Sharon Jones is a diversity consultant who specializes in providing diversity/inclusion consulting and training to law firms, professional services firms,...
In this edition, lawyer, diversity expert and author, Sharon Jones, provides an update on the current state of gender diversity in the legal profession and chats with co-hosts Jonathan Amarilio and Chastidy Burns about strategies to master the unwritten rules for getting ahead in a profession that remains, in many ways, dominated by the “old boys’ club” culture. She discusses how law firm compensation models play a role in the gender pay gap, highlights the importance of finding the right mentors and sponsors, and imparts some nuggets of wisdom from none other than the Queen B herself: Beyoncé.
Special thanks to our sponsors, CourtFiling.net.
The Mastering the Game Edition: Career Tips from Diversity Expert Sharon Jones
Jon Amarilio: Hello everyone and welcome to CBA’s @theBar, a podcast where young and youngish lawyers discuss with our guests legal news, events, topics, stories and whatever else strikes our fancy.
I am your host Jon Amarilio of Taft Stettinius & Hollister, and co-hosting the pod with me today is my friend Chastidy Burns, Assistant Public Defender at the Cook County Public Defender’s office. Hi Chastidy.
Chastidy Burns: Hi everyone.
Jon Amarilio: Our audience will hear this a few weeks late Chastidy, but we are recording this pod on International Women’s Day and we are joined by Sharon Jones, CEO of Jones Diversity.
Sharon’s résumé will take the entire podcast to read in full if I did, but let me just give you and our audience some quick highlights. Sharon is a trained lawyer, Harvard undergrad and law school, so underachieving I would say, and she is currently specializing in diversity consulting and training for individuals, law firms, corporations and other types of organizations.
Before that Sharon served as a federal prosecutor, a partner in big law and has worked in-house for companies like Abbott Labs and SBC Communications.
Sharon has also taught at Northwestern Law and for NITA, served as the President of the Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Chicago, a position Chastidy currently holds. Has won numerous awards, is widely recognized as an authority in the field of diversity issues, is in town from New York for the CBA’s Women’s Day Summit. And has a new book out entitled ‘Mastering the Game: Strategies for Career Success’, which we will be getting to shortly.
I am out of breath, but Sharon, welcome.
Sharon Jones: Thank you. Happy to be here.
Jon Amarilio: Thanks for joining us. So Sharon, let’s start with a softball, just to warm up a little bit. What’s the state of gender diversity in the law? How far have we come? How far do we have to go and why can’t we all just be equal?
Sharon Jones: That’s a great easy question to start with. We have come a long way and we still have a long way to go. Women represent 37% of all lawyers in the profession, although as you know, we are about 50% of the population. We are about 50% of law school graduates and so that’s all good. However, partners, women partners in the largest law firms are only 22%, 23% of all partners.
Jon Amarilio: It’s partnership generally, so income and equity?
Sharon Jones: Yes, both.
Jon Amarilio: What accounts for that?
Sharon Jones: Well, right, because you would assume that based on their percentage in the profession, women should be at 37% partners and there are lots of things that account for it. A part is the culture of the largest law firms, most law firms, there were cultures created by white males, and so the people who have been successful in those cultures are no surprise white males, and the rules, the cultural rules of those law firms are the rules for white males, the unwritten rules the white males know and understand.
Jon Amarilio: So as a white male, give us some examples, because I am sure I am missing it all.
Sharon Jones: So for example, self-promotion is really important in a law firm, but it’s certainly important in today’s world. And so women and people of color oftentimes socialize not to be all about me, right, not to self-promote. Women are oftentimes socialized to be more demure and to be more focused on the team and other people’s participation. But the way that you are successful in law firms today, you really need to make sure that your brand, your image people understand.
So a good example would be if somebody asks you, could you work on this assignment? Your answer could be no, which could be accurate, you are busy. Or it could be no, because I am going to be on trial next week. So you just did a minor, little provide some information that self-promotes, because now I know, oh, you are going to be on trial, that’s a great thing if you are a litigator.
So it’s that kind of thing that — it’s how do you keep people updated. Some people just do their work, but they don’t keep their partners or people that they are working with, the client even, updated on what’s going on. But people want to be updated. They need to know, is it going to be on time, are we on track, because they don’t want to hear at the last minute it fell through.
Jon Amarilio: So then is it just a matter of women learning those norms and patterns of behavior?
