Women’s History Month Roundtable: Jennifer Winslow, COO

The Law Preview Lawyer Roundtable Series gives you a look into the minds of diverse lawyers from across the country. Get advice on everything from your 1L year to how to leverage a mentorship opportunity in law school, and throughout your legal career.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting three accomplished female lawyers in this month’s edition of the Law Preview Lawyer Roundtable Series. Check out the interview below!

Jennifer Winslow
Diversity Lab, COO
Attended UCLA School of Law

Tell Us Little Bit About Yourself

As a new lawyer in 2002, I very quickly recognized the problem that my employer, Diversity Lab, is now working to rectify. In my class at an AmLaw 100 law firm, the women far outnumbered the men, yet when I looked up at the positions of power in the firm, the ranks were dominated by men. In my office, there was only one woman partner in my department, which made it difficult to ever see myself in that role. In fact, that firm was no worse than its peers – for quite some time, entry-level lawyers at AmLaw firms have been roughly evenly split between the genders, but the number of women dwindles to a mere 19% at the pinnacle of the law firm hierarchy, equity partnership.

When I left practice after six years, I turned my focus to attorney and law student recruitment and development, as well as diversity initiatives for the legal profession. As a Managing Director for Major, Lindsey & Africa, I counseled lateral attorney candidates on their job searches and collaborated with law firms seeking to fill specialized roles. In the University of Colorado Law School’s Career Development Office, I managed the on-campus interview and judicial clerkship programs. While serving as the school’s representative to the Colorado Pledge to Diversity Committee, I worked with leaders of the state’s efforts to increase the number of underrepresented attorneys within the profession. In each of those roles, I remained acutely aware of the particular challenges women in the profession face, and I strove to be a resource for law students and lawyers seeking to forge a successful and authentic career.

In 2014, I was extremely fortunate to join Caren Ulrich Stacy in launching the OnRamp Fellowship, a returnship program that provides an avenue to return for women lawyers who have taken a hiatus from practice. To date, we have helped 76 women return to full-time law firm and legal department roles after hiatuses as long as 20 years. And, OnRamp’s success precipitated the creation of Diversity Lab, an incubator for innovative ideas and solutions that boost diversity and inclusion in law. Experimental ideas are created through our Hackathons and piloted in collaboration with more than 60 top law firms and legal departments across the country. Diversity Lab leverages data, behavioral science, design thinking, and technology to further develop and test new ideas and research, measure the results, and share the lessons learned.

I love the legal profession and I love my job. I am both proud and humbled to know that, as part of Diversity Lab, I am helping to move the needle on that imbalance I first noticed as a new lawyer 17 years ago.

Knowing what you know now about the legal profession, what advice would you give to students (particularly young women) who are about to begin their 1L year?

Talk to people, ask questions, be curious. If you are an introvert and/or shy, this will require some degree of courage, but it will be well worth it. You’ll quickly find that lawyers love to talk about themselves, so it doesn’t take much to get them started. Learn from them and their experiences, so you can be informed and proactive about your career.

Law school is just the first step and you can make course corrections down the road, but it is an important time to learn what it’s really like to be a lawyer – and it can vary a great deal depending on practice area and organization type. Being a public defender is much different than being a deals lawyer at large firm, and not just in terms of pay. Learn about the different ways to practice law and discover what you truly enjoy. At Diversity Lab, we have interviewed hundreds of top performing lawyers at firms and legal departments and one of the biggest common threads has been that these lawyers truly enjoy their work. Yes, they work long hours (though not as long as you would think) and endure frustrations, but they keep at it because they really love what they do. By being informed and proactive, you will have more control, which will go a long way toward you having the career that you want.

List one show you “binge-watched” during the past 12 months what was it about the show that so captivated your attention?

Black Earth Rising on Netflix. It dealt with the political and personal ramifications of the Rwandan genocide a quarter of a century later, and it included a powerful reminder that nothing is ever as simple as good vs evil.

What was your social media “guilty pleasure” — who/what do you follow on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook that you find fascinating, and why?

I love watching animal videos on Facebook. I have found that a cute dog/cat/ pig/otter/goat/cow video can mitigate some of the negativity I absorb while reading the news.

Related Posts: