WOMEN IN BUSINESS LAW INITIATIVE SCALES NEW HEIGHTS WITH QUARTERLY ROUNDTABLE SERIES
High-profile panelists, timely issues, enthusiastic crowds. From every angle, the Women in Business Law Initiative’s new quarterly roundtable series is off to a rousing start.
Launched last spring, the series aims to help underrepresented groups navigate big-firm culture, climb the corporate law ladder, and maintain personal wellness amid demanding work environments.
Janet Napolitano was the featured speaker at the debut event. Talking with Professor Abbye Atkinson, she urged women to ignore expectations and embrace flexibility while sharing her trailblazing journey as Arizona attorney general and governor, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, and now UC president.
“One of the things that hold women back is fear of failure and reticence to take risks,” she said. “Things may not always go well, but you have to be willing to accept that and move on. I’ve made plenty of mistakes. I think of it as developing a thick skin … and not letting others deter you from where you want to go.”
Startup@BerkeleyLaw Director Deborah Kang moderated a panel featuring high-level lawyers from Wilson Sonsini Goodrich Rosati, Zynga, Kirkland & Ellis, and Even Responsible Finance. Discussing how attorneys can realize their business law goals, they recommended developing professional networks, cultivating mentorship, and honing skills that are useful outside one’s current position.
A program of the Berkeley Center for Law and Business, the Initiative launched in 2016 to provide career development and networking programs for professionals and students. It pairs Berkeley Law students with mentors—all successful in law, business, and government.
On October 5 at Alumni Reunion Weekend, the Initiative sponsored a panel that addressed gender bias in legal private practice as well as potential avenues of reform. Napolitano also was scheduled to moderate a “Disruption in the Boardroom” panel on October 25 during Berkeley Law’s annual symposium on corporate law.
“The Women in Business Law Initiative strives to expand diversity and inclusion in the legal profession,” says Director Delia Violante. “We aim to cater to all genders, and our quarterly roundtable series helps serve that goal.”
The second roundtable event in June addressed recruiting, integration, and wellness in the legal industry. Netflix legal recruiter Kim Natividad ’09 cited the importance of networks—estimating that one-third of her company’s legal hires come from referrals—and growing signs of inclusivity. “Our content is only as good as the diverse voices we have making that content,” she said.
Recruiters urged prospective applicants to contact attorneys at firms of interest during the first week of law school and to ask well-researched questions. Professional development and wellness counselors suggested maintaining non-law relationships and interests to preserve their identities outside the law, and they advised young associates to communicate clearly their responsibilities to senior attorneys to avoid misunderstandings and work overload.
September’s roundtable focused on development and retention. The final roundtable of the year, December 6 in San Francisco, will center on advancement and promotion.