Sharon Jones: Well, that’s part of it, the other piece, and thank you for bringing that up, is there are a lot of structural barriers in the profession that impact people. So for example, a big one is how do we handle parental leave, maternity leave, right?
Jon Amarilio: I want to talk about that so much because I have got so many questions.
Sharon Jones: How does it impact your progress in the profession? What kind of support is there for people who have kids, right? I mean think about the law firm, most law firms, not all, but a lot of it is based on hours billed. That’s a model that you don’t get extra credit or are paid more because you came up with the solution quicker, right?
Jon Amarilio: Right.
Sharon Jones: I mean imagine what it would be like if we just focused on who came up with the solution quicker?
Jon Amarilio: So what’s the alternative?
Sharon Jones: Have it be a different billable system, I mean that would be one that’s a bigger issue, but I mean it’s partly why you hear clients talk about we want alternative fee arrangements, because it’s just like just bill a whole lot of hours, we make a lot of money; it doesn’t mean you solve my problem if I am the client.
Chastidy Burns: Sharon, you mentioned the importance of self-promotion and how this may not come naturally to women or to minority attorneys. There are of course some women in those higher partnership positions. How as women do those women support other women and try to pull them up while at the same time trying to succeed themselves?
Sharon Jones: So it’s really important to pull up people behind you. Some people do it, some people don’t. And I want to encourage all people to pull up people behind them, especially women. It’s important to be role models. It’s important for men, especially men who have dual career families, where both people work to be a role model, because so many women and men see the model being in most of the large law firms, the husband works and the wife stays home.
Now, you could flip it and it could be the wife works and the husband stays home, but the whole idea is one person is home and one person is working.
Jon Amarilio: Still these days?
Sharon Jones: Yeah, still these days. Millennials want something different.
Jon Amarilio: Right, like I am just thinking, I don’t know any Millennials who stay home.
Sharon Jones: Right, right, Millennials want something different, but we are not necessarily there yet. Most places aren’t run by Millennials yet.
Jon Amarilio: No, not yet, but we are working on it though.
Sharon Jones: I mean the one thing Mark Zuckerberg did at Facebook is when he had his first child, he took off a long paternity leave and he made a big deal about it, right?
Jon Amarilio: So Sharon, with regard to the gender pay gap and parental leave, that’s an area of this conversation I am really curious about. As a non-parent, I don’t understand the insides and outs of it, but I know that my law firm, Taft, a couple of years ago went to a four month paid parental leave policy, which I believe was one of — if not the, one of the industry leaders at the time for that. And it occurs to me that if both parents are taking four months off, they are both being “punished” for that time period equally. So if firms have that kind of policy and there is still a gender pay gap, what accounts for that pay gap? It’s not just the missed time anymore, right?
Sharon Jones: Right. So having that type of policy is a big plus. The most progressive law firms are moving toward parental leave, not maternity leave. Before they used to have maternity leave and then they would have paternity leave, and then it would be different amounts and then they would have to figure out, how do you handle gay couples, how do you handle if you have a surrogate, adoption, et cetera, there’s all these different exceptions.
Now it’s just plain, and I am sure your firm is this one, it’s just plain, if you are a parent and you have a kid, you get four months off if you choose to take it. That’s fabulous. Research shows that women do best in achieving leadership roles in organizations that have parental leave. So that’s huge.
And you are right, it’s because if it’s an environment where men can take off without being punished, then that’s a plus. I have seen a number of instances where organizations have parental leave, and men, especially Millennials want to take off, but the unspoken word from other men in the firm, or I should say informally what men tell other men is, oh, you better not take off. And you will hear a senior partner sometimes say, well, I only took off a day. Well, that might be the truth, but that was a long time ago and in a galaxy far, far away. It’s not the kind of thing that Millennials want to hear and it’s not the kind of thing that you should want anybody to do.
And so in those environments sometimes the men really feel cheated, because now you have a policy but I am told by mentors not to do it because it’s more damaging for my career, because I am a man doing it than if I were a woman doing it.
Chastidy Burns: Sharon, how do you think that whether or not we are able to take the initiative to have compensation talks plays into the gender pay gap as well?
Sharon Jones: Well, let me just say this. Firms that have lockstep have no gender pay gaps. I mean where they move people year to year and they start, let’s just make up the numbers, year one you are making 100, both men and women, year two, when you are year two out, you make a 110. When you are lockstep like that, and there are some firms in New York that are like that and elsewhere, there is no pay gap because it’s just based on time in the job. And then the only question becomes how do you handle leaves of absence for any reason?
