Top 9 Tips to Ask for a Raise Successfully

Lyndsay Markley, Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Trial Attorney, the Law Office of Lyndsay A. Markley.

Lyndsay Markley, Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Trial Attorney, the Law Office of Lyndsay A. Markley.

By Lyndsay Markley

In many law firms, compensation reviews are like Chicago weather – unpredictable and often unpleasant. There can be an uncertainty about when is the appropriate time to ask for a raise, causing hard feelings on both sides. As a one-time Associate and Partner of a law firm, I’ve been on both sides of the fence when it comes to raises and it can be for all parties involved if the process isn’t handled professionally. Here are my top tips for anyone asking for a raise:

1.  Be scheduled

I hear complaints from employers about repeated requests throughout the year from employees for compensation increases. In one such situation, an otherwise good employment relationship was deteriorating rapidly as the partner felt he couldn’t walk to the washroom without hearing the employee ask for more money.

In order to avoid repeated requests, an employer should set a date for compensation reviews. In the firms I know that adhere to this model, it is made very clear that no discussion of a raise will occur outside of this previously set date and time.

If you are the associate and compensation/performance reviews are not discussed during your final interview, I recommend addressing them as part of your overall package. By providing all parties involved with a clear time frame, an employee is saved the anxiety of the unknown and for the partner it prevents random requests for compensation at a time that is usually less than ideal, if not downright inappropriate.

Side note: I have heard some less savvy employers say that they prefer to ‘surprise’ employees with random raises and bonuses, as opposed to providing a set structure like the one I have described above.  Although I agree that many employees would be delighted to have a random increase in compensation, this should occur in addition to and not in lieu of a real meeting where the employee is able to prepare and present themselves for feedback. It just isn’t fair to keep your employees guessing.

2. Be prepared

Make sure you prepare answers to the following: Why do you deserve a raise?  What positive impact have you demonstrated? What qualities do you have that will serve the firm in the future (meaning you are worth the investment)?

Traditionally women receive raises for accomplishments and men receive raises and promotions based on perceived future qualities. Keeping this in mind, list out the qualities you have now that will benefit your employers in the future and give concrete examples.

Have some hard financial data on your performance.  Keep in mind that employees are expensive and every dollar you ask for is an increase in taxes and the bottom line for your boss. Your boss has to have a really good reason to increase that so give it to him or her!

3. Don’t be entitled

Several years ago, an associate in my firm attended her compensation review with only one factor in mind that – apparently, she was due an obligatory one-year salary increase. She had no idea what positive or negative impact she brought to the company nor did she seem to care.  She wanted a raise because she was entitled to one. On a side note, this first year associate had taken 17 days of vacation – not including ‘half’ days. Although her raise request was done with a straight face, it was hard to avoid a look of disbelief on mine.

A work anniversary is a great reminder that it’s time for a performance review but it is not justification for a raise. The asker should be prepared to demonstrate, objectively and subjectively why they deserve an increase in pay. This could include outstanding billable hours, favorable client reviews and significant settlement of cases. Once you know what you bring to the table, you’ll be confident in your request for additional funds.

4. Be aware of your firm’s financial climate

A successful request for a raise will depend a lot on timing, even if the meeting is scheduled.  Look at the circumstances going on at your office: Did your law firm just lose a huge trial or a big client? Are you hearing about budget cuts? It might be good to delay the meeting for a few weeks. Doing so shows your boss that you appreciate what is going on around you and are mature enough to recognize when it is not the best time to ask for more money. On the flip side, it’s a huge disadvantage to the asker to ask for a raise in this type of climate – better to wait a few weeks than another year.

5. Be aware of yourself

Look at the circumstances going on in your life: Did you just get back from a lengthy vacation or receive a reprimand? The answer to these questions will dictate how the meeting goes, even if everything else is in your favor.  If you’re still tanned from vacation and ask for a significant raise from your boss who was in the office the past two weeks, your request might not be well received. Once again, postpone the meeting if the facts and circumstances show that a slight delay would be more beneficial to your bottom line.

6. Be conscious of your value

When asking for a raise it is easy (and fun) to get caught up in why you deserve one – you rock, right? Every yin has its yang, so in order to be realistic you need to evaluate why you might not deserve to receive a raise. Have you made any serious errors that would have justified termination? Are you getting in late and leaving early when there is work to be done? There are many reasons why you might not be an ideal candidate for a raise and the best thing you can do is hear these out, improve upon them and try again. If you are denied a raise based on some performance issues, commit to your employer that this is going to change and ask for a six-month performance review.  Then, improve. And ask again when you really deserve it.

