The 11th Annual Conference on Women in Law, sponsored by Ms. JD, was held on March 15, 2019 at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, giving MoFo partner Carrie H. Cohen the opportunity to return to her alma mater, where she is also an adjunct professor, to help inspire the next generation of young women lawyers. The full-day conference featured informative panel discussions, a keynote lunch, breakout sessions, workshops, and a closing reception.
The theme of this year’s Ms. JD conference was “Speak Up,” inviting law students and legal professionals to join the conversation around gender issues and to explore the many ways we can work together to change the dialogue.
The conference kicked off with a networking breakfast and welcome address from Ms. JD’s Chief Executive Officer, Danielle Allison, and members of the Penn Law Women’s Association, followed by a workshop on building effective communication skills and advocating for yourself with confidence, titled “Speak Up: Finding Your Voice and Using It.”
Carrie, who co-chairs the firm’s Women’s Strategy Committee, provided an inspirational break between breakout sessions where she talked about using the “power of three” in getting people to not only listen to what you have to say but, more importantly, getting them to remember it. In honor of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s 86th birthday, which happened to be the same day of the event, Carrie demonstrated the power of three by offering a few of RBG’s most inspiring quotes:
I would like to be remembered as someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability.
Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.
Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.
As co-chair of the firm’s Women’s Strategy Committee and Morrison & Foerster’s Workplace Misconduct Task Force, Carrie has been a powerful voice for workplace equality. One panel that she found particularly informative was entitled “Male Allies: An Honest Exchange About What Men Can and Should Do to Make Our Profession More Inclusive,” featuring a mix of male in-house and outside counsel whose titles ranged from associate to partner to U.S. Army colonel to managing chief counsel at PNC Bank.
Male “allyship” is a topic that is gaining increased attention and one that Carrie is acutely focused on. In May, she will be a featured speaker on a panel titled “Working with Men to Advance Women in the Legal Profession” at the New York State Bar Association, Commercial & Federal Litigation Section’s 2019 Spring Meeting.
While many of the panels at the Ms. JD conference were focused on what women can do to ensure their voices are heard, the panel on allyship expanded that dialogue to take a deep dive into ways in which men can advance women lawyers and “speak up” on behalf of gender equality in the legal profession.
A number of recent studies on diversity and inclusion in the workplace have found that organizations with higher numbers of women, particularly in leadership roles, perform better. More diverse teams bring more perspectives and are often are highly adaptable and innovative, qualities that clients seek in a legal team.
A few tips the panel shared for helping men serve as allies included:
- Giving credit where credit is due. Helping to ensure that women’s voices are amplified during meetings, in client communications, and in the courtroom.
- Mentoring and sponsoring more women, setting them up with access to professional networks, and recommending them for key assignments.
- Speaking up when statements, actions, or incidents occur intentionally, or unintentionally, that put women at a disadvantage.
- Listening. Go to meetings, ask women how to be a better ally, and solicit anonymous feedback.
- Being an advocate for fair work policies such as pay transparency and parental leave.
Founded in 2006, Ms. JD is a nonprofit organization focused on ensuring the success of women lawyers who are early on in their careers. With chapters around the United States, the organization provides a forum where women students and professionals can network and continue the dialogue about gender issues in law school and the profession.
Learn more about Ms. JD and view the conference program in its entirety here.