Jon Amarilio: Okay. So I hear what you are saying there, but I wonder if you scratch beneath the surface if that’s really the case, because even if you have lockstep for partnership, which is really, really unusual, the people who are less profitable are going to be pushed out, and you have been in big law firms, you know how profitability is measured. It’s mostly measured based on business generation because you can always find people to do the work. The hours don’t matter as much the older you get, right?
Sharon Jones: Right.
Jon Amarilio: So if you have lockstep, but women are lagging behind in business generation for some of the reasons we were talking about before, and I hope we can talk about a little bit more now, then are those statistics being skewed a little bit? Like is it essentially fixing the game by hiding the gap?
Sharon Jones: Well, that’s a good question and I don’t know the answer about that. I do know when the system is based on origination, you have to do a lot of work to make sure it doesn’t have implicit bias against women, because if we looked at Fortune 500 companies, the largest ones in the country of Fortune 500 companies in general and we looked at their general counsel, it’s 74% males.
Jon Amarilio: For the top spot?
Sharon Jones: Yeah, general counsel.
Jon Amarilio: Yeah.
Sharon Jones: And so if there is affinity bias, which is people like to pick people just like them, that’s just the way people are, then there could be a tendency that male general counsel pick men to get their business. So where does that leave women? There is only 26% female general counsel in the Fortune 500, so not as many, and if that’s their only source and those women general counsel may or may not pick them. So that kind of impacts the ability to originate business.
And the other piece that does it is who was there first, because firms, a lot of firms have these rules that, oh, I knew that client and I have my name on it, so even though that client didn’t come in —
Jon Amarilio: I touched it first.
Sharon Jones: Yeah, I touched it first. Well, we already know that law firms are predominantly male anyway, so there is going to be some male touched it first; this happened to me, so even when you bring in the client, they are like oh, but I get all the credit because I touched it first.
Jon Amarilio: But you have got to have that fight. I have had that fight with older partners too.
Sharon Jones: But then it’s a fight between the powerful and the powerless, and who wins that usually?
Jon Amarilio: Usually the powerful, but sometimes, I have won that fight sometimes and it’s just a matter of being loud enough.
Sharon Jones: Well, and having somebody to support you, because sometimes if some more senior people will support you, like this isn’t fair, and all firms don’t handle their origination in that way. Some handle it differently. They will reward the whole team. You know what I mean? They may give the person who brings it in a little more, but they reward the whole team, and in those systems women do better.
Chastidy Burns: Well, actually the idea of having someone at the firm to support you kind of brings me into one of the topics that was in your book, that I was really interested in, which is having a sponsor and having a mentor and I know that’s super important at firms for women to have that support system. Can you talk a little bit about the difference between a sponsor and a mentor and why that is necessary?
Sharon Jones: Yes, and it’s important everywhere. So a mentor is, and that’s usually the term we are all familiar with, it’s somebody, could be a peer, could be someone more senior than you, who can provide you advice. They have been there ahead of you. They understand the ropes. They can explain any unwritten rules, who are the powerful people in your organization.
A sponsor is a person of power and influence who is in the room when it happens, to kind of quote Hamilton, and who will advocate on your behalf. That’s a huge difference. Mentors don’t have to have power or influence in your organization, but a sponsor does.
And if you are picking somebody to be your sponsor and then you find out they don’t have any power or influence, they are not your sponsor, they are just a mentor. So it’s essential to have a sponsor, certainly if you are coming up for partner and in a corporation, you want to have a sponsor when it’s time for you to move up into leadership roles, because the sponsor will be there when all the decisions are made and he or she will be — they need to be advocating for you.
The other thing is I want to encourage people to actually have a conversation with people. The worst thing that happens is somebody thinks that’s their sponsor and the person is like I am not using my chips for you. They only have so many chips, and maybe I am going to put it on Bob or Barbara, I am not going to put it on you, so you need to find out.
Jon Amarilio: So you can — this is sort of a novel concept for me. I always thought part of picking a good mentor is making sure they would be a good sponsor for you; otherwise, they are missing half the equation.
Sharon Jones: Well, they could develop into a sponsor for you, because you don’t need a sponsor like when you are in first year, you don’t need a sponsor, all you need is somebody to help you make sure you do the work right, you know where the bathroom is, like the basic stuff.