7. Be calm

Appearing hot and defensive when you ask for a raise won’t go well.  You have to be an advocate for yourself while remaining level headed – not an easy thing to do. Be in a good place before this discussion by trying to schedule it at a time when you are not rushed, hungry or totally stressed out.  Visualize the success of the meeting on a regular basis as much as possible before it happens and, if you are into this sort of thing (I am!), mediate beforehand.  Calm, cool and collected are three huge assets any employer would want to celebrate.

8. Be creative

Cash flow is a problem in most businesses.  If your employer informs you that you deserve a raise but money is too tight, be prepared with a creative solution. An idea from my business (plaintiff’s personal injury and wrongful death), would be asking for a percentage of the cases you work on as you resolve them or an increased percentage of business you bring in to the firm. Other ideas are amenities: gym or club memberships, increased vacation days and a flexible schedule. Try to think about all of the possible ways you can get what you want, without breaking your employer’s bank to get it.

9. Be clear

Ask for what you want, plus a little more. This is a negotiation. You want room to move. If you’re granted your first demand that’s wonderful, but the odds are strongly in favor of a counter which is less than your wildest dreams. If you build in room to move in your request, you can have real dialogue that also makes you look even more reasonable.

In the end, assuming you and your employer share mutual respect and value, you’ll be able to move towards an agreement that works for everyone. The above steps are a good place to start.


Chicago-based attorney, Lyndsay Markley (www.lmarkleylaw.com and Twitter: https://twitter.com/lyndsaymarkley) has dedicated her legal practice to fighting on behalf of persons who suffered injuries or death as the result of the wrongful or careless conduct of others. Her 2015 accolades include 10 Best Personal Injury Attorney for Client Satisfaction status from the American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys, Premier 100 Trial Attorney status from the American Academy of Trial Attorneys and Illinois’ Rising Star status from Super Lawyers.

 

9 Qualities of Successful Female Attorneys

Nine Qualities of Successful Female AttorneysBy Lyndsay Markley

I’m frequently asked to speak about women in law and specifically the issue that only a small percentage of female attorneys are given management and shareholder status, despite the fact that about 50% of all working attorneys are women.

Unfortunately, there are many other frightening statistics – women are paid less than men across the board and seem to fall of the grid five years into the profession, while our male counterparts rise up the career ladder.

These statistics are troubling. However, I also see another reality where many female attorneys are successful entrepreneurs building great businesses. This leads me to believe that there are two parts to the issue – how society approaches the monetary value of females in the workforce and how we, as women, approach our financial value.

Gender shaming

I confess that in my past, I have received and accepted ‘gender shaming’ from managing partners when I asked for an increase in compensation (i.e. I was not acting ‘ladylike’) and that I did not know my own worth in my own company.   When I finally figured out my worth and asked for it, the consequences were career changing.  After watching female colleagues I admire overcome this issue and now having found my own power in my career, here are my thoughts on the nine qualities of a female attorney who gets beyond the glass ceiling:

1. We are entrepreneurial. We want and need to have our own book of business and we hustle to get it. We are hunters — out looking for business so no one can doubt our worth.  We also will fight to keep control of our business even if it means a change of business’ address.

2. We know what we are worth. Ask most men how much business or money he made for his company last year and he will proudly tell you. Now ask a woman. Most do not know.  Until 2013, I was one of these woman. I blindly assumed that I was compensated fairly and I lived in a peaceful, blissful ignorance.  Then it came time to re-negotiate my compensation and a quick look at the books showed that I was responsible for a much more significant portion of our revenue that I thought. Knowledge is power. Now that you know what you are worth…

We don’t make excuses. We fail. We get fired. We lose cases. We win. We get promoted. We win cases. That is the way of life.

3. We ask for it. Statistically speaking, women in all professions are much less inclined to ask to be compensated in accordance with their value. The women I know who are rocketing to success have asked for what they want and if they have not gotten it from their employer – they went out and got it on their own. Asking for what you want is scary. Your boss/partner/colleague can say no or get angry. Or you could get what you asked for (even begrudgingly). If the answer to your request is ‘no’ you have been given an amazing gift – the truth. Your business does not value you. Unless there is a legitimate economic explanation involving complete financial transparency as to why you cannot be compensated fairly, you have to go. Many businesses have started for this very reason.

