March 30, 2018

Driving Change, Making Progress, Building the Future

In honor of Women’s history month, Women@Goodwin's co-chairs, partners Deborah Birnbach and Lisa Haddad discuss the importance of Women@Goodwin, current trends and outlook during Women's History Month.

What is the importance of having Women@Goodwin?

Women@Goodwin actively supports the firm's goals to attract, retain, develop and advance women at all stages of their careers. Through the work of our local councils, firmwide programming and collaboration with male allies, we work to promote our women lawyers as leaders both inside and outside of the firm. Women@Goodwin is both a place for women to develop their networks and build a sense of community with other lawyers around the firm and to share and discuss information that impacts their careers. Our women equity partners meet twice a year to address issues affecting women at the firm, discuss industry trends, and develop recommendations to create opportunity for the next generation of women lawyers. These biannual meetings underscore the women equity partners' leadership in driving the firm's progress toward its gender diversity goals.

"We believe that a more diverse team elevates us all, both in the work we do with our clients and in being the kind of firm where we all want to work. And we believe that an inclusive culture will get us there."

How is Women@Goodwin tackling the challenges facing the legal industry particularly with regard to representation of women in firm leadership positions and advancement for female lawyers and female lawyers of color?

Advancement to leadership is a priority for Women@Goodwin. During our most recent women equity partner meeting we focused on advancement and discussed challenges and made recommendations to help promote the success and advancement of women at Goodwin. This strategy allows us to take responsibility of the development of our talent, with particular focus on women, lawyers of color and LGBT lawyers, so that everyone at the firm has a level of accountability as we work together to create a highly inclusive and diverse workplace. Additionally, by signing on to the Mansfield Rule in September, the firm committed to diversifying candidate pools for significant leadership positions. This adds yet another layer of accountability and measurement so that we tackle head-on representation of women, lawyers of color and LGBT lawyers in leadership positions.

"It simply is not possible to advance without the support and advocacy of others. So it is crucially important for us to mentor and sponsor our women lawyers through all stages of their careers." 

What issues relating to the advancement of women are you seeing from Goodwin's offices around the world? Are they different from those in the U.S.? How does the global team work together to address these?

While the diversity conversation may be slightly different in our offices outside of the United States, it is vitally important to be able to support women everywhere as we have in the States for more than a decade. Our London office has a robust local council with programming that regularly includes clients, and Frankfurt and Paris are developing a plan and initial events to engage their populations. For example, the Frankfurt local council co-chairs are creating a panel discussion program to encourage dialogue about experiences working in a large international law firm, and that will include male allies. We work closely with our colleagues across the globe to address the nuanced needs of different offices and cultures.

From your leadership positions, what inclusion trends are you seeing either directly from client requests or from peer firm activity? How is Women@Goodwin planning to be at the forefront of those issues?

Women@Goodwin focuses on gender diversity and driving progress toward the firm's gender diversity goals because it is the right thing to do, but also because we know the business case – diverse teams perform better. This excellence through different perspectives in approaching problems is vitally important to our clients, and we see this reflected in the diversity-related questions they are asking us in RFPs and pitches. We are also proactively approaching the diversity conversation with our clients and showcasing our leadership in this space. We won Chambers' Women in Law Diversity Award for our innovation in how we are addressing the impact of unconscious bias by working with consultants from Harvard's Kennedy School to de-bias our systems (recruiting, hiring, feedback, elevations). We are developing and offering innovative CLE presentations on diversity, staying ahead of certain jurisdictions' requirements around the bias topic. We also host a number of client events each year and partner with clients via our involvement with outside organizations like LCLD (Leadership Council on Legal Diversity).

"As the firm has grown into a global firm and adapted to industry shifts, we have grown and adapted as well so that we can support our community of women and ensure we have an infrastructure that supports the needs of this dynamic group."

Can you give our readers a little bit of background on each of your experiences at Goodwin and what you think has contributed to your success here? 

Lisa: I would not have been able to build my career without the help of many mentors, sponsors and colleagues along the way. I was a summer associate at Goodwin (then Goodwin, Procter & Hoar) in 1995, and joined the firm out of law school in 1996.  While the firm has grown and changed in many ways over the years, our culture has not.  I was able to do high quality work from day one alongside many talented and generous lawyers and staff at the firm. In fact, my first mentor at the firm is still one of my great friends and supporters. The path has not always been smooth and straight, but I was able to chart my course through hard work, perseverance and a sense of humor.  And I appreciate the women here at Goodwin who paved the way, including the many years of leadership of Women@Goodwin (and its predecessors) by Laura Hodges Taylor.

Deborah: I would not be where I am today without the amazing colleagues with whom I work every day. Serving clients is done with excellence only with a strong team, and here, we use everyone's strengths to get to the right place. Everyone works hard, and knowing that we are in it together when things get crazy keeps the team driving toward great client service. I admire many of the women leaders at the firm, including Regina Pisa, for leading us through growth and profitability as their authentic selves. What I mean by that is that in my experience, hard work only gets you so far. To lead others, you need to believe what you are saying. Everyone has their own voice, and strong leaders are successful because they are genuine.