Jon Amarilio: Okay. So the mentor there is like more of a senior associate as opposed to a partner?
Sharon Jones: Yeah, could be. But as you get more senior and you get closer to starting to come up for partner, then you have to have a sponsor.
Jon Amarilio: But why would they sponsor you if they are not your mentor?
Sharon Jones: Well, they have to know you, they need to know you, but keep in mind, sponsors are not necessarily so wanting to spend so much time with you. Mentors need to do a lot of care and feeding and nurturing.
Jon Amarilio: Yeah, a lot of babysitting.
Sharon Jones: Right. Sponsors want you like already developed. They are like you are developed now and I am going to just take you that little bit to get you over the hump.
Chastidy Burns: So they kind of vouch for you, the sponsors?
Sharon Jones: Yes, they totally vouch for you.
Chastidy Burns: Okay.
Sharon Jones: Absolutely. And that person’s vouching means something.
Chastidy Burns: And what does this sponsor look like? What should a sponsor look like for me, you know what I mean, as far as a woman or a man, someone with a similar background as me?
Sharon Jones: Doesn’t matter for a sponsor. All they have to be is powerful and influential.
Chastidy Burns: Does it matter for a mentor?
Sharon Jones: For a mentor, sometimes people care. I mean you should have more than one mentor; mentors within your organization, mentors outside your organization. Sometimes you want a mentor who has been through some of the same things you have, who understands your experience. Sometimes you don’t.
It’s good to have mentors across lines of difference. So if I am a black woman, having a white male mentor is great, because that person is going to connect me to the white old boy network, right, that’s a big plus. But there is the gay network, there is the woman of color network, there is a woman’s network, there are a lot of networks. So having mentors across these different dimensions gives you access to those networks, very valuable.
Jon Amarilio: So it’s just good office networking skills really.
Sharon Jones: Yes, absolutely.
Jon Amarilio: That’s probably a good place for us to take a quick break.
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Jon Amarilio: And we are back. So as per always, we were having a great conversation when the mics were turned off. Chastidy, why don’t you pick up where we left off?
Chastidy Burns: So Sharon, how do you initiate the conversation to get a mentor or to get a sponsor, what does that look like?
Sharon Jones: So that’s a very good question. I mean I think first you need to see if you have some common interests, some connection with the person, and after that, that’s a perfect time if you want to ask the person, oh, you know, would you be willing to be my mentor, this is what I am thinking, we would meet once a month or whatever you are thinking?
Jon Amarilio: Something that’s structured.
Sharon Jones: Well, yeah, because the person needs to know, does this mean you are calling me every day, you are going to be in my office every second, or is this something like 30 minutes once a month, that I can handle if I am the mentor. I think that could be helpful.
You can do it informally if it’s somebody you work with. It’s a lot easier because you are there. But it could be someone you don’t work with, which is still very valuable.
And one of the big questions these days is mentors across gender lines, how does that work, right, because the whole #MeToo Movement has made some people much more —
Jon Amarilio: Skittish.
Sharon Jones: Skittish is the right word. Very skittish about men mentoring women and oftentimes that’s the dimension, because the men are in more senior position still and so they are in the position to be a mentor or a sponsor and then women need that.
Jon Amarilio: So how do you navigate that?
Sharon Jones: Yeah, that’s challenging, but I think being open about it helps. Now, I am a big proponent of formalized sponsor programs and formalized mentor programs, because what it does —
Jon Amarilio: I have had such bad experience with those though.
Sharon Jones: I know, but you could have good experiences. In the #MeToo era that we live in, it provides a lot of cover for people, and you hear men say that, in a formal program I will happily mentor women because it’s all known that this is what’s going on.
Jon Amarilio: I see.
Sharon Jones: Their big concern is that if you see — if I am the white male right now and you see me having lunch with a woman, some people are going to assume there is some hanky-panky going on as opposed to a mentoring lunch. You see what I am saying?
Jon Amarilio: Yeah.
Chastidy Burns: Exactly.
Sharon Jones: So if it’s a formal program, then everybody knows and then it’s all fine.
Jon Amarilio: Okay.
Sharon Jones: So matching is important in formal programs, but it’s true even if it’s informal, because you might try to build a mentoring relationship with somebody you don’t connect with.