4. We know what we want. When I started my first associate position at a defense firm I knew what I wanted: trial experience. I told my new bosses that I wanted every case in the office with an arbitration or a trial date within the year. I got them and I tried them all. This turned into three job offers in less than one year.  When I made my next career move to the plaintiff’s side, my goal was even clearer: shareholder status with my name on the door.  I made this absolutely clear.  If I was going to work for this law firm I was going to be on the fast track. You cannot get what you want, if you do not know what you want.  Do you want to work on appellate cases? Ask. Want to sit along for depositions? Ask. Once again, if you keep being told ‘no’ you know where you stand with your business: nowhere good.

5. We hustle. As an associate and partner at a small firm, I worked long hours as an attorney but I never forgot that being the ‘best’ attorney was not going to bring me in business.  I dedicated time each day to maintaining relationships, searching for opportunities to expand my business and making new relationships.  Being an attorney is hard work and many of us do not want to socialize a lot at the end of the day, but women who succeed make time to do this just like they make time to get their nails done.

6. We don’t make excuses. We fail. We get fired. We lose cases. We win. We get promoted. We win cases. That is the way of life. When you try – when you put yourself out there – you WILL fail sometimes. It is part of life.  It is easy to win and succeed.  If you want to know someone truly watch them get back up after a fall.

7. We are innovative. I have never had a problem that I could not solve because I usually find issues to be the perfect time for change. When I’m stumped, I call my mentors, attend seminars and Google random search terms until I find my answer or at least a lead. This has led me to solutions that were much better than what I did before I had the ‘problem’.

8. We are authentic.  The women – and men – I know who are the most successful are completely true to themselves. They are quirky, interesting, unique individuals who can be off-putting, tough, cranky, funny and inappropriate. They are not perfect. They don’t always say the right thing but they know who they are and people love it.

9. We help others. All the women I know who are truly successful promote and support other qualified women so we can be the change we seek.  Even if you are new to the profession you can and should help others.


Lyndsay Markley NTL Webinar: How to Overcome the Challenges Facing Female AttorneysChicago-based attorney, Lyndsay Markley (www.lmarkleylaw.com) has dedicated her legal practice to fighting on behalf of persons who suffered injuries or death as the result of the wrongful or careless conduct of others. Lyndsay set up her own law practice in February 2014 and previous to this, was an equity shareholder at another established Chicago law firm. Her awards include a 10 Best Under 40 2014 and 2015 Award from the American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys, selection to the Top 100 Trial Attorneys in Illinois and a Top 40 Under 40 Trial Attorney for 2012-2014 by the National Association of Trial Lawyers. She has also been acknowledged by her colleagues as a Super Lawyers Illinois’ Rising Star in 2013 -2014-2015 and as a Top Women Lawyer in Illinois in 2014 by Super Lawyers and Chicago Magazine.

 

NTL Summit Teaches the Importance of Being “Present”

Lyndsay Markley NTL Webinar: How to Overcome the Challenges Facing Female AttorneysBy Lyndsay Markley.

I attended the National Trial Lawyers Summit in Miami in January.  As an attorney who started my solo practice less than a year ago, handling a caseload that needs more attention than a three-year-old roaming around a Chihuly exhibit – my decision to attend is not one I took lightly.

After 10 months of allocating my time to 95% work and 5% everything else (including shoveling down the occasional meal), going to a professional conference seemed self-indulgent and unnecessarily taxing on my already constrained time, overwhelmed brain and emotions.

Enthralled

Samy Chong spoke to us (and, it felt like, directly to me) about the importance of “presence” in our practice and in our lives.

Thankfully I shrugged off those concerns and it was one of the best decisions of my career.  Sure, I went with the intention of ditching some of the conference and hitting the beach (I am only human!), but I found myself glued to my seat for speaker-after-speaker, completely enthralled in the variety of topics and degree of depth that each individual brought to the platform.

Listening to the all-star line-up of trial attorneys left me feeling like a 13-year-old at a One Direction concert: Howard Nations, Mark O’Mara (George Zimmerman’s defense attorney), Mark Lanier, Michael Berg and trucking wunderkind, Dan Ramsdell (a man whose personal story is as moving as any of his cases) just to name a few.

