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  • The YWL Blog provides a forum for writing and discussion on various topics of interest to young women in law. Click on the dark grey icons below to read more or leave a comment. Use the hashtag #YWLBlog and share your thoughts on social media!

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      Please note that the views expressed in individual blog posts are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of YWL.


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        • 09 Feb 2019 8:39 PM | Margie Mathews (Administrator)


          Let’s face it. Career planning and goal-setting can be daunting. For many people, the unknown potential of the future (both good and bad) is a source of stress. However, taking the time to set goals and reflect on your objectives is a great way to focus your personal and professional aspirations; it helps you consider your priorities, identify upcoming challenges, and achieve specific targets.

          Goal-setting also has important retrospective benefits. When you take time to identify your goals, you are more likely to recognize your own achievements. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it’s all too easy to breeze past a major accomplishment without taking time to reflect on a job well done. It’s important for successful, goal-oriented women (and men) to recognize their successes before getting swept up in the next challenge.

          While the initial task may seem daunting, goal-setting is actually a great way to refocus in times of stress or anxiety. It’s important (and strangely nerve-racking) to think about what you want out of life. But once you do, you will be better-equipped to handle overwhelming professional and personal decisions. Do you have a new job opportunity? Are you facing a move? Struggling with a friendship? Revisit your goals to remind yourself of what is important to you and gain perspective on what you are looking for going forward. 

          So where do I start?

          Don’t put too much pressure on the goal-setting process itself. Keep it relaxed.Grab a drink or a coffee or a little treat. Find a relaxing spot in a park or curl up in a cozy chair and jot down some things that you want to accomplish. 

          One tip before you start: try not to “we”. While it may feel awkward or even selfish to make a list of “I wants”, the focus of your goal-setting should be on what you want to do with your life. Do you want to work at a Fortune 500 company? Do you want to make a move to a new firm? Do you want to start a family? Write it down. Avoiding the term “we” does not mean that you can’t work towards those goals with a partner or friend, but if it’s important to you then write it down.

          If you find working from a template easier, try this Goals and Planning Worksheet (PDF). I like to divide goal-setting into four categories: short-term goals, long-term goals, upcoming expenses, and priorities. You may choose not to distinguish between professional and personal goals. I prefer to keep everything in one place. Sometimes your professional goals will take priority, sometimes not. Sometimes your short-term goals will be mainly personal, other times they will be mainly professional. That’s just the ebb and flow of life. Don’t worry too much about it. 

          Short-Term Goals

          Short-term goals are a good place to start because they are easier to identify than their long-term counterparts. You’re probably already working on them. They might include things like completing a degree or accreditation, getting a job in your field of interest, securing a promotion, taking a summer trip, or finding a new apartment.

          Long-Term Goals

          The best way to approach long-term goals is to think of things that you would like to accomplish without pigeonholing yourself by defining your goals too narrowly. For instance, if you love to travel, a good long-term goal might be “travel once per year”. This allows you to take a staycation in a nearby city one year and travel internationally the next. It gives you something to work towards, but allows room for changing interests, finances and relationships.

          Think carefully about your professional long-term goals. Do you really want to make [insert salary figure here] or do you want to make enough money to be able to live a certain lifestyle (i.e. dining out, concerts, travel, clothes, etc.)? Both are great goals, but they’re different goals. Other long-term professional goals may include working in a certain field, working in a meaningful position, finding a mentor or sponsor, achieving a particular career distinction, or working abroad. Get creative and give yourself room to grow!

          Upcoming Expenses

          When I initially started goal-setting, I didn’t include this category. But managing your finances is an important part of planning for the future. Whether or not we like it, many goals require you to save a certain amount of money before you can take the next step. Therefore, it can be useful to account for any major upcoming expenses, so that you can financially plan accordingly.

          Some of the things under this category will be related to your long-term or short-term goals. For instance, if you want to buy a house or make a career move that requires you to take a salary cut, you will need to adjust your finances. There may also be things that aren’t related to your goals, but require some thought nonetheless. For instance, you may be in a friend’s wedding or facing a rent increase. Keep these things in mind as you build your plans.

          Priorities

          As part of your goal-setting process, it is often helpful to make a list of things that are important to you. While this may seem abstract at the time, it will prove helpful when you feel overwhelmed with a big personal or professional decision. Your priorities list may be something as simple as “Be happy”. If this is the case and you find yourself stuck in a relationship that makes you feel insecure or at a job that is making you miserable, then you know that it’s time for a change.

