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Paul Floyd serves as the 2016-2017 HCBA President. Views expressed here are his own.

 

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Guest Post: What to Do About the Wage Gap

Posted By HCBA President Paul Floyd, Monday, December 5, 2016

Periodically, in addition to the regular monthly updates to the President’s Blog, the HCBA will be publishing posts from other voices. The guest blogger for this month, Kendra Brodin, president elect of Minnesota Women Lawyers. She analyzes the recent national survey regarding pay disparity between male and female law partners.

-Paul Floyd, HCBA President

A recent New York Times article examined the striking pay gap between male and female law partners. The article, titled A 44% Pay Divide for Female and Male Law Partners, Survey Says dug into the compensation disparity between female and male partners.

Specifically, the article pointed out that, nationally, “Female partners earned an average of $659,000 annually compared with an average of $949,000 for male partners.” Overall, the survey of 2100 large-firm partners nationwide found that the average compensation for partners was up 22 percent over two years ago with a total average compensation of $877,000. Major, Lindsey & Africa, the legal search firm, has tracked gender pay differences for six years, and it found the pay gap even more pronounced two years ago when it was 47 percent.

While these compensation numbers are higher than what we would find here in Hennepin County given generally lower salaries in the Midwest as opposed to the east and west coasts, and the smaller number of large firms that would have been included in this survey, the finding itself is troubling and replicated throughout the country. The NYT article quotes Jeffrey A. Lowe, who heads Major, Lindsey’s law firm business, as saying, “We asked partners to pinpoint the factors underlying the pay differences, and the No. 1 factor was origination. We found that, predominantly, a partner’s compensation is tied to bringing in business to the law firm.”

There are several reasons this lag in pay may be occurring. In Minnesota and across the nation, the legal profession sometimes continues to be an “old boys’ network,” where male lawyers refer work to connections from law school and previous work experience.  Male lawyers may have more time to network after traditional work hours if they have a spouse or partner who manages the household, giving the male attorney the opportunity to make connections that lead to business. Additionally, female partners often take on or are given positions and roles within the firm that detract from their ability and opportunity to build and bill business, namely non-billable roles on recruiting or diversity committees, or other leadership opportunities that, while welcomed in many ways, undermine the time available for female attorneys to focus on building business.

Patricia Gillette, a JAMS mediator and recent keynote speaker at the Minnesota Women Lawyers Rosalie Wahl Lecture, suggested in a recent Law 360 article titled “Closing the GapWomen Fight Back Against the Law Firm Pay Divide,” that litigation over pay bias in the legal industry may increase. This will force firms to think harder about their pay practices and assess whether or not those practices are equitable.

“Some firms will be more open to taking a look at whether their compensation decisions make sense in the cold light of day,” Gillette said. “They will look at an attorney’s billables, receivables, hours and contributions to the firm and come up with an amount. The step firms often miss is once they’ve done that, they need to step back and look at all of the decisions they’ve made and do some kind of pay equity analysis.”

Like firms nationally, Minnesota law firms and lawyers can support their female attorneys and reduce the dramatic gender pay gap by monitoring the compensation of the attorneys in their firms and watch to make sure that female attorneys have the same opportunities to build business and take credit for bringing business into firms as their male counterparts. Firms could also start considering non-billable but critical service to the firm, such as leadership positions, mentoring, and contributions to key committees when considering compensation. Together, male and female attorneys can acknowledge this striking disparity and work together to create compensation structures that eradicate this disturbing divide.

 

Kendra Brodin is Manager of Business Development at Merchant & Gould, a premier national intellectual property law firm based in Minneapolis. She is also President-Elect of Minnesota Women Lawyers. 

 

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Wellness During an Election Year

Posted By HCBA President Paul Floyd, Monday, October 17, 2016

About this time of an especially tumultuous election year, it is worth slowing down and focusing on wellness and self-care. More often these days, lawyers are taking time out of their busy schedules to address their own health and wellness. I recently joined a yoga class at my community education center in Roseville, and to my surprise, I have found it helpful in relieving stress, reminding me to breathe correctly, and reducing tension. True, as a beginner, I am not able to do all of the poses correctly, but I am enjoying the opportunity to slow down at the end of a long day and meditate.

As one yoga expert, Chrissy Carter, notes, “Yoga increases concentration, strengthens muscles, dials down stress, and can give you better posture.” Not surprisingly then, other lawyers are finding similar benefits of yoga. The photo accompanying this blog is of a recent late afternoon yoga session at Arthur Chapman. This is exactly the type of healthy lifestyle activity we as lawyers need to keep our sanity.