Jon Amarilio: Right, or you could build the mentoring relationship and then make it official so that people keep their own, yeah.
Sharon Jones: Yeah, you could do that.
Jon Amarilio: Stick to their own business, yeah.
Chastidy Burns: So perception is so important. You were just talking about the perception of having a male mentor, a female and everything like that, and that reminds me of another part of your book that I really love. The whole thing was just very valuable. But the image management part stuck out to me, because talking about a woman’s image is kind of taboo, but you make it seem like it’s definitely something that needs to be considered and thought out and strategized.
So what made you write that section of the book? Why is that important?
Sharon Jones: Image is really important, and it’s something people don’t spend a lot of time talking about. So when I am thinking about image, I am thinking about what you say, how you act and how you look. And one of the things is it’s really important that you act consistent with your brand or your image that you want to put out into the world.
So if you want to put out in the world, I am a professional, you can’t then be seen in off hours at drinks acting crazy or on the weekend, because you can run into clients, other business people, so I am not suggesting that you have to —
Jon Amarilio: Drink at home like any self-respecting individual.
Chastidy Burns: Exactly, lawyer.
Jon Amarilio: Yeah, just by yourself, where no one can judge you.
Sharon Jones: I am not saying you have got to be super serious, but I am saying you want to be very conscious about it at all times. For women, a big piece is hair, right?
Chastidy Burns: Yes.
Sharon Jones: You hear a lot of conversations about hair, and I will say in New York, so for a black woman, hair, and for black men, hair is a big issue. I know Jonathan is looking at me like, what are you talking about?
Jon Amarilio: I literally just scratched my head.
Sharon Jones: Right, right, right. But it’s going to be, is it braids, is it like an Afro look, is it all kinds of ethnic different kind of hair.
Chastidy Burns: Or why is your hair 6 inches shorter today than it was yesterday.
Sharon Jones: Or whatever.
Jon Amarilio: So it’s more about — I guess the contours of that debate than are what do we consider to be a professional look.
Sharon Jones: Correct. So there is a law that just got passed last week in New York that it’s illegal to discriminate against somebody based on their hair.
Now, I know you are thinking, you are kidding me, that’s a law in New York City? Absolutely, because there were instances in like restaurants and sales positions where people were told you have got to go, your hair is not right for this brand or your hair is not right for this business.
Jon Amarilio: Yeah. What if they show up with like pink hair or something, where are the lines?
Sharon Jones: Well, I mean so —
Jon Amarilio: What’s the limiting principle to this legal lingo?
Sharon Jones: Well, so, it’s a new law, so we don’t know what the case law is going to be, but I mean one of the things I would just say is, because people will say, well, I have to be authentic me, and if pink hair is the authentic you, that’s fine. But you need to know that there are consequences that flow from these choices, right?
Jon Amarilio: Right.
Sharon Jones: Every choice we make has consequences, and if you are fine with, if they fire me because I have pink hair, well, then I am okay with it, great.
Jon Amarilio: Yeah.
Sharon Jones: In some jobs what they will do is they are never going to put you out front if you have pink hair. So you can work at the back and you can crunch the numbers and do all the computer programming, but you won’t be the president. You know what I am saying?
And in others, pink hair is a plus, right? You have just got to know where you are.
Jon Amarilio: That’s true, but probably not in the legal field.
Sharon Jones: Yeah, not lawyers, because lawyers are very conservative as a general rule. They are very conservative.
Jon Amarilio: You can’t be your authentic you by showing up to Federal Court in flip-flops?
Sharon Jones: No.
Chastidy Burns: No.
Sharon Jones: But Federal Court has come a long way, because when I first — when I was practicing, women didn’t wear pants to court, now that shows you how long ago that was, right?
Jon Amarilio: Yeah, okay.
Sharon Jones: And that was huge when — I remember when I saw the first woman in pants in court, I was like what? Even in my own head I couldn’t get it straight. And now it’s like no big deal.
Jon Amarilio: Yeah.
Sharon Jones: But you don’t see people in shorts in court, like it hasn’t gone that far.
Jon Amarilio: I hope we never go that far.
Chastidy Burns: So do I.
Jon Amarilio: There has got to be some limit, yeah.
Chastidy Burns: You talk about investing in our professional appearance. So as women we always want to be considered based on the quality of our work rather than talking about our clothes and our hair and what kind of shoes we are wearing, but that’s still important. So how do we reconcile those two concepts?