          Other priorities may include family, academic achievement, friends, career success, travel, creativity, or giving back to your community. Whatever your priorities may be, write them down and look back to them for guidance when you are faced with tough decisions. And remember, like your goals, your priorities may change. That’s okay. Use career and goal-planning as a pencil sketch of what you want, and then go out and live life.

          You’ll do great.

          _______________________

          Author: Anastasia-Maria Hountalas

          Anastasia-Maria Hountalas is an associate at Steinecke Maciura LeBlanc, where she advises and represents clients in all aspects of professional regulation. Prior to joining the firm, Anastasia-Maria summered and articled in the litigation department of a leading national law firm, with a focus on health law. Anastasia-Maria completed a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in History at McGill University and obtained her law degree from Queen’s University. During law school, Anastasia-Maria was actively involved in the Queen’s Law community, participating in the Prison Law Clinic and several study abroad programs. Anastasia-Maria Hountalas serves on the YWL Board of Directors as the Director of Marketing & Communications.

        • 04 Nov 2018 8:42 PM | Margie Mathews (Administrator)


          With the flurry of daily communications, how do you make sure that your messages to a client or senior lawyer are read and understood?

          Here are 10 tips to make your emails, letters, factums and memos stand out:

          1. Consider the best way to draft your correspondence

          Emails, memos, reporting letters and other legal correspondence have a time to be used.

          Make sure you are using the correspondence type appropriate to properly convey the information.

          2. Your subject or title should concisely describe the theme of your work

          A title like “Question” or “Update” may easily be lost and is less likely to be opened or reviewed.

          3. Put your decision/findings/question at the very beginning

          If you start with your findings, the reader (if interested) can continue with the explanation detailed.

          Consider and review the tenets of point-first legal writing.

          4. Don’t use legal jargon if you don’t have to

          If you can make your point using layman’s terms, do it!

          5. That doesn’t mean be colloquial – remain professional

          Do not use slang or short forms unless they are well known to the client or firm member.

          Use “please” and “thank you” where appropriate.

          6. Short sentences are easier to read

          Sentences under 15 words are easier to understand.

          7. If you have the time, set your draft aside for a while

          Giving yourself time away from your work can help you to edit it and to work on the tone of the message before sending.

          8. Think about layout

          If you are drafting a long letter, add white space (this is easier on the eyes), headings and sub-headings, bolding, tables, lists or bullets.

          Remember – when using a list, #1 will usually be perceived as the most important item.

          9. Do a spelling and grammar check (but don’t exclusively rely on one) and a final review

          People are more likely to discount your work if it has typos.

          Ask a colleague if he/she can comment on your work to ensure you are being clear.

          10. If you need further instructions to proceed, ask for a response to your email

          The reader may not realize they need to provide you with a response unless you ask.

          Urgent? Say so in the subject line or at the beginning of your correspondence.

          Hopefully you will find these brief tips useful. There are many websites, books, courses, workshops and articles on this topic. For further review, consider Neil Guthrie’s “Guthrie’s Guide to Better Legal Writing”.

          _______________________

          Author: Kaleigh Zimmerman

        • 06 Aug 2018 8:41 PM | Margie Mathews (Administrator)


          In 2014, Corinne Moss-Racusin, a researcher at Stanford, conducted an experiment where two identical resumes were submitted for review with the only difference being the first name: John or Jennifer. The result was that Jennifer was perceived, for the most part, as under qualified and not worthy of mentoring. If she was offered a salary package, it was $4,000 less than John.

          In a very recent study, scientists asked 500 university students to rate approximately 400 male and female names. Interestingly, the results show that people use a first name to judge everything from personality to performance at work. Not surprisingly, female names are viewed as warmer and less competent than male names. To check your name out click here or go the article in the Daily Mail entitled “What does your first name say about YOU?”

          This research reinforces the idea that warmth and competence tend to be the first characteristics we judge strangers on. It is a primitive throwback to when we need to know whether strangers are “friend or foe”; to know whether a person has the ability to help or hurt us. These quick judgements are based on fast processing and mental short cuts that are automatic and typically based on information we learned in childhood. As a result, the majority of this information is now unconscious and implicit, allowing us to form schemas and stereotypes without realizing it.

          One consequence of using fast processing to make quick judgements is that gender stereotypes can become easily activated, resulting in participants generally assuming that women’s names are associated with kinder but less capable people.

