Lessons from Formula One: 5 ways to advance women in law

Lessons from Formula One: 5 ways to advance women in law

By Nicole Bradick

The 2014 Formula One race season is now underway, which means that Sunday mornings in my house are filled with the high-pitched sounds of screaming engines.

At a time when I am contemplating the matter of retaining women in the law, I am struck by the parallels between the physics underlying Formula One racing and the forces negatively affecting the retention of female lawyers in firms around the world.

In fluid dynamics, drag is a force that acts opposite to the relative motion of any object. Drag is a primary enemy in Formula One racing, as it works to slow down the cars. Race car engineers spend their careers altering every surface of a Formula One car in order to avoid drag as much as possible -  the shape of the nose, the shape of the driver’s helmet, the existence, size and angle of the rear wing – all are carefully crafted and regularly tinkered with to make the cars more “slippery.” Environmental conditions play a role as well. Cold air is denser than warm air - for every 10 degree drop in temperature, aerodynamic drag increases by 2%.

In the practice of law, poor culture is often the force that acts opposite to the relative motion of female lawyers. The adjective I most often hear from women lawyers in describing their law firm environment is “toxic.” A wide range of negative features typically engenders toxic culture, from poor maternity leave offerings, to an environment of competitiveness versus collaboration, to a lack of mentorship/sponsorship as compared to male peers. This form of drag is rampant and often slows down a woman’s career trajectory - even very high achieving women who start their careers at top speed. Inertia keeps many women on course, but inertia is not what should move women forward. Instead, women should be propelled ahead by the kinetic energy created by their own en

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About the author:

Nicole Bradick is Director of Business Development at Potomac Law Group, an innovative full-service law firm focused on providing high-end legal services to corporate legal department at a fraction of traditional law firm rates. In that role, Nicole is responsible for leading the marketing and business development activities of the firm. In addition to her work with Potomac Law Group, Nicole has launched and run a legal services business, Custom Counsel, matching freelance attorneys with solo practitioners and law firms. Nicole has received recognition as an ABA Journal “Legal Rebel” and regularly speaks and writes on issues related to the changing legal marketplace and legal innovation. Prior to shifting her focus to the business of law, Nicole was a litigator practicing primarily in the areas of federal appeals, education law and commercial litigation. She also served as a law clerk to Hon. James B. Haines, Jr. of the US Bankruptcy Court.