Best Law Firms for Women: Interview with Gina Shishima

Posted: Dec 07  |  By: Lora Kenyon

As a sponsor of Working Mother Media’s Best Law Firms for Women event, Parker + Lynch Legal is proud to support these firms and the women who dedicate themselves to both their legal profession and their families. To help honor these incredible women, we interviewed female attorneys with some of the 2018 winners to get their perspective on being a working mother. This week, we’re featuring:

Why did you decide to become an attorney?

It was something I decided in high school because I liked to argue. I can’t say it was an informed decision but I am fortunate in that I like the law and being a lawyer!

What challenges have you faced as a woman in the legal field?

My experience in this is not unique, but one of the big challenges is not having a spouse who stays home. I saw a statistic that 80% of law firm partners have a spouse who doesn’t work. Partners with a stay-at-home spouse likely have more flexibility to focus on work, and very few women have stay at home spouses.  So, while I try, the challenges I face are the usual ones of prioritizing and managing what needs to be done at home (as a mother of 3) and at work.

What has been your greatest success, or what accomplishment are you most proud of, and why?

Being the head of the IP group is something I am proud of because the large majority of patent attorneys are male. It’s part of the female STEM problem. It’s important that the legal profession has women in significant positions of leadership, and as an attorney of color and a mother, I feel the need to be visible so others can see that someone like them can play a role in the management of a large law firm. I have been in this role for 2 years, and it provides me the opportunity to discuss firm policies with the other group heads. It’s significant to have a seat at the table and be a part of those discussions.

Why do you love working for Norton Rose Fulbright? How do they support women and their goals?

The US management committee now has 3 women of color and we support one another and work collaboratively with other members of senior management.  Because of this, I feel like most people at the firm have moved beyond the question of why do we need diversity and inclusion, and onto the question of how do we increase diversity and inclusion at the firm. In 2015, Norton Rose Fulbright came out with an initiative to have 30 percent female equity partners and 30 percent women in leadership positions by the year 2020.  This is an ongoing process, and it ensures that we keep talking about it and monitoring how we are measuring up to that goal.

In addition, when Fulbright & Jaworski combined with Norton Rose, we implemented a Career Strategies Program for female senior associates at the 7/8-year mark.  The program brings these associates together for 2 two-day training sessions with professional coaching in between. The program provides its attendees the chance to develop their professional acumen and client development skills to give women the tools they need to succeed as partners in a large law firm.  I think that one of the reasons we have seen success with the program is that we are bringing these women together so they are able to build a support system across offices and practice groups and share resources for client development.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to women struggling to balance their home life and their careers?

It’s hard to choose just one thing!  Try to stop pointing the finger at yourself and playing the blame game. Better yet, figure out your priorities, reassess from time to time and then focus on executing (without the guilt).