          This gender stereotype (men being competent and women being warm) is reflected in almost all of the gender blind spots I discuss in my book Understanding Gender at Work. The blind spot that stands out most, in relation to these research findings, is the misreading of feminine gender habits as an indication of a lack of confidence. I hear many stories from young lawyers about these misinterpretations. One involved a young lawyer being told that her wide-eye wonder was showing her lack of confidence. There could be lots of reasons for this expression but the one that was chosen was rooted in gender stereotypes. This reinforces that impressions are important and impression management is key for advancement.

          Certain gender approaches can reinforce impressions of reduced competence and confidence. In childhood, most girls are taught to fit in and not stand out; consequently, women tend to understate and minimize their credentials and experience when they reach adulthood. Men, in contrast, have been encouraged to stand out all through their development period, and thus tend to overplay their strengths and experience. Research consistently shows a 30% difference in confidence levels between men and women. Thus, when men and women are evaluated using a masculine yardstick, women are disadvantaged.

          If this tendency is not known by the interviewers, they will take the statements of the job candidate literally. Young women tell me that they are now correcting the impressions made after interviews by telling the interviewers about this tendency based on their knowledge about gender habits and blind spots. McKinsey goes so far as to have a gender bias busterin the room during evaluations of job candidates. Their job? To shine a light on any false assumptions that may occur based on gender blind spots.

          Each time I hear about a knowledgeable young woman shining a light on and correcting impressions made by misreading gender habits, I am delighted. When I hear about women and men standing firm to help their colleagues in meetings when ideas are stolen or frequent interruptions occur, I am thrilled. Naming and correcting are happening more and more as awareness about gender habits grows, and this knowledge is being used for positive change.

          You too can help change happen. Learn the tools and techniques for standing up for yourself, standing firm for your colleagues and helping others understand about gender at work. I am so proud of and encouraged by the young women who are doing so.

          _______________________

          Author: Delee Fromm

          Lawyer, psychologist, and author Delee Fromm has taught and coached for over 25 years. As a former partner at a large law firm, she practised commercial real estate for 17 years. Prior to her career in law, she was a neuropsychologist. As a consultant since 2003, she provides services to a variety of international law firms, corporations, banks, and governments. A large component of her business involves women’s advancement programming. She is a coach with the LSUC’s career coaching program and on the advisory board of Young Women in Law. She is an activator with SheEO. She lectures at several Ontario universities and has contributed content for Lexis Practice Advisor Canada. She is the author of two books including Advance Your Legal Career: Essential Skills for Success published by LexisNexis Canada and Understanding Gender at Work: How to Use, Lose and Expose Blind Spots for Career Success. Learn more here

        • 22 Jun 2018 3:06 PM | Margie Mathews (Administrator)


          The sun is shining; you’re worn-out and tired. All you want to do is join your friends for a drink (or two) on a patio. You might even be asking yourself, ‘How am I going to survive the summer when I feel like this?’ After a very (and I mean, V-E-R-Y) long winter, you’re ready for a break – from your boss, the work, and the office.

          Well – rest assured, that “burnt-out” feeling you have right now… it’s normal. First step is recognizing how you feel; second step: do something about it.

          Let’s discuss what a “burnout” really means; it is essentially a “disease of disengagement”. It has crept up slowly and hit you like a brick wall. You feel disconnected from the work, and have lost that spark you once had when your boss would drop a new file on your desk. Realistically, there is no “one-size-fits-all” definition for what it means to be “burnt-out”, as we have incorporated this term into our daily lingo, but below are some signs that may look familiar:

          • FATIGUE – you are exhausted (mentally and physically) all the time, no matter how many hours of sleep you had the night before.
          • INEFFICIENCY – you spend hours at work, but get very little done.
          • DETACHED – you don’t feel connected to the work or your clients.

          Feeling (at least) 1 out of 4 of those things on the list above? So, ‘now what?’. While there might be a different solution for each of us, here are some ways to avoid and overcome that sense of disengagement you might be feeling:

          1. Manage Expectations.

          Taking on more than you can handle will only hurt you (and your work) long-term; it is OK to tell your boss that you are swamped.

          2. De-Stress Outside of Work.

          Think: Yoga; Meditation; Weightlifting; Boxing. Find something that works for you and do it often.

          3. Accept that “Perfect” is NOT the Goal.

          Determine what must be done perfectly, and what can be “good enough”. Perfection is a very difficult (and unmeasurable) standard to attain.

          4. Stop Competing.

          Trying to “be better” than your colleagues will only wear you out; find ways to show your value instead.

          5. Create Short-Term Goals.

          Writing down your goals will help you stay motivated as you meet them; and don’t forget to reward yourself once you do.

          6. Remain flexible.

          If one coping method doesn’t work, use another. And lastly,

          7. Acknowledge your Feelings.

          Don’t be afraid to take time off; RELAX AND RECHARGE.

