International Women's Day: An interview with Lisa A. Haile, J.D., Ph.D.
Partner, DLA Piper LLP (US)
1. What are your top tips for other women to succeed?
I encourage them to seek out mentors, both men, and women. Mentoring can be both formal and informal in nature, but it is important to find people that are supportive of your career path and can provide insight and advice along the way. You can make the practice of law a “job,” or you can make it a “career.” If you choose law as a career, you have made a lifestyle choice, whether you are a man or a woman.
2. What do you do, in your organisation or outside, to inspire the next generation of female talent?
As a co-chair of our firm’s women’s initiative, Leadership Alliance for Women (LAW), I am involved every day in making sure that the women associates and partners have leadership opportunities and career paths that are no different from the men at the firm. LAW was created to help retain and develop women lawyers in the firm’s global environment. The group fosters internal networking, facilitates the flow of information, and provides support for attorneys enabling them to better navigate the hurdles and challenges presented by a large law firm practice. The group empowers women lawyers by developing leadership skills and creating business development opportunities.
3. What wisdom would you have told your younger self, if you had the chance?
It never occurred to me in those first few years that being a woman lawyer was any different than being a male lawyer. I think my focus on being a good mentor and lawyer with business savvy, and a solid problem solver, rather than thinking about the differences in the genders has helped me to be accepted as a partner in the firm and not a woman partner. When I walk into a meeting, I sit at the table among the men in the room and assume that I have earned my seat just like anyone else at the table.
4. What is your advice to others to achieve a work / life balance?
There are times when you will need to choose between your personal and your professional life, and whatever choices you make, you need to make sure that at the end of the day, your priorities are in order and you are comfortable with your decisions. Communicating with your colleagues and communicating with your family is critical, so when these situations arise you make decisions that are best for everyone. It is a give and take, and sometimes compromises need to be made.
5. How can an organisation encourage gender equality, inclusion and diversity?
Many law firms and companies today, including mine, have flexible options for men and women who want to work part-time or who want to opt out of the partner track. I would encourage young women coming into the field to look at companies and ask questions to determine whether these flexible options exist, whether they choose them or not. It says a lot about a firm’s attitude toward diversity and flexibility for their attorneys if there are alternative career paths available. It is also important to ask whether there are women in leadership positions and determine whether there is an environment of inclusion and diversity within that firm.
6. What can we as individuals do to create a future of gender balance?
I have always had the view that being a woman partner in a leadership role in the firm is not so difficult if we step back and realize that as individuals, male and female, we all bring something different to the table. Certainly, traditional gender traits will come through, but we all have different experiences and challenges as individuals, male or female. Unfortunately, with fewer women in leadership, there are fewer role models for the younger female partners and associates, and our challenge is to engage them often and make sure they are supported and brought up through the ranks with the same opportunities as their male colleagues.