2002) just a couple of months ago, Rosenberg, 69, probably sets the record as one of Skadden's oldest hires. She is likely to be a bit of a maternal figure to the younger women at the firm. But that's probably intentional. Certainly, she's blazed plenty of trails that would qualify her as a role model in anyone's book: She was the first female equity partner at Schiff Hardin, trusted legal and business adviser to real estate magnate Sam Zell, a founder of the Chicago Network (an organization for the city's high-powered women), and director of several corporations (Chicago Tribune says she's served on more than 20 corporate boards in total).

The opportunity to help mentor women at Skadden was an offer that she couldn't resist, says Rosenberg, adding that it came out of the blue—"something that I never thought would happen to an old goat." (Skadden partner Wayne Wahlen approached her about the job last year.)

"Mentoring is in my life blood," she explains, quoting Madeleine Albright who famously said, "There's a place in hell for women who don't support other women." Her mission, she says, is to "help women have successful careers and achieve balance in and out of the office; it will be personal." (She's married with two grown children and four grandchildren.)

So how does Rosenberg plan to achieve those goals? There will be "lots of networking events," she says, and "interaction between women in other areas in the city. . . . There will be learning opportunities." She adds the program is at an early stage where she's "getting ideas."

To be perfectly honest, it all sounds a bit amorphous. But that's okay, I suppose. After all, it never hurts to have a role model in the house.


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This is a fabulous idea. I hope other firms create similar positions.

Now I'm wondering what the secret to her success was. How did she do all that and still keep her family going?

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: [email protected]

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