Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 13

FEATURE
WOMEN IN BIG LAW continued from page 11

constant in Big Law and the legal profession is change, Brown says, and
those who recognize it and adapt to it will have a sustainable career.

ADVANCEMENT OPPORTUNITIES
Fueled by South Philly grit, a devoted and determined mother with an
eighth-grade education, and a fierce work ethic, Grace Speights has
" digging deep " sculpted into her DNA. Named Attorney of the Year in
2018 by The American Lawyer,
Lawyer, Speights has enjoyed unparalleled success
in Big Law. Speights is the first African American woman partner at
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.
In her 37 years in the legal profession, she has often found herself in
prestigious, action-packed rooms of power. Her career at Morgan Lewis
has been defined by her ability to repeatedly carve out hard-won results
for her clients while also moving the needle forward on relevant public
policy issues. Speights's single-firm success experience is not the norm,
however.
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP

Internally, it takes sponsorship; if you
don't have partners doing that for you ...
you just aren't going to make it.
GRACE SPEIGHTS
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP
Duncan went to Harvard Law School and Dartmouth College at a time
when very few Blacks attended those schools. He taught at Howard Law
School and later became its dean. " He sat on several public company
corporate boards. He would give me advice on job opportunities that
were presented to me over the course of my career, " says Brown. That
mentoring relationship continued until Duncan passed away in 2004.
The ability to survive in Big Law long term is a skill. And as with any skill,
it can be developed over time. " Law firms are challenging places for
most, but you have to understand the rules, " Brown says. " There are
some rules that are public, put out in the marketing and recruiting materials, and then there are some rules that are not necessarily publicized.
But the nonpublic rules and protocols are clearly as important or even
more important. You will often learn them if you move into management or if you have someone in firm management who makes sure
that you know and understand those nonpublic rules, " says Brown.
Today, Brown is a mentor-coach to others, sharing her knowledge of the
spoken and unspoken rules of firm life, strategies for progressing, the
role of luck, and how to successfully thrive in the legal business. The one

" I was fortunate. I had a lot of white male sponsors, powerful partners
who invested in me, " says Speights. " When I first got to the firm, there
was a partner by the name of Arthur Littleton. He was a typical white
shoe attorney out of Philadelphia, and I got to work with him on a Third
Circuit brief. I remember fearing that level of responsibility being a brandnew associate, and he took the time and effort in helping me on that
first brief to become a fantastic brief writer. " Indeed, strong professional
guidance, paired with the opportunity to stretch one's legal muscle, is key
to a successful Big Law career.
In fact, due to that opportunity, Speights gained many more experiences
that shaped her into the legal juggernaut she is today. " Internally, it takes
sponsorship; if you don't have partners doing that for you in a Big Law
firm, you just aren't going to make it. It's just that simple, " she says.
Speights encourages women attorneys to step into the spotlight and
lift their voices in the spaces they occupy. " Grit and determination are
important. But women must speak up and express their views, whether
internally or [during] meetings with clients, " she says.
Often there is a hesitation among women lawyers to speak up in
meetings, says Speights. " I know why. I get it. Sometimes, as a woman,
you speak up and it appears to be aggression. It's that whole angry Black
woman or angry woman stereotype. Or if you give an idea and it's given
short shrift, and after a few minutes a male in the room says the same
idea in a different way and everyone gets excited, you may not feel comfortable speaking up again. "
" We have to understand that it's going to happen and [we have to] do
what we think is best. Don't let those experiences cause you to retreat.
We have to be diplomatic, but we must speak up and own our presence, "
she continues.
Speights believes that the legal industry has much work to do to ensure
that women attorneys, especially Black women, receive their fair share
of career-defining opportunities. " We have to start being intentional and
deliberate about making sure Black lawyers at firms are having the same
experiences. I am working very hard internally to make sure that happens
at our firm. I've always done that, but now there is more intensity. "

June P. Johnson is a D.C. Bar member and founder of TrueBliss Television.

MARCH/APRIL 2021

*

WASHINGTON LAWYER

13



Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021

Digital Extras
From Our President
Calendar of Events
Practice Management
Toward Well-Being
Staying Put in Big Law feature
A Sisterhood of Latina Lawyers Sidebar
Increasing Diversity & Inclusion the the Legal Profession feature
Cultivate Mentorships sidebar
A Tribute to Judge June L. Green feature
Delicate Balance for Black Women Attorneys in Government Feature
Falling Short on Disability Inclusion feature
Elusive Justice in Violence Against Native Women feature
Worth Reading
On Further Review
The Learning Curve
Member Spotlight - Marcia Madsen
Member Spotlight - Simon Zinger
ABA Delegates Corner
Attorney Briefs
Speaking of Ethics
Disciplinary Summaries
The Pro Bono Effecy
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 1
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 2
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 3
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 5
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Toward Well-Being
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Staying Put in Big Law feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 11
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - A Sisterhood of Latina Lawyers Sidebar
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 13
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Increasing Diversity & Inclusion the the Legal Profession feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 15
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Cultivate Mentorships sidebar
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 17
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - A Tribute to Judge June L. Green feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 19
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 20
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 21
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Delicate Balance for Black Women Attorneys in Government Feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 23
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 24
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 25
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Falling Short on Disability Inclusion feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 27
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 28
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 29
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Elusive Justice in Violence Against Native Women feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 31
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 32
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 34
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 35
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - The Learning Curve
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Member Spotlight - Marcia Madsen
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Member Spotlight - Simon Zinger
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 40
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 41
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - ABA Delegates Corner
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 45
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 47
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - The Pro Bono Effecy
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 49
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 50
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 51
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Cover4
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