The Women in Law Conference | Vienna | September 12-14, 2024

Intergenerational Career Planning: Insights from the Women in Law Conference

The Women in Law Conference highlighted topics like intergenerational career planning, importance of networking, and flexibility in career paths. Alisa Grafton focused on networking skills and human connections. The traditional trajectory for lawyers is shifting, with younger professionals preferring diverse experiences. Susan Cox emphasized networking and the importance of a supportive framework. Marita Haas underscored transparency in career paths, while Ingeborg Edel stressed adaptability. A shared theme was embracing flexibility and diversity, and understanding varied needs of different generations in the legal profession.

Intergenerational Career Planning: Insights from the Women in Law Conference

The Women in Law Conference’s track 4 delved into the complexities of intergenerational career planning, featuring a keynote speech by Alisa Grafton, an expert on networking for lawyers. The discussion revolved around the crucial elements of human connections, networking skills, commonality, and clear career paths in fostering successful collaborations across different generations.

Alisa Grafton commenced the keynote by shedding light on the often-underestimated role of relationships in personal and professional success. She emphasized the profound impact of strong relationships on overall happiness and success, citing ongoing Harvard research. Grafton argued that these connections are a form of professional social capital critical for a fulfilling life.

Navigating the digital age, Grafton acknowledged the challenges faced by the younger generation in developing networking skills, having grown up in an era dominated by digital devices and adapting to a professional landscape increasingly shaped by remote work. She stressed the need for proactive leadership to bridge the intergenerational gap, urging leaders to not only share their perspectives but also understand the viewpoints of younger professionals.

“Sometimes, the best connections are built because you have the same dog breed.”

The conversation then shifted to the importance of finding common ground to facilitate connections. Grafton suggested that identifying shared interests, even as simple as having the same dog breed, can lead to powerful connections. Building on this concept, she advised intentionally developing shared interests into mutually beneficial relationships, highlighting that connections rooted in genuine commonalities are essential for professional growth.

Grafton then underlined the necessity of a clear career path for lawyers. She pointed out that the traditional trajectory for lawyers is evolving, with the younger generation valuing diverse experiences over a linear path. The discussion pivoted to the challenges posed by the coexistence of four different generations in the workforce, stressing the need for leaders to adapt to diverse life concepts and perspectives.

A key theme that emerged was the idea of flexible career goals, challenging traditional notions of long-term planning. Grafton and the panelists acknowledged a shift in the younger generation’s approach, focusing on the present moment rather than rigid plans for the future.

Susan Cox’s Journey: From Law to Consultancy

The panel discussion commenced with Alisa Grafton introducing Susan Cox, an Australian lawyer who transitioned into offering consultancy services. Susan emphasized the value of networking, acknowledging that not everyone is a natural at it. Despite her successful career, she still feels nervous in unfamiliar social situations. She discussed the changing landscape for women in law, drawing comparisons between Australia and other regions. Based on the experience she has gained in consulting law firms, she can say that there is a strong need for a supportive framework. The legal profession lacked the necessary framework to support lawyers at every stage. Cox outlined her approach to addressing this gap, conducting cultural reviews, providing one-on-one consultations, and developing clear policies to guide career progression. In doing so, she emphasized the importance of mentoring and coaching for both junior and senior professionals.

As the discussion turned to the evolving nature of career goals, Cox highlighted the generational shift in how young lawyers perceive their future. The emphasis shifted from rigid career paths to doing exceptional work in the present. She shared insights from her experiences, noting that her consultancy work allowed her to witness progress within firms, showcasing a commitment to supporting their people.

The conversation with Cox underscored the importance of flexibility in career planning, encouraging young professionals to explore various legal fields. Her emphasis on the role of supportive frameworks echoed the broader theme of adaptability and understanding the diverse needs of different generations in the legal profession.

“The key to promoting lawyers is to have a clear career path.”

Alisa Grafton summarized that a clear career path is crucial for promoting lawyers acknowledging the evolving nature of legal careers. Susan Cox expressed the changing perspective of young lawyers who may not prioritize a predefined career path and emphasized doing a great job in the present moment.

Marita Haas: Navigating Gender and Diversity in Organizations

The discussion transitioned to Marita Haas, who shared insights from her 14 years of research on gender and diversity in organizations.

Marita Haas, an expert in gender and diversity, provided insights into the younger generation’s concerns. Using her research and consulting experience, Haas highlighted the younger generation’s focus on autonomy, career progress transparency, flexibility, and collaboration. These concerns, she noted, were crucial for creating an inclusive and supportive work environment.

Her recommendations emphasized the need for transparency in career paths and benefits to address gender pay gaps and promotion disparities. Haas suggested that companies paint a clear picture of the career path and how compensation and benefits are distributed. This provides individuals with expectations and acts as a preventive measure against gender disparities.

In her experience with law firms, she noted the absence of established quotas and performance measurements, which is why she encourages the companies she works with to implement a diverse promotion board to ensure fair and equal opportunities.

“We have to include the idea of diverse lives and diverse life concepts.”

The discussion with Haas resonated with the overarching theme of diversity and inclusion. Her insights provided a deeper understanding of the specific concerns of the younger generation, emphasizing the need for clear communication, fair promotion practices, and supportive organizational structures.


Ingeborg Edel: Partnering for Success in a Large Law Firm

Ingeborg Edel, a partner in one of the largest law firms in Austria, shared her experiences and best practices, shedding light on the dynamics within a sizable legal organization. She stressed the importance of flexibility in career planning, encouraging young professionals to explore various legal fields. Edel also shared her journey, highlighting the significance of being open to diverse experiences within a firm.

Edel commenced by providing context about her law firm, Binder Grösswang, one of the largest in Austria. She noted the gender disparity among partners but highlighted a more balanced scenario among younger partners. The discussion focused on the determining factors for career planning, with Edel emphasizing two critical elements: external factors and workforce dynamics.

According to Edel, external factors include the constant changes in the legal market. She shared stories from senior partners about how they navigated different legal landscapes throughout their careers. Adaptability, she emphasized, was a critical success factor. Tying this back to intergenerational career planning, Edel suggested encouraging young legal professionals to try out different areas of law to foster adaptability.

“The Key success factor was to stay flexible.”

The other essential factor, according to Edel, is the evolving workforce dynamics. She noted the shifting attitudes towards work-life balance, highlighting the younger generation’s desire for flexibility and remote work options. This shift, she acknowledged, presented challenges and potential conflicts within the workplace.

Edel emphasized the importance of being brave enough to articulate needs and ask for support. She shared personal experiences of juggling parenthood with a legal career, stressing the need for both individuals and organizations to be flexible and understanding.

Edel continued to explain the differences in support structures for lawyers at different career stages in Austria. While there is robust support during the early employment years due to the Austrian employment law, self-employed lawyers face challenges balancing parenthood and legal practice as they advance in their careers. Her experiences underscored the need for flexible approaches and mutual support within organizations.

The discussion with Edel provided valuable insights into the dynamics of a large law firm. It offered practical recommendations for fostering adaptability, embracing diversity, and supporting lawyers at different stages of their careers.

Summarizing the panel discussion, Alisa Grafton emphasized the critical role of collaboration, communication, and transparency in addressing the evolving needs of different generations in the legal profession. The overarching theme of flexibility and adaptability emerged as a key factor in navigating the changing legal landscape. The experiences shared by the panelists underscored the importance of embracing change, encouraging diverse backgrounds, and fostering a workplace culture that accommodates the varied needs of different generations.

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