Teresa Pahl is a firm believer that a woman does not need to sacrifice her career to have a family, or vice versa. Rather, for her, the secret to doing it all is to find the right working environment, one that aligns with your values. Teresa has found that match at her law firm, Hanson & Bridgett LLP, a certified B Corp company that has a commitment to social responsibility. Below, Teresa inspires us with a refreshing and inspired view on finding the right place to work, and shares with us an example of a company that truly empowers women, in and out of the company.
Can you tell us about your experience working at Hanson Bridgett, and why your firm has chosen to be a B-Corp?
Hanson Bridgett is a wonderful place to work, where people are respectful, the partners are supportive, and where we truly care about each other. I was asked to be the head of the business section (one of the highest management positions) after only being at the firm for a little over one year.
I served in that position for 13 years, and I had an opportunity to dig deep into the management of the firm and make decisions to run the section the way I thought would be best for everyone. At the time, we were trying to figure out our identity. We did some surveying, sessions and meetings about what we do and who we are.
Based on our external involvement, our internal culture and personal respect and commitments, we realized that we were, in essence, a sustainable group of lawyers. We all had volunteer work, we all had causes that we believed in. As a result, we assembled those attorneys who were the most passionate about this and took the necessary steps to become a B-Corp. The firm was supportive and participated enthusiastically in the process.
As one of our early initiatives, we launched our “Sustainable Business Forums” which took place every month. It has now been over 10 years since we first started holding the Forums. We invite impact investors and social entrepreneurs to come to our firm to meet, network and to create a place where business leaders can talk about challenges, opportunities and solutions to move their businesses forward. When we held our first Forum, I was keeping my fingers crossed that someone would come; in the end, 50 people came! It made me realize that there was a need for gatherings like this. Soon after, I joined what was then SVN, where I made a number of contacts. I am thankful that I had a firm that allowed me to experiment and that was willing to share in the investment of hosting these gatherings.
How has Hanson Bridgett supported you as a working mother?
I came on the firm with a two year old, 6-year old twins, and a 12-year old. It’s a big load, but the support and understanding was wonderful. At Hanson Bridgett, we allow women the option to work on a reduced time schedule. We don’t penalize them from participating in management, and we continue including them in big cases and transactions.
Working mothers are just as valuable and work just as hard as full-time lawyers.
We are also supportive of working moms by providing them with the technology and resources to work from home so they can be fully connected as if they were in the office. No one looks down on them for having less face time in the office; we give them a chance to show that they can do it all..
Our firm was named one of the Best Law Firms for Women by Working Mother in 2017. We have a large number of women in management, and a large number of women partners, which is very unusual for private practice. 50% of lawyers that graduate are women, yet in general, women partners are under 20%. One of the reasons is that when they have a family, they find there is not enough flexibility and opportunity for them.
Bottom line, we have not ever viewed it as a disability to have children. Personally, I believe you have to find the right work environment if you want to have a family and a career. In my opinion, it just isn’t an option to trade one for the other.
How has Hanson Bridgett supported and championed women, both internally and externally?
We have an internal group composed of women attorneys that organizes activities and guest coaches/speakers in order to help one another deal with unique challenges- especially for the younger women. We make sure there is appropriate mentoring; there are numerous studies that say that if you’re going to make it in private practice , you need mentors. Since men may not relate the same way to young women, young women attorneys need both men and women as mentors.
Externally, we are continuously sponsoring events that feature women entrepreneurs. Whether it’s bringing in speakers that we host to have pitch events that are focused on women-led companies or supporting our attorneys’ involvements in women’s organizations, or simply taking on women clients to give them representation, we are committed to helping women succeed in various fields by investing both our dollars and time.
More specifically, we working in the cannabis area, and we represent women in this industry.
Similar to many other industries, we want to make sure that women have a seat at the table and are included in the opportunities. We continue to believe in and support the women at the helms of these companies, connecting them to investors, mentors and advisors.
How has SVC influenced your work?
SVC has given me the opportunity to build relationships with those who have the same consciousness that drives me.
It’s been an opportunity for me to see how many genuinely good, caring and giving people exist in the world. It’s my soul food, and I appreciate that. Over the years, many SVC members have participated in our Forums as speakers, and the generous spirit with which they share their wisdom, support, resources and advice has been inspiring.
To see more information on Hanson Bridgett, see here.