Sharon Jones: You are right, it’s very important. Well, one is you don’t want your appearance to be a topic of conversation, because then it’s gone too far. Now, you could probably think, well, why are they talking about it, it’s just normal, but I mean you want people focused on your work and not how you look.
However, it does matter some of the choices you make. So I always say look to people right above you, right ahead of you or a little further up to see how they dress and how they look and then try to follow that as closely as you can, because then you know that from an organization standpoint you are going to be within the realm of what’s acceptable.
Chastidy Burns: Let’s talk about Beyoncé.
Jon Amarilio: This conversation is a concern?
Chastidy Burns: It’s a concern. But you use Beyoncé as a good example of image management, why?
Sharon Jones: Yeah. Well, Beyoncé is somebody where they said there’s never been an ugly picture of Beyoncé, because she really manages her image. And I saw a story that said she spends a million dollars a year on hair and makeup and all of her self-care.
Jon Amarilio: So that’s all we need?
Sharon Jones: That’s all you need, right. That’s an investment in your appearance. Now, everybody doesn’t have to spend a million, but it does say she is very serious about that, and she also watches social media and what people say about her and the videos and what’s written about her. I mean she has a brand and she tries to have absolute control of that. And I think that is great.
You need to think really carefully. I am just going to branch into social media for a moment, because people do put on Facebook and whatever all kinds of crazy pictures or look what I did this weekend and you have to ask yourself, is that consistent with your image, is that consistent with your brand, because people can pick up Facebook. People, employers look at Facebook, everybody is looking at it, it’s not just Facebook, any social media; Instagram, everything is accessible, and it could be totally inconsistent with your image.
Jon Amarilio: So speaking of stupid Millennial mistakes. Let’s talk about work-life balance, because I know that’s part of your book, and I am so over this conversation. Like I just — I can’t anymore, hearing Millennials whine about work-life balance. You cannot be a successful up-and-coming lawyer these days and have a work-life balance, in my opinion. You need to make your life fit into the contours of what makes you successful at work. That is as controversial as I am going to go.
Chastidy Burns: That is really sad.
Sharon Jones: That is sad. I am like thinking I have got to quit now really. I mean that is a law firm view though, but I will say some law firms are starting to respond to Millennials. They represent 40% of the workforce, and in some places 50, and so you need Millennials, they are the workers, okay, and so if they get mad and leave, where will you be, right?
Jon Amarilio: There is always more to hire out of law school.
Chastidy Burns: Okay, whatever.
Jon Amarilio: Inexhaustible supply.
Sharon Jones: Yes, okay. So I would say you want to make sure that from a Millennial standpoint or any worker standpoint, you have got to try to make work fun and not let law firms take the fun out of work.
So part of that — what does that mean? Sometimes it’s oh, you have to travel in business, is it something where, oh, now it’s Friday, can you stay the weekend, right? Can you stay the extra day? Can you enjoy the place you are, right? Can you go in early and have dinner with a friend, right? I mean that may be just flying out in the afternoon versus coming at night, right? But it’s the thing that now I had a great time because I got a chance to see an old friend; you are networking too, right, from a business standpoint. So there are things that you can do to make it more fun for you, that’s what I recommend.
And then the other piece to help the work-life balance that I recommend is purchasing services, because the law is a demanding profession. It is requiring a lot of time.
Jon Amarilio: Oh, an Amazon Prime membership at the very least is essential.
Sharon Jones: Yeah, that’s a big plus, right? But yeah, having groceries delivered, if you don’t like shopping; like I don’t like shopping for groceries.
Jon Amarilio: Yeah, Instacart, yeah.
Sharon Jones: Yeah, anything like that helps you. I had somebody who was an organizer and I wasn’t good at organizing, so she would come over and like go through my closet and get all the bags out, everything.
Jon Amarilio: There is an app for that.
Chastidy Burns: I need her number.
Sharon Jones: Right, there is an app for that. But the point is, you use those people to help you and then you spend your time on things you want to spend your time on and not the things you are not good at.
Chastidy Burns: So I don’t know, I am sure this is probably an issue with men as well as women, but I just hear my female friends talk about it a lot. I do travel a lot. I love to go on vacation, but I just feel this overwhelming guilt when I am doing nothing. How do you get past that and this pressure to be a workaholic and to constantly be productive?
