News & Events

Chicago, May 4, 2015

Swanson, Martin & Bell, LLP and Women’s Bar Association of Illinois Host Women’s Business Development Seminar

Today women law school graduates outnumber men – but how do they become law firm rainmakers? That question and other challenges were discussed at last week’s CLE seminar, “How to Get the Business: A Conversation with Givers and Getters” at the Chicago Bar Association in Chicago’s Loop neighborhood.

Hosted by Swanson, Martin & Bell, LLP and the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois (WBAI), the seminar was a two-part panel discussion with one panel of in-house counsel (Business Givers) and one panel of law firm attorneys (Business Getters). Through moderated questions and answers, panelists provided tactics on how women lawyers can find success as they navigate their legal careers and develop their own clientele.

Business Givers
When asked how a younger attorney can become a go-to attorney for in-house counsel, Givers panelists said it was important to build long-term relationships with potential clients, getting to know their business without expecting legal work immediately.  Upon receiving work, outside counsel also were advised to be honest and transparent, sharing bad news when necessary to avoid surprises.  Responsiveness was also a key request, as it helped the Givers build trust in new counsel.

Givers also recommended that younger attorneys find mentors within their firms who can offer them meaningful legal assignments and one-on-one client contact. Such development of female attorneys often was not only important to the Givers individually, but also to their employer’s overall diversity efforts. 

Business Givers panelists included:

  • Virginia Beach, Director Claims Services, Insurance & Risk Management Services, Trinity Health
  • William Bower, Chief Risk Executive, Northwestern Memorial HealthCare
  • Verónica Gómez, Vice President & Deputy General Counsel, Exelon Corporation
  • Margaret Jones, Senior Vice President and Associate General Counsel, Hyatt Corporation
  • Louann Van Der Wiele, Vice President and Associate General Counsel, Chrysler Group LLC
  • Anna Britt, Senior Commercial Counsel, Motorola Mobility LLC
  • Patricia Kocour, Partner, Swanson, Martin & Bell, LLP (moderator)

Business Getters
When asked how they develop relationships with potential clients, the Getters emphasized “getting out of the office.” Several Getters are members of the WBAI and other legal and business organizations that offer professional development and networking opportunities. Getters also advised staying connected with law school friends, opposing counsel and other industry contacts who may move to in-house legal positions in the future.  One Getter said she takes 10 minutes every day to reach out to someone she has not spoken with recently.  Getters also reminded attendees to make sure friends and colleagues understand the type of legal work they do and who they help. 

Echoing Givers’ point, Swanson, Martin & Bell, LLP founding partner Brian Bell advised attendees to work at law firms that provide meaningful client contact, as well as opportunities to work with colleagues you like. If an associate does not have that, he said, she should consider other professional environments. Most importantly, Getters advised attendees not to give up on business development and to create an annual business plan that can offer guidance throughout the year.

Business Getters panelists included:

  • Brian Bell, Partner, Swanson, Martin & Bell, LLP
  • Deane Brown, Partner, Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd.
  • Margaret O’Sullivan Byrne, Partner, Swanson, Martin & Bell, LLP
  • Karina Zabicki DeHayes, Partner, Tabet DiVito & Rothstein LLC
  • Mimi Moore, Partner, Bryan Cave LLP
  • Susan Novosad, Partner, Levin & Perconti
  • Eugena Whitson-Owen, WBAI President and Attorney, Law Offices of Kurt Olsen (moderator)

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