Women continue to make strides in the legal profession through excellence and confidence in their abilities. Many women thrive in a male-dominated industry of law. Female lawyers know discrimination is prevalent in the legal field, particularly the high end personal injury practice including commercial litigation. Knowing what to expect and how to handle court and her peers is vital to success.
Experiences as the First Female Attorney to Practice in Her Community
Flora Templeton Stuart was the first female attorney to open her own practice in 1976 in Bowling Green, Kentucky where she continues to practice. Her experiences are indicative of so many female lawyers in that era who faced discrimination in the profession.
When Flora Templeton Stuart graduated Chase Law School in 1976 her class was comprised of: 97% men, 3% women, and no minorities. After receiving her Juris Doctorate, she was rejected by major law firms when she sought employment. As a single mother she was told to go home “with her baby.” Through perseverance and hard work, along with the love of representing clients, Flora Stuart became nationally recognized. Her first major case was representing Marla Pichford who self-performed her own abortion. She eventually became a personal injury attorney with her own thriving practice.
During the past decades Ms. Stuart has faced discrimination from the Court and her peers. In one case a judge told her in chambers that he “would not allow women or blacks to practice law in his court.” Thereafter, a few law firms had names for her such as “Iron Pants” and “Bankruptcy Queen.” Recently, when she arrived for a deposition with her clients a local law firm receptionist referred to her as “Double Trouble.” In 2019 when representing a client in a wrongful death case, the defense attorney told her she was being “aggressive and coy”.
As the founder and owner of her business Ms. Stuart concentrates her practice in automobile and semi-truck collisions, Strong women are still not accepted in many circles and must continue to fight for their rights.
Where We Are Now
By 2017, women made up half of Juris Doctor (JD) students. Do not take that as a sign women are equally represented in the legal profession. As of January 2019, women accounted for only 38% of the legal profession, 30% of general counsel at Fortune 500 companies, and 22% of managing partners at the 200 largest law firms. Women in law also continuously face lower compensation than men. In 2018, women’s weekly salaries were 80% of men’s weekly salaries.
Women do make up a sizable percentage of the legal profession but at this time do not represent CEO’s of large corporations or the owners of successful legal practices.
Tips on Thriving in the Male-Dominated Legal Industry
Women can and do thrive in the legal profession. We have many attributes such as empathy for their clients, understanding with family relationships and determination from a lifetime discrimination. Many women feel more comfortable consulting with a female rather than a male lawyer.
Make Friends Everywhere and Serve Your Community
Take the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life. Give special attention to your waitress, attend festivals and community events, and most importantly being friendly to all those you meet.
Service to your community is not only rewarding but the best way to get known for making a difference in the lives of others. Find local charities, get appointed to boards, and attend fundraisers. Be involved in any aspect you can in your community and show you care.
Own Your Own Business or Be a Partner
The best secret to success is owning your own practice and be the boss and you will not have to be subservient to anyone else. If you are working in a firm, insist on partnership.
Marketing yourself is crucial. Make yourself highly visible and be a leader. If you own your own business learn the ins and outs of marketing such as Google advertising, SEO for your website and media advertisements. If you stand out from the rest you will be a success!
Being unique in a male dominated field such as high-end personal injury law and commercial litigation can be an advantage. Many clients and, in particular, females prefer a woman lawyer who often exhibits empathy. Women attorneys need to take advantage of their assets.
Go here to visit Flora’s website.