As 2017 SMBA president, are your goals preset, determined by the board or do you have freedom to choose? What are they?
We have freedom to choose. My goals are in continuing the good work we started. If you look at the new things we’ve undertaken in the last five years, we have a lot in motion. I want to make sure that all functions at the highest level. I don’t really have a goal of some new program to start.
We have a partnership with Fairbanks, where we have lawyers in the SMBA who go to Fairbanks to provide legal assistance. That has been very successful. Another program is Barristers, where we have SMBA members who provide assistance to students at Missouri State. Between the two, 30-50 members participate.
The SMBA’s February lunch topic is titled, Resolve to Work Less, Accomplish More in 2017: 30 Tips and Take-Aways. Why is this important for lawyers?
One of the things we want to look at this year is: Is there such a thing as work-life balance? Regardless of whether there is or not, what can we do to help with dealing with the stresses of being a lawyer. And to make people’s lives more productive and enjoyable.
We are looking at the monthly lunches and at the Bar Brews about talking on topics like that, instead of just straight legal issues.
We surveyed our membership last year about programming they’d like to see. We received an overwhelming response to those kinds of concerns: How can I deal with my personal life and my practice?
How do you balance the workload? Are you providing any of those 30 tips?
[laughter] I am not. [laughter] I will be there listening eagerly. It is just a constant challenge we all deal with (and) it’s useful to just take a few minutes to talk about what we can do better in that regard.
You were named a partner in 2008. There’s been talk about the next generation of lawyers not as interested in the idea of becoming partner. Have you seen the younger attorneys with that mindset?
Yes, I’ve definitely heard people express that. Some of it is concerns with prioritizing work-life balance. I don’t feel like it’s a huge shift. There are a lot of people still interested in being partner. Law firms and lawyers need to be mindful of that concern. Law firms are becoming more flexible based on that. Even people who are already partners are wanting more flexibility.
You are SMBA’s fourth female president. What is the gender breakdown in the field and how does that compare with the percentages in the law schools?
I think it’s 50/50. Consistently, women are going to law school and the issue is whether they are staying to practice. (SMBA) membership certainly doesn’t reflect 50/50. It’s roughly 70 percent male.
Is that OK? Is it a priority to look at?
We have a lot of women very active on the board. I think it’s great women have the ability to choose and a lot of people do choose to practice and then stay at home for a while and then come back. It’s great we have the right to choose.
I don’t think there is something wrong in Springfield (because) those numbers aren’t matching law schools. Women choose to leave the practice permanently or indefinitely for a variety of reasons, and that’s OK.
Ginger Gooch is a partner at Husch Blackwell LLP, She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.