You now have had the chance to consider the challenge of the last blog: How was being pregnant going to affect the greatest courtroom opportunity of my early but developing career? If you did not read it before, here it is again.
Many of you will be pregnant at some time during your careers, and, just as the work-life struggle affects women lawyers with family responsibilities more than it affects male lawyers with families, even being pregnant can affect you adversely in the workplace, limit some of your opportunities and just plain cause you to be treated differently. Most women lawyers want courtroom experience just as much as their male colleagues. Getting it, however, can be a little more complicated for a woman, as you will see.
There was a lot riding on the case for our client, the product manufacturer, in this pioneering litigation. (If you don’t know about Toxic Shock Syndrome, there are products involved. Look it up!) That is why I was so sure that I would be taking a huge risk by disclosing my pregnancy, and it was a real dilemma for me.
On the one hand, I weighed the benefits and the possible risks, and I knew that the conservative route would be to disclose the pregnancy and chance punting on a great trial experience. On the other hand, our position was strong, I knew that there was a real possibility that the case would settle before any signs of a baby bump, and I REALLY wanted to see that case through.
So … I kept my impending motherhood — and my serious morning sickness — to myself until the case settled— when I was more than five months pregnant! I made the announcement to my trial team as we walked away from the courthouse after the settlement! What I would have done if the case had not settled is not clear. But, it all worked in my favor, and I didn’t have to think about it.
Women should not be put in these kinds of situations, but sometimes it is unavoidable. In those days, there was no open discussion about things like pregnancy. Firms hadn’t thought through how to handle it, and women lawyers didn’t bring it up.
Although things are different today and being a pregnant lawyer is hardly a problem these days, you will have your own similar and delicate challenges, and you will need to know how to handle them. So, here is my best advice for achieving success in these kinds of situations:
- Be prepared for everything;
- Think like the lawyer you are—even if your hormones are raging;
- Be professional in the way you handle challenges;
- Put yourself in the shoes of your superiors and consider it from their perspectives;
- Don’t automatically assume that people are being unfair to you;
- Look for challenging legal experiences that will take you to the next level professionally;
- Don’t forfeit good experience unless it cannot be avoided; and always
- Find good mentors and sponsors, and make sure that some of them are women who can teach you these things.
Best of luck. My experience tells me that you will need it!