Sharon Jones: Well, it’s important to have downtime, and so I think with vacation the challenge is if it’s too short you don’t get a chance to really downshift.
Jon Amarilio: Unplug, yeah.
Sharon Jones: You know, like a one-week vacation which everybody is like happy to get, is probably just a little too short because if it’s two weeks you really have the chance to downshift and then get ready to come back for work because before the end of the two weeks you already — your mind is starting to think about coming back. Say on a week you have to first get there and get into the routine of, oh, I don’t have to wake up at a certain time, I get to do what I want and before you know it it’s time to get my head back on work.
I encourage people if they can take a little longer than a week to do so, but also know that having this downtime makes them a better person when they come back. They are more creative.
Jon Amarilio: That’s exactly right and going back to my original attempt to provoke you and you’re doing an expert job of avoiding it, I think the expectations that lawyers have, Millennial lawyers have about a work/life balance just need to change. You can’t go home at five or six at night and unplug completely. That’s just not realistic. What maybe is realistic, and I know Chastidy, it’s a little bit different in government, but what is maybe realistic is, you take that couple or two-week vacations every year and you leave your cell phone at home or leave it in the suitcase at the very least. That’s realistic. So for me, it’s a question of striking a different balance and what I think some people seem to expect.
Sharon Jones: Although there are places like in Academia and other places where they don’t email you on the weekends. Even in some consulting firms, they have adopted a behavior that they don’t email on the weekends because there is so much pushback from Millennials on this.
Jon Amarilio: Really?
Sharon Jones: And so — I know you are kind of like, what?
Jon Amarilio: Any for-profit institutions.
Chastidy Burns: I do not get emails on the weekends.
Sharon Jones: And you are in government, right? But consulting is for-profit, okay?
Jon Amarilio: Yeah. We are consulting, yeah.
Sharon Jones: Okay, and there, all you have to do is —
Jon Amarilio: They are also like on the road five days a week.
Sharon Jones: Yeah, four, right, and so the idea is on a weekend — they don’t work on weekends generally.
Jon Amarilio: Right, so that’s sprint walk, sprint walk.
Sharon Jones: Yeah, basically. So — and then there’s the — some of the investment banks, I don’t know if you — they were in a story not that long ago, but actually some stories where people like died in the office and that’s like bad for business with Millennials. So they decided that they have a rule now instead of it being seven days a week, 24/7, seven days a week. One week in a month you have to be off, one weekend but they make a rule, they have to make a rule of this. But I’m just saying, law firms couldn’t use it too. You got to make a rule because that disconnecting helps people.
Jon Amarilio: Right, yeah and like you said you do better work when you’re well-rested.
Sharon Jones: Yeah you do, you really do.
Chastidy Burns: Do you have any like quick tips that we can use while we’re in the office or after a big trial and we’re just drained but we’ve still got work to do and we can’t go home yet? What do you do to kind of de-stress in the middle of a stressful situation?
Jon Amarilio: Scotch.
Sharon Jones: You are right, that’s probably bad at the office.
Chastidy Burns: At the office.
Sharon Jones: But you know one of the big things now that they’re talking about in London a lot is mindfulness and in banking, all the big banks, they brought in monks and people to come in and teach their executive teams and their employees about how to be more mindful, how to meditate and to — so maybe you take a five-minute meditation break. Maybe you can — if the weather is nice you can go outside and breathe some fresh air, walk around the block.
It’s some little things that help you just kind of disconnect for a moment and separate. Go out and eat your lunch because oftentimes we’re eating lunch at our desk to make every little minute matter, but you need a break sometimes. Your brain needs a break. But you also have to eat right, that’s the other thing I do want to say, because I have started trying to eat healthier and one thing I have noticed is you feel better. Oh duh, I know doctors all over the world are like, “what?”, okay? But you do feel better. Okay?
Jon Amarilio: And with that useful piece of wisdom, we should take another break.
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Steve: I do.
Jon Amarilio: You look like you need a lawyer. The Chicago Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service has been making referrals for over 70 years to attorneys who have been thoroughly screened for experience in over 40 different areas of the law. Call (312) 554-2001 or visit us online at www.chicagobar.org/lrs.
And we’re back. So before we wrap up today, Sharon, we’re going to play a game, everyone’s favorite game, my favorite game, ‘Stranger Than Legal Fiction.’ The rules are simple, Chastidy and I both spent some time researching strange laws that exist for some often inexplicable reason in the real world. We’ve paired them up with laws that we’ve just made up or perhaps were once real but no longer exist and we’re going to quiz you and each other to see if we can distinguish strange legal fact from fiction. Are you ready to play?
