Musings on Checklists

I always enjoy thumbing through the ABA Journal, and this month’s was no exception, especially since the cover headline was “Women in Charge,” and the issue contained the article “Do Women’s Initiatives Work?  I have my own point of view on how law firm women’s initiatives are, or are not, working, and I enjoyed NAWL Foundation President Stephanie Scharf’s presentation earlier this year on the research the National Association of Women Lawyers has done in answering the same question.  But I digress. 

Deborah Graham’s article on women’s initiatives described how Catherine Chaskin, then a junior partner at the Reed Smith law firm, took charge of the firm’s women’s initiative, and decided to focus on the women who were progressing well and about four years into their law careers.  Typically a time of high attrition among women, Chaskin developed what I would describe as a “checklist” of questions for female associates to work through as they thought about continuing on at the firm to become a partner.  Intended to encourage self-reflection, the Reed Smith questionnaire asked things like “What’s your relationship like with your practice group leader?” and “Is there anyone on the executive committee who would recognize your face?”  (Keep in mind that Reed Smith is a Biglaw mega firm, with more than 1,800 lawyers around the world.)

As you think about what career goals you are trying to achieve, what does your personal checklist look like?  Where are you in the pipeline for getting your next promotion, or opportunity to work on a new project?  And if you don’t know what your checklist should look like to achieve your goals, whom can you talk with to find out?  As Lewis Carroll wrote, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”

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