Female Powerbrokers Q&A: Fox Rothschild’s Stephanie Resnick

January 16, 2014 – In The News

Reprinted with permission from Law360. (c) 2014 Portfolio Media. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. All rights reserved.

Stephanie Resnick, chairwoman of Fox Rothschild LLP’s firmwide litigation department and a member of the firm’s executive committee, is a senior trial lawyer who regularly appears in state and federal courts and is also involved in alternative dispute resolution proceedings.

She litigates complex business matters involving shareholder and partnership disputes, family business disputes, corporate governance, directors' and officers' liability, unfair business practices and competition, breach of fiduciary duty, class actions, insurance, and disputes involving physicians and physician practices. Her clients include Fortune 100 companies, family-owned businesses, and business executives.

Q: How did you break into what many consider to be an old boys' network?

A: Simply put; through perseverance, dedication and hard work. I had incredible mentors and role models who played a significant part in my success and helped to foster my confidence and skill set. A tremendous amount of networking is also important to establish your presence and reputation in the community.

In order for women to break into the “old boys network,” women need to be productive in several ways, one of them being entrepreneurial in spirit. A law firm’s business model is based on securing new business and expanding existing business. Women in the legal industry need to network more and focus on having and expanding business relationships.

Q: What are the challenges of being a woman at a senior level within a law firm?

A: One major challenge is the lack of senior-level females. While the industry as a whole is getting better at encouraging diversity at this level, fostering an environment where women can have the same opportunity as their male counterparts is important. Fox Rothschild has a number of senior-level women who are extremely productive for the firm.

Another challenge is getting women to want to move up the ranks while expecting them to manage their work-life balance. It’s hard for women to focus on their career when having family pressures as a primary caregiver. Firms need to have the right amount of flexibility to ensure that the opportunity is there for women who want to move up the ranks.

Q: Describe a time you encountered sexism in your career and tell us how you handled it.

A: Early in my career, a judge once thought I was a paralegal, and another time I was mistaken for a legal secretary. There were several instances early on in my career where even adversaries thought I was the court reporter. This can be very discouraging, but my advice to any young female attorney would be to address it head on. Remain assertive — and stay persistent. Don’t labor over it.

Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring female attorney?

A: Be an excellent and responsive lawyer and be prepared to push ahead. Women have to find their own “no-intimidation” factors within themselves and must persevere when the opportunity presents itself. Work hard to maintain deep and meaningful professional relationships and remain productive.

Also, know that life has trade-offs. Work-life balance is important, but you can’t always have it both ways. This is a personal decision that some women don’t spend enough time giving this critical thought and attention.

Lastly, female attorneys aren’t always the best at referring work to each other. While this shouldn’t be mistaken to mean that just because one is a female we should only refer to each other, we as women need to do more to create and enhance the “old girls' network.” Women should refer more often (and appropriately) to other female leads and help foster female peer-to-peer relationships.

Q: What advice would you give to a law firm looking to increase the number of women in its partner ranks?

A: Grow your firm’s mentorship programs. Be more inclusive of current women in the ranks and provide the right flexibility to your female partner-track attorneys. Make the appropriate accommodations that provide an atmosphere that is conducive to collaboration. Provide a democratic governance model that includes women in important committees at the firm, including making business decisions by a cross-section of the firm’s demographics.

Firms need to set the example of women in leadership at the firm. There needs to be a perception that the firm is inclusive, collaborative and collegial.

Q: Outside your firm, name an attorney you admire and tell us why.

A: It’s hard to name just one. I think there are two equally important and incredibly admirable attorneys that deserve some attention:

Roberta Liebenberg — chairwoman of the American Bar Association's Commission on Women in the Profession. Roberta handles significant antitrust matters and she’s an outstanding litigator in the antitrust arena. She has always emphasized reaching back and helping to pull women up through the ranks. She’s committed to advancing and promoting women in the profession. She’s an incredible advocate for gender fairness in the courts, law firms and regularly takes on women’s compensation issues.

Joanne Epps — dean of Temple University Law School. Like Roberta, Joanne believes strongly in mentoring and reaching out to advance women and diverse attorneys in the profession. Joanne is a tireless advocate who inspires many with her unwavering commitment to the principles of diversity and inclusion in the legal profession and the court system.

Reprinted with permission from Law360. (c) 2014 Portfolio Media. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. All rights reserved.