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Blomquist: Why go it Alone? Mentors Provide Support

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blomquist-kerryI went to the annual Women and the Law Division (aka WLD) summer social earlier this summer. This is one of my favorite IndyBar gatherings because women law students, lawyers and judges of all ages and from all career paths have a chance to socialize, network and just have fun. WLD Chair Nicky Mendenhall ran the show and we were all equally entertained and motivated by guest speaker Judge Robyn Moberly, the first women in the state of Indiana to be appointed a federal bankruptcy court judge.

Again, just this past week I was grateful for the opportunity to socialize and network with some wonderful women lawyers and judges (and at least one law student) as part of an Indiana State Bar Association Women in Law function. We all met in Lafayette (shout out to the spirit of the Lake and Porter County lady lawyers who rented a bus for the trip!) for a delightful outdoor reception. Indiana Supreme Court Justice Loretta Rush and Judge Maggie Robb, Chief Judge of the Indiana Court of Appeals were the headliners at that event and it was a great, great evening.1

Here is my point: Ironically, several years ago there was some talk about whether there is still a need for separate divisions of bar associations for women. The leading argument, if I recall correctly, was that now that women have “equality in the workplace,”2 we don’t need such “special divisions” anymore.

Bluntly, I find such arguments tiresome, because if you don’t think women lawyers and women professionals in general have separate and distinct interests and indeed challenges in work/life balance, you need a serious and bracing reality check. I for one appreciate being with my female colleagues to fellowship over a meal, a cup of coffee or better yet a glass of wine about how they make it all work. I learn from this, and to the extent I can, I hope I help younger women lawyers understand that this is a safe place to be.

In a 2011 LinkedIn survey of more than 1000 female professionals in the U.S., 82% agreed that having a mentor is important BUT nearly 1 out of every 5 women reported never having one. Further, 52 percent of those women noted they just never had the opportunity. In a follow up article to this survey, one female exec at LinkedIn offered that as women learn to better “Lean In” by speaking up about their good works to get that partnership nod, salary boost or corner office, sponsors and mentors are irreplaceable because they help us blow our own horns—or better yet, they blow right along with us.

IndyBar’s Women and the Law Division excels at this by providing mentoring groups who get together on a regular basis. I am in Team Two led by the amazing Sarah Burkman. Sarah is a Senior Staff attorney at the Indiana Legislative Services Organization and an IndyBar mentor extraordinaire. She has been an active part of the Women and the Law Division for as long as I can remember. Kierston Kammon speaks fluent French and started her professional life much like I did, in telecommunications and broadcast journalism. Meg Christiansen has, in addition to practicing law at Bingham Greenbaum Doll, recently been the president of a nonprofit organization called Trusted Mentors—its goal is to end homelessness. Alix Lei Vollmer is the General Counsel of Residential Warranty Services and she was the Vice President of the Asian Law Students Association in her law school days. Carrie Brennan is a current law student trying to fit all the pieces together and making it work, just like we all did. These are the remarkable women I have in my WLD mentoring group. Where else would you hear conversations like these?

• “Yes, I (or my husband/partner) stayed home with our children for awhile and did not commit professional suicide. Here’s how.”

• “Did anyone read the article from the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession about best practices in negotiating compensation packages?”

• “In my next life I want to be a pediatric orthodontist who only works on Saturdays.”

• “What tips do you have for starting your own practice?”

• “What are some good pro bono opportunities that I can engage my female colleagues in”?

• “Stain stick is a gift from God.”

So this is a shout out for mentoring and networking groups of all kinds that are structured and safe. No one ever wants to ask for help or advice thinking they will get attitude or judgment of any kind on the backside. All generations of women need to speak up, support other women and speak truth to power.•



1 There is something to be said for dating a pilot who can build hours by flying you to events like this. #winwin

2 #yeahnotreally. See A Current Glance at Women in the Law; Feb. 2013 www.americanbar.org/women

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  1. Hysteria? Really Ben? Tell the young lady reported on in the link below that worrying about the sexualizing of our children is mere hysteria. Such thinking is common in the Royal Order of Jesters and other running sex vacays in Thailand or Brazil ... like Indy's Jared Fogle. Those tempted to call such concerns mere histronics need to think on this: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/a-12-year-old-girl-live-streamed-her-suicide-it-took-two-weeks-for-facebook-to-take-the-video-down/ar-AAlT8ka?li=AA4ZnC&ocid=spartanntp

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  3. This is happening so much. Even in 2016.2017. I hope the father sue for civil rights violation. I hope he sue as more are doing and even without a lawyer as pro-se, he got a good one here. God bless him.

  4. JLAP and other courtiers ... Those running court systems, have most substance abuse issues. Probably self medicating to cover conscience issues arising out of acts furthering govt corruption

  5. I whole-heartedly agree with Doug Church's comment, above. Indiana lawyers were especially fortunate to benefit from Tom Pyrz' leadership and foresight at a time when there has been unprecedented change in the legal profession. Consider how dramatically computer technology and its role in the practice of law have changed over the last 25 years. The impact of the great recession of 2008 dramatically changed the composition and structure of law firms across the country. Economic pressures altered what had long been a routine, robust annual recruitment process for law students and recent law school graduates. That has, in turn, impacted law school enrollment across the country, placing upward pressure on law school tuition. The internet continues to drive significant changes in the provision of legal services in both public and private sectors. The ISBA has worked to make quality legal representation accessible and affordable for all who need it and to raise general public understanding of Indiana laws and procedures. How difficult it would have been to tackle each of these issues without Tom's leadership. Tom has set the tone for positive change at the ISBA to meet the evolving practice needs of lawyers of all backgrounds and ages. He has led the organization with vision, patience, flexibility, commitment, thoughtfulness & even humor. He will, indeed, be a tough act to follow. Thank you, Tom, for all you've done and all the energy you've invested in making the ISBA an excellent, progressive, highly responsive, all-inclusive, respectful & respected professional association during his tenure there.

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