Learning from History During Women’s History Month

During Women’s History Month, I think it is appropriate to look at how far women lawyers have come since 155 years ago when Arabella Mansfield was the first woman admitted to a state bar.  To understand this history and put it in context, I refer you to “The Truth About Women Litigators” by Anne Redcross Beehler, an article which was included in a recent Holland and Knight law firm newsletter.   You will be interested, I think, and amazed, in some situations, to hear some of what women litigators put up with in the past and how different it is today.

I am one of those litigators, having started in practice in 1979 when there were relatively few women lawyers and when I joined a law firm of 25 men, most of them litigators.  It was a bumpy ride to be sure, but I survived and flourished.  There were not any senior women lawyers there to give me guidance, and I had to figure it out on my own.

However, I do not want any of you to have to figure it all out alone.  Not at all.  I am one of those women lawyers who is comfortable having you stand on my shoulders and who thinks that mentoring young lawyers is my responsibility as a professional.

If you are reluctant to read the article because you are not a litigator, do not let that stop you.  So many of the concepts that you will read about are more important as a matter of gender and not of practice specialty.  They are very transferable into other areas of practice.

That is, with the exception of some experiences in the courtroom.  I doubt that many female transactional lawyers in my day experienced a federal judge address her as “woman, girl or whatever you people want to be called these days.”  And that judge did not stop at one such inappropriate remark.  He must have liked the sound of it because it was a constant theme when I was in his courtroom.  Even when I was winning!

Enjoy the article.  Pay attention to the advice for the future as well as the outrageous stories from the past.  It is the present and the future where you can use your role as an influencer to make a difference that will continue to improve the profession for women.

Vive les femmes!



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