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Part 1--No More Miss Nice

Vivia Chen

January 4, 2012

Cinderella_1865-WikipediaIf you think the gender divide is shrinking among younger partners, you should check out The American Lawyer's first-ever survey (subscription required) of new partners. Frankly, I was astounded by how the two sexes differed on their views about client development, partnership grooming, money, and the future.

Before I pile you with a lot of numbers from the survey, let me give you the skinny: Women tend to be a bit darker in their outlook. For a sizable chunk of them, the fun of being a new partner seems to have already vanished—almost a quarter of the women (versus 15 percent of the men) rated their partnership experience as being “more difficult than I expected.”

But let's start with the positive news first: Women seem to be finally discarding the good- girl syndrome—that is, the belief that if they just work really, really hard, Prince Charming will come along, propose partnership, and everyone will live happily forever in a bed of profits. Instead, women are counting on developing their own book of business as the ticket to security.

I don't think many people—men or women—are counting on a lasting union these days. But it's  refreshing that these newbie female partners are aggressively chasing business. In fact, they seem more eager than the men. According to the survey, over 81 percent of female partners say they've stepped up their business efforts since their elevation, compared with just under 75 percent of the men. Even more encouraging, women are getting more support from their firms than the men on this front: Nearly 68 percent reported that they have a budget for professional development, versus 55 percent of the men.

Great news for women, right? Well, here's the snag: Women already are getting discouraged about their efforts. Here's the most glaring gender gap in the survey: Over 30 percent of the men but only 9 percent of the women said they were "very satisfied" with their business development responsibilities. Moreover, almost 11 percent of women and only 3 percent of the men said they were "not at all satisfied" in answer to the same question.

The survey doesn't tell us what "satisfaction" means—is it that they're not spending enough time on biz development, or that they're not getting enough support, or that they are not seeing results? In any case, though, the upshot is that women are considerably more unhappy with their efforts than men. Not a promising outlook for a long and vibrant career.

In my next post, I'll look at some of the possible reasons for this doom and gloom. In the meantime, how do you account for this rather sad state of affairs?

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I think that women are always harder on themselves and are almost never satisfied with their results. I take the number as not very meaningful.

I believe I see K.C. Victor's point.
" As an older person i can tell you with some experience that "Happiness" IS a relative thing and if the statisfaction one derives from parts of their life is sufficient it carries those parts of ones life where the level of satisfaction is less than expected or desired.
Do you really expect total satisfaction in ALL areas of your life's experience?
Be reasonable.

The women lawyers I know with significant business (many millions) do the same thing the men do - they constantly engage with clients.

I hypothesize that women miss the rest of their life more than men do, especially since most of the women I know in the downpour-maker world also have friends and families.

Decades ago, on a panel of powerful women, Donna Shalala said at best we get two out of three of the following in our lives: a great career, a great marriage, a great mothering experience. She added that most of us choose to do one excellently and accept the other two as partial successes. I have quoted her hundreds of time in my work.

There are choices to be made.

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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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