Loving Leaning In: Book Review

Reena Basser, Paralegal

Reena Basser reviews the bestselling book, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” by Sheryl Sandberg with Nell Scovell (2013). Basser finds the book’s message resonates with women in the legal profession.

I hate self-help books. I hate self-help books for women. I hate self-help books for women by those highly successful people. You know where I’m going.

Actually I loved this book. Lean In is authored by Sandberg, a CEO of Facebook and previously the same at Google. She has kids, a life, hobbies, and of course work. But mostly she has downright simple, healthy advice for both genders. For instance, the chapter on “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” reminds us that we need to utter that mantra frequently. I would have respond to the judge that custom in the court overrides the legislation, or I would tell my client how weak his case is, or I would make the adverse party’s paralegal aware of how many precedent cases I have to support my approach. This “self-help” approach never gets old.

Sandberg really shines when she discusses the females in her firm: smart engineers (typically) who want to know how to “do it all.” Lean In breaks the false idealized image of the “supermom” and explains how to limit oneself, how to set boundaries but mostly how to make work matter. Sandberg advises: Take that important promotion when you are seven months pregnant; work from home at times; and don’t deny yourself the opportunity because you MIGHT have a family that MIGHT need you.

One fascinating vignette comes to mind: a young engineer approached Sandberg for advice on “how to do it all.” The young woman was concerned about career, motherhood and all that stuff. Replies our author: “Do you have a child, or are you pregnant?” “No,” responds young engineer at Facebook. “Do you have a husband or are you planning a wedding?” Again no. “Then what is the question?” “But I am worried about 10 years in the future and how I will manage.”

Surprised? Canvass your friends and colleagues and see that this is truly the case. This approach is the subject matter of the seventh chapter, “Don’t Leave Before You Leave.”

The footnotes are superlative and include studies about women, sociology, work, and the gender gap.

Related Information & Resources
  • “Breaking Through: Tales from the Top Canadian Women General Counsel,” by Kirby Chown and Carrie Mandel (2013)
  • The Justicia Project: This Law Society of Upper Canada initiative supports the retention and advancement of women in private legal practice. Justicia resources include mentoring tips, and business strategies that focus on women
  • Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders: Sheryl Sandberg’s Ted Talk from 2010
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    Paralegal Reena Basser, B.A., M.A., offers legal services and teaches in accredited paralegal programs.
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