Each speaker shared their own unique experiences, stories that have made them household names in the legal community (and likely the bull’s-eye of many a corporation’s office dart boards). From jury voir dire through closing arguments to running your law practice like a “real” business, the panelists covered an array of pertinent topics.

Although all of the speakers were veterans in the courtroom, each approach was fresh and new — clearly their commitment to continuing their education of the law and “cross-training” (as Howard Nation calls it) into others areas, including psychology and the art of story-telling — an essential skill for someone who wants to convey their client’s story to twelve strangers.

“Presence”

This reminder of what success looks like to me – executing societal change – was a breath of fresh air.

In addition to great legal minds, the conference boasted some unexpected topics from non-lawyers.  For instance, one of my favorite non-attorney speakers was Samy Chong, who spoke to us (and, it felt like, directly to me) about the importance of “presence” in our practice and in our lives. In a culture that looks down on “downtime,” it can be hard to justify your need to clear your head and take care of yourself — as if you are less of an attorney for needing to focus.  His words reassured us all that meditation and focus results in great ideas and a happier, more productive life — not “wasted time.”

Many of the speakers agreed that presence, self-exploration, defining oneself and setting work boundaries is mandatory to professional success and overall happiness.  Interestingly, a professional conference — for trial attorneys, nonetheless! — was encouraging. It reaffirmed my own journey of self-awareness and reflection – not just as a lawyer, but as a human-being.

As the minutes and hours passed, I realized that for the first time in 10 months, I wasn’t frantically checking my emails or worrying about my to-do list. Instead, I found myself truly listening and reconnecting to what drew me to my work as a trial attorney for plaintiff’s in the first place: my desire to help people by serving as their advocate when they are truly in need.

That is why I do what I do — so I can stand up to Goliath and give a voice to the “Davids” of the world that have been wrong and cannot use their voice.  I want to accomplish social change one life at a time by holding corporations and individuals who harm others accountable for their actions.

Executing societal change

This reminder of what success looks like to me – executing societal change – was a breath of fresh air.  Due to the intensity of the past few months (starting up my own law firm) I was so focused on each individual dot on the canvas that I could never see the full Monet.

It is much easier to wake up every morning and get into the trenches of the law when you are focused on your end goal: not another motion to compel, but ultimately taking the defendant into the court room and holding them publicly accountable for the injuries to your clients.

Since leaving the Summit, I am re-reading my Gerry Spence library, seeking out new tomes on psychology and story telling and enjoying more quiet moments for reflection or spontaneous realization.  And, guess what? Although these actions are not moving my cases forward on paper, they are moving them forward in my mind — creating the entire trial from voir dire to closing, in a way that makes the steps I have to take to get there, not only bearable but enjoyable.


Chicago-based attorney, Lyndsay Markley (Twitter @lyndsaymarkley), has dedicated her legal practice to fighting on behalf of persons who suffered injuries or death as the result of the wrongful or careless conduct of others. Her awards include a 10 Best Under 40 2014 Award from the American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys, selection to the Top 100 Trial Attorneys in Illinois and a Top 40 Under 40 Trial Attorney for 2012-2014 by the National Association of Trial Lawyers. She has also been acknowledged by her colleagues as a Super Lawyers Illinois’ Rising Star in 2013 -2014-2015 and as a Top Women Lawyer in Illinois in 2014 by Super Lawyers and Chicago Magazine.

 

Why You Should Never Give a Negative Reference About a Former Colleague

Why You Should Never Give a Negative Reference About a Former Colleague

Ranting about your former employer usually only achieves one thing: it makes you look foolish.

How should you respond when you receive a call about your former boss, colleague or employee who would make the supervisors in Bad Bosses seem like angels?

One of my favorite stories on this subject was told to me by a friend who works in high level government recruitment in the private sector (code for: she offers people salaries higher than most jury verdicts).

My friend had been searching for a candidate for a position that involved a great deal of discretion, trustworthiness and loyalty among other academics and professionals.

A monster

She contacted the former boss (let’s call her “Sarah”) of one of the candidates (let’s call her “Jane”) and received glowing feedback. Sarah said Jane was a very successful person in the field at issue; that Jane’s job was tough but she handled it with aplomb and was great to work with – even picking up a cup of coffee for her on the way to work every day! Jane sounded like a dream candidate.

