In January of this year, Spencer Fane elected seven attorneys to partnership. Four of these seven are members of the Spencer Fane Women In Business group (WIB) – Stacy Harper, Crystal Howard, Stephanie Lovett-Bowman, and Megan Meadows – demonstrating the firm’s commitment to talent development and a diverse workforce. We asked each of the four about their path to partnership and advice they have for younger attorneys.
Would you describe your path to partnership as a “traditional” path?
- Stacy Harper – My entire legal career has been non-traditional. I resigned from an associate position with a law firm six months out of law school to open a boutique healthcare firm with two other attorneys, where I was a partner. After 2 ½ years, I joined a large firm in Kansas City as Of Counsel, then relocated to Minnesota for my husband’s residency, where I have been working remotely ever since. In October 2017, I joined Spencer Fane continuing my remote location. My schedule during these transitions has varied from .75 to full time to accommodate the birth of my twins (who will be 8 in April), raising my daughter (who is 11 going on 20), teaching a semester at the University of Kansas Medical Center, and supporting my husband through medical school, residency, and now fellowship. I can’t wait to move back to KC this summer so that I can start being traditional.
- Crystal Howard – My path was definitely not “traditional” but I don’t think traditional happens anymore. For instance, it appears as though none of the recently elected partners (female and male) had a traditional path. None of us spent our entire career at Spencer Fane before being elected partner and only 2 of the 7 were associates at the time they were elected. This “flexibility” is a strength of Spencer Fane. We were given the opportunity to evolve over time as our careers required and still made partner.
- Stephanie Lovett-Bowman – My path was traditional in a couple of respects, and non-traditional in others. I started at the firm as a summer associate and worked here straight out of law school for five years. I then left the firm to work for the U.S. government and returned to the firm 1.5 years later. When I returned, I became Of Counsel, and then made partner two years later. So, my path began traditionally and I ultimately had almost seven years of service before making partner, but I still deviated from a traditional progression.
- Megan Meadows – My hope is that my path was fairly traditional. I was an associate, never moved to Of Counsel, and despite working a slightly reduced schedule the past couple years, it never felt like I was off that path. My hope was, and it turned out this way, that the path to partnership is not rigid and traditional doesn’t mean what is used to.
What was your biggest challenge on your path to partnership?
- Stacy Harper – Working remotely while trying to stay connected with the firm, keeping myself focused, and continuing business development. The key has been having a dedicated office space that I treat as if I’m going to work and do not enter otherwise, combined with periodic trips to Kansas City to connect with co-workers in the office and meet with clients.
- Stephanie Lovett-Bowman – The biggest challenge for me was making the decision to ask for consideration and then following through. When I returned to the firm as Of Counsel, that structure worked very well for me. I hadn’t negotiated or planned to become partner in a certain number of years. But I ultimately felt like I could contribute more long term as a partner and believed I was ready, so I made the decision to put my name in consideration. Once my intentions were out there, I received the necessary support and the “ask” was done.
- Megan Meadows – Fluctuations with work level associated with having babies and maternity leave. The year after taking maternity leave is really hard to be “full-capacity” productive despite thinking you are. It takes effort to bounce back after that.
How significant is it that 4 of the 7 attorneys to make partner in 2019 are women?
- Stacy Harper – it’s great.
- Crystal Howard – It’s important because representation matters but until the four of us and the other female partners feel like advancement into meaningful leadership roles within law firms is readily achievable, the legal industry still has work to do.
- Stephanie Lovett-Bowman – It’s important progress and shows that we have a great generation of women lawyers coming up in the firm. It’s critical that women inside the firm see others making partner. It also helps provide a positive story to tell women associates we recruit – they pay attention to statistics.
- Megan Meadows – It’s a step in the right direction, but becoming a partner isn’t the end. We need to continue getting female partners in meaningful leadership roles throughout the legal industry.
What do you hope to accomplish in the next five years?
- Stacy Harper – I hope to settle back into Kansas City and continue to grow the healthcare and data practice groups at Spencer Fane.
- Crystal Howard – I hope to develop more of my own business, mentor younger lawyers, and advance into leadership roles within the firm.
- Stephanie Lovett-Bowman – Despite being a partner, I still have plenty to learn. I’d like to continue to get more trial experience and work closer with the boards of education I represent.
- Megan Meadows – Build my practice, find ways to meaningfully work with more people in other offices, and be more strategic in local networking activities.
If you could provide one piece of advice to younger attorneys (male or female), what would it be?
- Stacy Harper – Don’t be intimidated. Every attorney within Spencer Fane has specialized training and knowledge that is of value to our clients. Own that. Promote yourself for what you can do and don’t be afraid to admit when you need to bring in help.
- Crystal Howard – No one’s path is straight. Be persistent. Trust your voice and keep trying to accomplish your goals.
- Stephanie Lovett-Bowman – As it relates to becoming a partner, I’d suggest younger attorneys ask questions early on and get information to take the mystery out of partnership. Gathering information on financial implications and expectations related to partnership early on allows you to prepare and be more strategic as you consider going up for partner. I’d also suggest women regularly remind themselves they don’t have to be perfect or know everything to be ready to be a partner. If you wait until all circumstances are ideal, you’ll never go up for partner.
- Megan Meadows – Do what feels right for you. Don’t worry about what your colleagues are doing, how much they’re working or not working. Work hard and put yourself out there.
Congratulations Stacy, Crystal, Stephanie, and Megan. Spencer Fane and the WIB group are proud of your accomplishments, and look forward to working with you over long and successful careers.