Florida Mediator Kimberly Sands Asks, "What Is 'Lean In'?"

Lean In at Upchurch Watson White & Max's Maitland office. New Lean In Circle leader Yvonne Yegge makes a point at this week's meeting in UWWM's Maitland office.

Kimberly Sands, a partner with Upchurch Watson White & Max, is a frequent speaker on negotiation-related topics. She has been a civil litigator and has been involved with difficult and complex disputes as litigator or mediator for over 30 years. To schedule a speaking engagement or mediation with Kimberly, please call her case manager, Cathy McCleary, at (800) 863-1462.

Florida Mediator Kimberly Sands UWWM Partner Kimberly Sands

I have had a number of people ask me about the UWWM-sponsored Lean In Circle that meets four times a year for lunch in our Maitland office. I recently had the pleasure of serving on a panel of women lawyers addressing the Lean In concept at the 2014 Florida Bar Convention. Although the attendees were mostly women, there were several brave souls of the other persuasion who congregated in one area of the audience as if for comfort in the company of others. Most were older attorneys clearly attending in order to express their support, but also to learn what Lean In is all about. By and large the response has been positive, but there are always those, both men and women, who are challenged by the concept of the difference between men and women and how those differences may affect them professionally.

Lean In is the brain child of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Anyone who has not seen her TED Talk on YouTube (video imbedded below) should do so as it succinctly states the mission of the book and the groups that have developed in response to the book. There are other effective women lawyers’ associations that have emerged over the past 25 years as women have become more prevalent in the profession. These groups are really no different from the various committees that evolve from professional associations to address issues of common interest. Lean In addresses the challenges working women experience and offers positive solutions for complex problems, in particular through the power of negotiation. It is therefore a natural area of interest for a firm devoted to mediation and other forms of dispute resolution.

Whereas Lean In focuses on women negotiating for themselves, our group looks at the effectiveness women have when they negotiate for others. Not surprisingly, the characteristics that women have that are often seen as negatives when they negotiate for themselves are positive attributes when negotiating on behalf of others. These are strategies that work for everyone, but some of the qualities stereotypically attributed to women are particularly well-suited to negotiation: Introspection, Orientation to Detail, Communication, and Emotional Intelligence, are broad examples of attributes characteristic of women that can be invaluable tools in the negotiation as well as the business of the representing the interests of others in litigation.
For example, our recent Lean In meeting addressed knowing your strengths and overcoming obstacles in negotiation. We were pleased to welcome our first male participant, and the newest member of our select but growing group of mediators, Brandon Peters. I believe we all concluded that knowing your strengths and exploring the tools available to each of us, regardless of gender, is an extremely useful exercise to anyone in the business of persuasion and negotiation.

We welcome anyone interested in joining our group, man or woman. The topic at our July 23 meeting was so well received and generated so much data for discussion we plan to develop a presentation, “Gender in Negotiation.” In the interim, UWWM has many recorded Webinars for CLE credit available on our website and several live Webinars scheduled for the near future. I encourage you to explore these topics and consider “Leaning-In” with UWWM.

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