My friend then called Jane but the conversation went quite differently. Mistakenly assuming that the job call was in reference to her former boss, Sarah, being considered for a new position, Jane used this opportunity to vent years of frustration. She talked about how hard she had to work because Sarah did not; how unappreciated she was at her job despite being “better” than Sarah and how this “monster” forced her to collect coffee every morning. After listening to Jane talk for about 30 minutes, my friend interrupted her to explain that she, not Sarah, had been the candidate. No job offer was made.

The reality is that unless illegal discrimination or misconduct is involved, ranting about your former employer usually only achieves one thing: it makes you look foolish. Jane completely eradicated a glowing review from a tough boss with a lot of street cred in her profession — qualities any new employer would take a lot more seriously than office drama. In one phone call, Jane proved that she did not have the discretion, maturity or loyalty to handle this 7-figure salary job – just so she could indulge in a 30-minute rant about her former boss.

No way

I have sat in interviews with candidates that complain about how under-appreciated they are at their job, providing examples of how much smarter they are than their current boss. Only one thought runs through my mind: no way.

I recommend that if you don’t have anything nice to say, do not say it. And there’s no need to say anything unless there is a reason to talk. If it’s simply gossip, avoid it — the legal community is too small for you to have your name behind needless gossip. What matters is what you learned on the job! We all have horror stories of how we have been “wronged” at our jobs, but telling them just makes us sound bitter and lessons are credibility in any context.


Lyndsay Markley NTL Webinar: How to Overcome the Challenges Facing Female AttorneysChicago-based attorney, Lyndsay Markley (www.lmarkleylaw.com; Twitter @lyndsaymarkley), has dedicated her legal practice to fighting on behalf of persons who suffered injuries or death as the result of the wrongful or careless conduct of others. Her awards include a 10 Best Under 40 2014 Award from the American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys, selection to the Top 100 Trial Attorneys in Illinois and a Top 40 Under 40 Trial Attorney for 2012-2014 by the National Association of Trial Lawyers. She has also been acknowledged by her colleagues as an Illinois” Rising Star in 2013 -2014 (SuperLawyers” Magazine) and as a Top Women Lawyer in Illinois in 2014 by Super Lawyers and Chicago Magazine.

 

How to be a Professional Attorney: Seven Important Lessons

 

Taking the high road might not be fun — it requires self-control and patience — but don’t ever sink to the level of an attorney who is misbehaving.

Taking the high road might not be fun — it requires self-control and patience — but don’t ever sink to the level of an attorney who is misbehaving.

By Lyndsay A. Markley

When I tell people that I’m a trial attorney, one of the first questions they ask is about attorney relationships.

The general public assumes that all attorneys spend most of their time engaged in a heated battle with opposing counsel. As a plaintiff lawyer, I’m always delighted to inform them that some of my best friends are defense attorneys, and even if we don’t form a lifetime bond, I have a great collegial relationship with most attorneys on the other side.

Personal attacks

Of course, there are the exceptions. During the prosecution of a wrongful death cases recently, I encountered a situation that was so hostile it had me looking to the Attorney Code of Ethics (which was sadly absent of any definitive requirement of professionalism towards our colleagues), as well as my mentors for guidance. The conduct by the lead defense counsel was appalling and totally unjustified — personally attacking me in emails and having outbursts during discovery depositions, including calling me a “little girl” several times.

Although I hope this type of conduct is the exception and not the rule, it caused me to reflect on several lessons I have learned about professionalism in law (or at the very least, just acting like a normal human being!):

  1. Think it, do not ever write it. Assume that every single thing written during the course of litigation will at some point be seen by a judge. The easy, casual nature of email is deceptive — it feels like a conversation among friends — but it is not. Within the past nine years, email has become the main means of communication in our profession. Email is great, saving you and your client time and money – but be careful what you say at all times and remember that it might not be the best way to communicate with certain individuals.

  1. Don’t engage a miserable attorney. Misery loves company. It is safe to assume that an attorney who’s making your life a living hell, likely behaves that way towards everyone else too. The less interaction with this type of person, the better for you and your case. Only respond when necessary and keep responses short, sweet and focused. Taking the high road might not be fun — it requires self-control and patience — but don’t ever sink to the level of an attorney who is misbehaving. Take solace in the fact that most judges, and all litigators, know who is naughty and who is nice in our community. You will never regret acting with grace and dignity

  1. Assume you’ll meet again. It’s easy to forget that our community of litigators is small and tightly knit. It’s highly likely that an attorney you have on a case, meet in a courtroom or work with on a committee, will come up again and again in your professional life.

For example, during my early days as a defense attorney, I was instructed to mail out a standard practice form letter. I’ll never forget the telephone call I received a few days later when the plaintiff’s attorney called my office to chastise me and inform me that I “was no one, knew no one and would never be anyone” and that he was going to “black ball” me from the legal community. I had no idea what he was so upset about (and now that I know how standard 201(k) letters are, I’m even more baffled), and hung up the telephone feeling disheartened.

Later that year I was at an event and encountered this attorney yet again. Turns out he was running for a bar association office. Not recalling my name, he warmly shook my hand and asked for my vote. He continues to seek election to this day. Although I don’t hold a grudge, I decline to ever vote for him.

  1. Show mercy. At some point you will receive a frantic phone call from another attorney needing an extension. Even if they were tough on you or rude to you, give them the extension. I have seen a huge transition in the personality of a difficult attorney who has received mercy. Why not buy yourself a couple of years of less terrible interactions, for seven extra days on writing a brief? You might need a favor from them in the future and if they don’t give it freely, point out that you did it for them.

  1. Ask your mentors. In my recent case where the defense attorney’s conduct was wildly out of control, I turned to my peers for advice. Most of the advice I received was to move for sanctions or a protective order. This did not feel like the correct solution but I had no idea how to handle the level the conduct was rising too. I decided to turn to a judge that I respect, seeking out her wise counsel on the situation. She said to handle the situation with as much grace as possible unless it prevented the forward momentum of the case.

  1. Remember we’re all human. In addition to being attorneys, we’re all human beings. Our job is inherently adversarial which adds a unique component of stress to what is already a stressful position. You have no idea what is going on in someone’s life — if they’re going through a divorce, a sickness or a death. Try not to take interactions personally and also, try to show empathy and patience when someone is not being very likeable. You’ll never regret having taken the high road, but an attorney who engages in poor conduct will likely see that come back to haunt them.

  1. Accept an apology. Twice in my career I have received apologies from poorly-behaving attorneys. After listening to what they had to say, both involving serious health issues and medications, I readily accepted the apology and moved forward anew. Do not make someone grovel who already knows they were wrong.


Lyndsay MarkleyChicago-based attorney, Lyndsay Markley (Twitter @lyndsaymarkley), has dedicated her legal practice to fighting on behalf of persons who suffered injuries or death as the result of the wrongful or careless conduct of others. Her awards include a 10 Best Under 40 2014 Award from the American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys, selection to the Top 100 Trial Attorneys in Illinois and a Top 40 Under 40 Trial Attorney for 2012-2014 by the National Association of Trial Lawyers. She has also been acknowledged by her colleagues as an Illinois’ Rising Star in 2013 -2014 (SuperLawyers’ Magazine) and as a Top Women Lawyer in Illinois in 2014 by Super Lawyers and Chicago Magazine.

How to Overcome the Challenges Facing Female Plaintiff Attorneys

breaking-through-glass-ceiling1

Women lawyers can break through the glass ceiling by creating a book of business and developing marketing strategies that solidify their professional value to their law firm.

Approximately 34% of attorneys in private law firm practice are females, according to the American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Legal Profession.

Of these women, only 17% percent are equity partners and 3% are in a management partnership at the largest 200 law firms.

Women at the top are even subject to a gender-based income discrepancy, with female shareholders at the largest 200 firms making 89% less compared to their male colleagues.

9/12/12 HFM LAW FIRMChicago-based attorney, Lyndsay Markley has dedicated her legal practice to fighting on behalf of persons who suffered injuries or death as the result of the wrongful or careless conduct of others.Her awards include selection to the Top 100 Trial Attorneys in Illinois and a Top 40 Under 40 Trial Attorney for 2012-2014 by the National Association of Trial Lawyers.

She is the Principal of The Law Office of Lyndsay A. Markley, Ltd. in Chicago.