          What most people don’t recognize, is that overcoming the burnout and doing things that are good for your mental health will improve productivity in the long-run. You will be able to focus and prioritize – greater efficiency in less time.

          Hope this helps! And just remember, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! It always helps to speak to a friend, family member or mentor about any struggles or frustration you might be feeling.

          _______________________

          Author: Hayley Silvertown

        • 10 Jun 2018 3:05 PM | Margie Mathews (Administrator)


          N – E – T – W – O – R – K – I – N – G; ten letters that make up a powerful word, regardless of the industry and a term that I have come to understand the significance of (almost too) well recently.

          Whether you are a law student looking for an articling job; a newly-called lawyer looking for an associate position; or an associate trying to transition from one firm to another or to an in-house role, mastering the art of networking may be the key to successfully landing your dream job – or just any job, for that matter. So – where do you start?

          Let’s back up a little bit; Albeit being recently called to the Bar, I can confidently say that I have been “networking” since the day that I started law school; by this, I mean I have drunk endless cups of coffee, had the same conversations hundreds of times, and, more times than not, left whoever I was meeting with that day feeling like I was no further with my job-hunt than when I had initially started. As depressing as that might seem, there is an upside to essentially answering the same questions over and over again – practice makes perfect. Cliché, right? Well, just like for OCIs during law school – or any interview, for that matter – the more you practice, the better prepared you are. And the end result? A more relaxed and confident you.

          In the legal profession, similar to many others, good grades and an all-star resume will only get you so far nowadays. You know the age-old saying that you have probably heard countless times, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”? Well, sadly, this is the reality. So, instead of fighting the inevitable, it’s time to get on-board the networking train. The good news is that, like with any skill, there are always ways to improve, and I have listed some key tips below that have proven successful based on my experiences so far; I can definitively tell you that mastering this skill will prove invaluable for the rest of your career (and yes, even if you switch professions!).

          1. Be Prepared: Come to every meeting with goal(s) and/or objective(s).

          This was the best advice recently given to me. I typically approach every meeting with threegoals: (1) Learn their career trajectory. Not every successful lawyer had a linear path to their current stature. It’s important to understand how people got to where they did and the obstacles they have overcome, which will give you creative ways to help you achieve your career goals; (2) Build a relationship. This one is important because, while there might not be an opportunity at their firm/company at that moment, you never know when an opportunity will arise and having established a good relationship, you will (a) feel comfortable to call/e-mail them if you see a posting on-line; and (b) be top of mind for them if they hear of any upcoming opportunities; and lastly, (3) Ask for another introduction. Personally, I believe #3 is the most important, as it allows you to continually expand your network and have access to people you might not have had otherwise. 

          2. Be Assertive. Don’t be Afraid to Ask for What You Want.

          Yes, no one will fault you for asking for a job – but the key will be how you do it. Typically, I wait until I have established a good rapport with the person I am meeting with, so I can comfortably ask them whether there is an (or will be) an opportunity with their firm/company. I also like to throw in a, “do you think there might be someone else worthwhile meeting with at your firm/company?which I feel is often well-received (and another good way to keep expanding your network!). 

          3. Be Mindful. Be Early and Keep Things Short and Sweet.  

          Again, another critical mantra. You will find that people are more than happy to meet with you, but you must be mindful of their time; this includes being early – I aim for at least 10 minutes prior to the set time – and keeping the meeting short and sweet – typically, half an hour to an hour (at most) is the standard length of time that most people are happy to give.  

          4. Follow-up. Send a “Thank-You”.

          Always, ALWAYS send a “Thank-You” e-mail. Now, I’m not suggesting that you run home and do this, but typically that e-mail should be sent within 24 hours of meeting. I can guarantee you that person will never forget. 

          5. Stay Connected. Stay in Touch to Stay “Top of Mind”.

          Don’t be afraid to check-in every few months so that you stay on their radar and are top-of-mind, should they hear of an opportunity. I typically diarize a month or two from the meeting date to follow-up, and have often found – and I believe that you will, as well – most lawyers that I have met with suggest that I stay in touch.

          So – give these tips and tricks a try, and rememberNetworking doesn’t stop once you land that “dream job”. As a young lawyer, you will network to build relationships inside and outside the office, secure new clients, find trusted mentors, and make career transitions. And lastly, don’t be afraid to reach out to someone you might not know first-hand – you never know when an opportunity will present itself! 

          GOOD LUCK!!

          _______________________

          Author: Hayley Silvertown

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