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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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