The pay gap persists in the U.S. between men and women performing the same or similar jobs, and at least some of the problem can be traced to women’s reluctance to ask for what they want in the workplace, according to three CUA Law alumni who returned to the law school on Sept. 19 to coach students on self-assertion.
The Catholic University’s Women's Law Caucus presented “Women as Leaders: Negotiating Skills for Success,” inviting keynote speaker Cait T. Clarke, 1986; Marianne R. Casserly, 2000; and Dree K. Collopy, 2007, to discuss strategies and share personal stories about what it means to stand up for what you believe you’re worth.
Clarke is the chief officer of the Office of Defender Services at the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts in Washington D.C. She is responsible for the administration of the nation’s federal public defense program established by the Criminal Justice Act of 1964. Clarke’s office supports 81 federal defender offices and approximately 12,000 private criminal defense attorneys nationwide.
It’s a big job, but Clark wryly noted that fresh out of law school in the 1980s, she did not follow the advice she shares with students today. Clarke accepted an adjunct teaching position in New Orleans and quickly moved there, only to conclude soon after she was overworked, underpaid and being taken advantage of. What did she learn?
“Ask the questions that are near and dear to you. Be authentic. Never negotiate just for salary. Think about what you need and ask big,” she said.
Dree Collopy, a partner at Benach Ragland LLP, also co-teaches the law school’s new Immigration Litigation Clinic. She urged students not to undersell themselves at the outset, or be shy about obtaining a second job offer if possible as leverage. Collopy advised always researching salary ranges in advance, but agreed with Clarke that the paycheck should not solely determine the worth of an offer.
Today, Marianne Casserly is a partner in the litigation and trial practice group of Alston & Bird. In law school, she worked as a law clerk at the FCC, Borsari & Paxson LLP, and Joyce & Jacobs LLP. Always, she has made it a habit to jot down accomplishments large and small to make a stronger case at raise and promotion time.
“Everything is data-driven. It’s the numbers. They want attorneys who are billing time. Show them, I really want to do this,” said Casserly.
Above all, the panelists advised, young women just out of law school should remember that most of the time, they are more in the driver’s seat than they realize.
Clarke, who is a co-author of “Dare to Ask! The Women’s Guidebook to Successful Negotiating,” put it succinctly.
“If they’ve made you an offer, they’ve made a decision. They want you,” Clarke said.