HCBA President-elect Thad Lightfoot and I recently attended a national conference for metro bar associations, and one of the primary themes for member value for local bar associations is to encourage good mental and physical health. Here at the HCBA this can be accomplished by participating in a hobby with others in a club (such as biking, photography, travel, etc.).

You can also attend a luncheon CLE in a section or committee. Interacting with others who practice in the same area of the law frequently helps to reduce stress and anxiety in one’s practice and personal life. The issues you are facing in your practice are very similar to those of others who practice in the same area or field, and a suggestion or observation about how someone else handles a problem client or a legal issue can go a long way in reducing stress in your life.

It is good to remember that we are all in this profession together, and taking time to focus daily on healthy habits and your own wellness and the wellness of those you work with can go a long way in making practicing law at least doable, if not downright enjoyable.

From your president, Paul (enjoying the Mountain Pose or “Tadasana”!)

 

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Other Voices: HCBA Past President Kim Lowe

Posted By HCBA President Paul Floyd, Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Periodically, in addition to the regular monthly updates to the President’s Blog, the HCBA will be publishing posts from other voices. The guest blogger for this month, HCBA Past-President Kim Lowe, reminds us of the need to take a vacation for our health and well-being. In short, getting away for summer is always a good thing especially here in Minnesota with our winters.

-Paul Floyd, HCBA President

Summer Vacation!

By Kim Lowe

Your immediate past-president reporting in from my summer “vacation” in Stowe, Vt., where I am at the Uniform Law Commissioner’s 2016 Annual Conference.  For many lawyers, myself included, the concept of vacation is very hard to wrestle to the ground. The lyrics of The Go-Go’s 1982 smash hit Vacation accurately describe my love-hate relationship with vacation and work:

Vacation, all I ever wanted
Vacation, had to get away
Vacation, meant to be spent alone

A week without you
Thought I'd forget
Two weeks without you and I
Still haven't gotten over you yet

Since starting practice, I have yet to take a vacation that did not include my laptop as well as a plan to accomplish at least some work while on “vacation.”  And of course, I have never “vacationed” without constant connection by voice and email. As I transition through the middle of my career, however, I am attempting to bring a more mindful and healthful approach to vacation at least during the summertime.

With this hope in mind, I turn my attention further to the music of the summer.  I want to start this audible journey first with the aria Summertime (lyrics to song) from George Gershwin’s 1935 Porgy and Bess folk opera.  According to more than a few commenters, there are more than 25,000 recordings of Summertime. Much like vacation, Summertime can be cast in many different perspectives.  Enjoy an audible tour through this great tune and consider your own thoughts about summer and vacation.   

For those who appreciate the irony of jazz, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong’s 1958 production of Summertime sets a beautiful and luscious tonal exploration of the mood of summertime and presumably vacation: 

Summertime, and the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy's rich and your ma is good-lookin'
So hush little baby, Don't you cry

If we skip forward to Janis Joplin’s 1969 live performance of Summertime, an amazing rendition drenched in the sound of the hippie counterculture that exemplifies the anguish to the song, the second operative verse exemplifies the goal of vacation:

One of these mornings
You're going to rise up singing
Then you'll spread your wings
And you'll take to the sky

Norah Jones also took a run at SummertimeHer rendition is lighter than the Fitzgerald or Joplin version, but still impressive.  Much as my perspective on vacation has changed over the year, a song that transcends eight decades goes through more than a few changes. 

So as I ponder my feet while I sit at the pool trying to not check my email, I reflect on my thoughts on vacation or at least on time away from work.  Ironically, much as Summertime does not seem to be going away as an iconic standard, my inability to disconnect from work seems to be alive and kicking.  

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Sharing an Attorney’s Thoughtful Reflection on the Tragic Events of this Past Week…

Posted By Paul Floyd, Tuesday, July 12, 2016

During this past week, social media forums have been inundated with personal reflections on and reactions to the tragic shooting deaths of Philando Castile in Minnesota, Alton B. Sterling in Louisiana, and the five police officers in Texas. As the president of the HCBA, I am particularly attuned to ways that lawyers and others in the legal profession can work to achieve social justice.    

Among the postings on the APRL (the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers) message board, one stood out to me. It was from Mary Grace Guzman, an ethics lawyer in California. I think Ms. Guzman’s post captures, both personally and professionally, many of the hopes, dreams, and desires of us lawyers, no matter where we practice law (in public service, corporations, law firms and non-profit organizations). Ms. Guzman has graciously allowed me to repost it.

Her introductory message is followed by her original post from her personal Facebook page.   

Hi All, 

I wrote this on Friday for my personal Facebook page. I wanted to share with you, as I believe that it explains how race and ethics overlap. 

A little personal background on myself, and how I came to be an attorney. I am a first generation everything, meaning my father is a Mexican immigrant, I am the first female to attend a 4 year college and the first lawyer in the family. My father legally immigrated from Mexico when he was just 8 years old, he is a former gang member, Vietnam Vet, retired firefighter, OUR first college graduate and now a small business owner. My mother, Mexican-American, put all of us through college, my dad, my brothers and myself, setting aside her own dreams of education. I went to law school in 2004. At the time, I was a learning disabled single mother to a 3 year old little girl freshly diagnosed with epilepsy (now healthy and in remission). I share all of this very private information about myself to give you context with regard to my Facebook post, which was specifically on legal ethics, race and OUR justice system. I wrote this after spending much of Thursday in tears and shock by what had happened to the police officers and learning that, in addition to Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, 4 Latino males had also been questionably shot and killed in traffic stops. 

From: Mary Grace Guzman

 

My Facebook Post from July 8th [2016]

"I have spent much of the day very upset about the state of affairs in OUR great country. I have felt helpless and overwhelmed with anger, fear and mostly sadness.

I write this from a unique position as being a woman of color with far more education than most women who look like me. I recognized the privilege that came with education and ran to this opportunity to become a lawyer and a member of OUR justice system. I know that my access to the justice system is far different from many others who look like me and different from my elders who made my position possible. So I never take my position for granted. When I took my oath to follow the laws of California and the Constitution of OUR United States, I secretly added an additional promise to use my privilege for good and not evil.

Now I sit in my office at the end of the day and I look at my client work and I wonder if I am doing enough to help change the status of OUR race relations in OUR country, in my community. I went to law school believing that I was going to fight for justice and pick a cause that would positively impact lives of the disadvantaged and change them for the better. I thought that I would work for a nonprofit or for some other social justice matter and make a difference. But instead, I fell in love with legal ethics, where I advise lawyers and law students about their legal matters. In many ways, I am in an ivory tower offering my thoughts on what is the ethical thing to do in order to advance my client's position. I have friends and clients who are "in the trenches" and I know that I don't want to do what they do. So I take phone calls and share what I think is ethical. 

Yet as an ethicist, I wonder am I doing enough to cause change? 

I don't know the answer to this question. I don't know the answer to how to stop this madness, hatred, fear and all the -isms that are leading to the violence that we have seen recently. What I can say is that I have worked with attorneys from all walks of life and their voice, life experience, and worldview directly impact justice and how justice is served. Justice is a slow process and painful as hell to change but without a diverse group of lawyers from all walks of life, justice cannot be properly served.

So reflecting on my practice, I think about my law student applicants trying to get their license to practice law. These clients have reformed their lives for a shot at furthering justice. My clients are recovering addicts, former homeless, reformed prostitutes, ex-convicts, and the list goes on. I love when I get to tell them that they get to become a lawyer, partly because their success is my success, but mostly because their life experience becomes a part of the diaspora of OUR legal community. They will carry their personal history into OUR justice system and God willing their personal history will help shape justice for someone else in need. 

My note is not a self-congratulatory piece; rather it is a call to my fellow attorney friends. If your practice is not Social Justice based, or if it is, please put time and effort into supporting someone, anyone who wants to join OUR club but may not have the superficial credentials to be a lawyer. I didn't fit the mold--a learning disabled single mother of color with toddler with epilepsy. I had many people tell me that I couldn't join the club, but I am forever in debt to ones who dared me to dream and invited me to the table. 

My only solution to what we are seeing right now is to help bring more people who are disenfranchised into OUR profession. To mentor OUR youth and encourage them to dream, and tell them that they have a place at the table, if they wish. It is not enough to teach OUR children of color how to behave with police officers. Rather we need to teach OUR children that they can be police officers too, that they can be judges and their voice matters and is essential to OUR justice and without their voice in OUR justice system we will not have real justice."

 

After reading Ms. Guzman’s post, I felt hope and encouragement. I could relate to her being the first in her family to become a lawyer and her promise to use her privilege for good and not evil. I also agree that real change can happen from within the system, as well as outside of it.

To continue the conversation, I recommend the July-August issue of The Hennepin Lawyer, which focuses on criminal law and justice. The issue highlights how judges, attorneys, and others in the court system and beyond are dealing with issues related to race and community justice.


 

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