Dear Female Lawyers & Law Students:
You will be told you smile too much; smiling makes you appear vapid & dumb.
You will be told you don’t smile enough; and you’re a cold b*tch because of it.
You will be hired by a client only because you are a woman (… because hiring a female lawyer must mean that the client is neither sexist nor abusive of women).
You won’t be hired by a client only because you are a woman (… because you simply aren’t as credible or knowledgeable as your male colleagues).
You will be accused of sleeping your way to the top.
You will be told you should ‘flirt a little more’ to get to the top.
You will be asked whether “men won’t date you because you are too powerful”.
You will be asked “how someone so smart & driven could be single!”
In a relationship?
You will be told ‘you’re lucky – a partner who supports your career!’
You will be told ‘it’s unfortunate – they’ll never understand your career’
Your outfit choices will be criticized.
… So will your hair & make up.
Beyond following ethics & actual developments in the law, there is no right way to lawyer. Find your true north and follow your own compass. You will know that you are excelling as a lawyer when you believe you are excelling as lawyer. Smile as much or as little as you want. Wear as much or as little makeup as you want. Want to take the client that only wants to hire you because you are female because you like the file? Go for it. Instead want to tell that client to f*ck right off? Go girl.
The practice of law is a practice that needs your unique voice, opinion & skill set. Criticism will be unavoidable. Sadly, some of your harshest critics will be other female lawyers that have chosen to respond to the above differently than you- and criticize your different choice. You will never please everyone, so be the lawyer you want to be. (… and maybe go cheer on a younger female counsel – big smile and all).
* advice for female lawyers *
So much yes!!! In an industry where too many people act like they’re entitled to tell us who we should or should not be, thanks for voicing this. Every women should have the right to be exactly who she wants to be!
Thank you so much for the supportive words! I’m so glad you liked this post.
This is everything I want to say to every girl I know going through law school right now! I remember when I was a 1L & they separated out the women for a “women’s lawyer” talk that turned out to be about how we should dress in the courtroom (like always wear a skirt & pantyhose to look professional). I was shocked that, even after 3 years of school & passing the bar, my clients’ case might be judged on whether or not I was wearing pants. Thank you for saying what so many of us have been thinking!
I am so glad this resonates with you! And WOW that story is nuts – I am so sorry they did that. and also the fact that you even have to write the sentenced “… my clients case might be judged on whether or not I was wearing pants” is just so insane. That we would even need to worry about that just blows my mind!! I had a bad experience in 1L as well (which is basically what the first line of this is about) in which a judge after my Baby Gale moot told me I needed to smile less because it made me seem dumb. I went to the bathroom and cried, I was so upset. It took me years to realize that her opinion (yes it was a fellow female) was just her opinion and that my smiling had nothing to do with my quality of work. My partner and I actually made it to the semi finals for the moot so clearly not every judge was as concerned about my smiing.
My favourite blog post of yours. I love it because it reaffirmed my decision to be who I am as a future lawyer. I am going to refer to this post again at times when I need it.
That is so great, I am so, so happy that this resonated with you! Thanks for commenting!