Previously she was a partner at Harman, Fedick, & Markley, Ltd. from 2011 to 2014 in Chicago, an associate at Harman & Fedick, Ltd. from 2006 to 2011, and an associate at Querrey & Harrow, Ltd. from 2005 to 2006.

It seems unfathomable that in 2014, women are still a minority in the leadership of the private practice of law or that a female equity partner is still a rarity. No matter the reason, the bottom line is that we still have some significant ground to cover when it comes to women having a truly meaningful presence in our profession. How do we overcome this extreme discrepancy and grab our place at the shareholder table (and our piece of the financial pie)?

The answer: bring in new business

As a trial attorney, I have experienced the constraints of the glass ceiling and learned my own way of shattering it. In 2006, I became the first female hired by a 60-year old personal injury law firm in Chicago. I made a little bit of history again in 2011 when I was offered a position as a named shareholder based on my performance as a trial attorney and the significant amount of business I brought into the firm. After nearly three years in this role, my relationship with my firm ended and I set up my own law firm in February 2014.

In the course of my nine years as a professional, I have been told repeatedly by colleagues to “leave the business (of my business) to the businessman,” and that that my value is bringing in ‘female’ business.

Men rarely receive “compliments” like, “You’re the best darn male attorney I know, but up against those ladies you just don’t stand a chance! Keep up the work that is good enough for you based on your gender.”

Becoming a shareholder is not easy for anyone. However, it seems that as women we have to prove ourselves in ways that our male contemporaries do not – and some of it is related to our ability to bring children into this world. In private practice, women are often excluded from the partnership track due to a belief that once they have children, their attention will be diverted and, therefore, they’re not worth the financial investment. This old-school way of thinking is pervasive in our industry: that a women cannot be a valued worker and have a child, take a maternity leave and be actively involved in her child’s life (as all parents should be free to do).

Female shareholders shortchanged too

Even as equity shareholders, women still are not compensated equal to their value. A female shareholder at a well-known firm confided in me that she was told at a meeting she wouldn’t be receiving a bonus because she was going on “vacation” (that is, taking six weeks off after giving birth). She responded to her partners that her book of business already paid both her and her assistant’s work for the year. Yet one of her male colleagues countered, “Yes, but I do not see why this is my problem. I did not get you pregnant.” She left and took her (substantial) business with her — amen, sister! That approach was not only insensitive, it was bad business and cost the firm a great attorney and a solid, consistent income.

Without bringing in new business, I would never have been promoted to the role of shareholder or been able to control my destiny.

Although I cannot tell you on a societal basis how women can gain an equal standing in the private practice of law, I can share my personal experience. After observing how many amazing women were being sidelined for promotions, I recognized that the most important aspect of any individual to any business — including a law firm — is what kind of long-term financial gain the firm stood to gain from me. In other words, she who holds the purse strings holds the power.

Most female attorneys underestimate the power of bringing in business and over-estimate its difficulty. They put their heads down, do the work and go home. Or worse yet, they meet a client and allow a partner to take control of it.  As a result, when lay-offs or promotions come around, these ‘worker bees’ are passed over for the person who can bring in the money. I was not going to let this happen to me. And I did not.

New business as an associate

Accordingly, my goal as an associate attorney was to create a book of business (referring attorneys) and develop marketing strategies that solidified my professional value to my law firm. I knew that this was the only way I could be secure professionally and gain freedom to make whatever choices I want with respect to my personal and professional life. Without bringing in new business, I would never have been promoted to the role of shareholder or been able to control my destiny — making my own schedule, taking time off and working to lead the law firm in a modern direction and, eventually transitioning into my own law firm.

It isn’t up to women to change the fact that we’re not recognized in the leadership of private practice commensurate with our presence or with our skills. Our male counterparts can assist by knowing that:

  • Not all women want to bear children.
  • Even those who do can still be excellent attorneys.
  • Embrace a women’s need to physically recover after having a child and delight in the fact that a woman wants to emotionally-bond with a child for its health — something every man would want for their own children.

 

However, we can make more changes from the top than we can from the bottom of the totem pole. Women attorneys should position themselves as a good attorneys, but also look at how they can make yourself indispensable by bringing in new business. This will allow you to hire other attorneys and run a business that is good for your pocketbook, but also implements the changes that all attorneys — not just females — need to lead healthier, well-rounded lives.