What Young Women Lawyers Can Learn from a Recent Political Upset

Last week was witness to a remarkable “W” for a democratic primary candidate.  In case you have not heard, 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez brought off a stunning upset over a ten-year incumbent in New York’s 14th Congressional District.

If you are not yet impressed that this is remarkable, stay with me.  There is more.  The “more” is that this young woman pulled off the win although she never has held public office, has no big donors, and was running a campaign on a shoe string.  So how could that happen?

The simple answer is that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez knew how to communicate to voters.  Her principles were strong, and her message was clear.  I also have seen her interviewed, and she is an appealing personality.  I might have wanted to support her if I lived in New York.

Now you probably want to know why I am deviating from my “no politics” policy to bring you this information.  Good question.

The good answer is that I am an advocate for all women.  What impressed me about this story is that the messages this young woman candidate projected met certain criteria that can benefit all women, including women attorneys.

Let’s break that down.

These messages were explained very well in a recent Above The Law article.  As pointed out there, “In many ways, the legal profession resembles politics: connections and money matters, and youth and inexperience are viewed as disadvantages.”

And that is why the victory by Ocasio-Cortez should be important to you.

Here are my interpretations of the take-aways from that article:

  • Open Your Own Doors:  Do not rely on sponsors to do your bidding for you.  You are responsible for your own success.  It is fine to accept help from others but on our own terms;
  • No Excuses:  Just because there are others with better credentials and stronger connections to the “big boys,” that does not mean that you get a pass on trying.  Remember that your enthusiasm and your positive attitude can have a winning influence on people.  Maybe there is no one who is willing to introduce you to potential clients.  So?  Get out there on your own.  Go to as many venues and meet as many people as possible.  Networking 101.
  • Lead with the Why and How Will Follow:  Too cryptic?  In simpler terms, tell people why you are the best at what you do and how you can benefit them with your expertise and talents.  That is strategy —  not bragging.  Smart women do it.  It also is  good old-fashioned common sense.  My grandmother used to say, “Don’t let your flowers die on the vine.”

So, take a page out of Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s book and GO FOR IT!  You just might be as surprised as she was with the result.


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