Sharon Jones: I’m ready.
Jon Amarilio: All right. So Chastidy doesn’t want to go first so I will.
Chastidy Burns: Okay.
Jon Amarilio: I’ll call you out for that. All right, option number one, in Indiana it is illegal for gas stations and convenience stores to sell cold beer. Option number two, in Sarasota, Florida it is illegal to park an elephant without paying to do so at the parking meter. Sharon, what do you think is real?
Sharon Jones: I think the Indiana Law is real.
Jon Amarilio: Why is that?
Sharon Jones: Because it seemed a little stupid but it’s not too stupid and the elephant one seems a little too stupid.
Jon Amarilio: Okay, Chastidy, what do you think?
Chastidy Burns: I think the Indiana one is real for the same reason.
Jon Amarilio: That was easier than I anticipated. Okay, well — okay, did you think it was stupid just because it’s a stupid liquor law or because we’re talking about Indiana?
Sharon Jones: Because the elephant, how often do you have an elephant going down the street that you have to worry about where to park?
Jon Amarilio: As far as Sarasota, Florida was the summer home of the Ringling Brothers Circus. So —
Sharon Jones: I didn’t know that.
Jon Amarilio: Circus aficionados may have been more thrown off by that question but you are both right, in Indiana it’s illegal for gas stations and convenience stores to sell cold beer which got me curious about other weird blue laws in Illinois or in Indiana I should say. You also cannot buy alcohol on Sundays in Indiana that’s still a thing. Liquor stores can’t sell cold soda or bottled Stillwater. I don’t know what they have against cold drinks in Indiana but maybe some of our Indiana audience can write in and let us know, but well done ladies. You’re both right.
Sharon Jones: Thank you.
Chastidy Burns: Okay. My turn? Okay, so in Connecticut, a pickle cannot be sold unless it bounces, that’s one, and then two is, in Illinois it is illegal to pass off margarine as butter.
Sharon Jones: I think the Illinois one is for real fact.
Jon Amarilio: I’m pretty sure the first one with Connecticut is real and I think the second one is real also. I’m wondering if this is a trick question because it would be consumer fraud if you were mis-labeling it, right Sharon?
Sharon Jones: I think so.
Jon Amarilio: But I think I’ve heard the Connecticut one before. So are you trying to pull one over here?
Chastidy Burns: I’m not, I’m not, so okay, the Connecticut one is real and the Illinois one, it is real but not in Illinois.
Jon Amarilio: But it would still be considered a thought.
Chastidy Burns: Did I cheat?
Jon Amarilio: I think that’s cheating.
Chastidy Burns: No, I’m picturing like being in someone’s house and they serve you something that is margarine and tell you it’s butter.
Jon Amarilio: Oh, not selling it.
Chastidy Burns: I am picturing that is being illegal as well. You can’t pass off margarine as butter.
Jon Amarilio: Oh, I see.
Chastidy Burns: Anywhere, so it is ridiculous.
Jon Amarilio: So very carefully chosen phrasal verb there, alright.
Chastidy Burns: Exactly. But regarding the Connecticut one, yeah, your pickles they have to bounce. According to a 1948 article, this law became a necessity after two scheming pickle-packers tried to sell pickles unfit for human consumption on the sly. So Connecticut’s Food and Drug Commissioner at the time proclaimed that a real pickle should bounce when dropped from the height of one foot leading to new state regulation.
Jon Amarilio: And that ladies and gentlemen is the kind of value this show will always bring you. That’s going to be our show for today. Happy belated International Women’s Day for our audience. I want to thank our guest, Sharon Jones, for joining us.
Chastidy Burns: Thank you Sharon.
Jon Amarilio: And was has been an insightful and hopefully enlightening discussion I want to thank everyone here at the CBA who makes this machine run including my co-hosts at Chastidy Burns, our executive producer as Jen Byrne, Ricardo Islas on sound, and of course, everyone at the Legal Talk Network family.
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Until next time, for everyone here at the CBA, thank you for joining us and we will see you soon @theBar.
Young and young-ish lawyers have interesting and unscripted conversations with their guests about legal news, events, topics, stories and whatever else strikes our fancy.
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