Thursday, November 12, 2009

Women Trial Lawyers - As Good or Better Than Men

I have been a civil trial lawyer for 26 years and there are not many more women trying plaintiffs' case than there were 26 years ago.  Why is this?  I have a friend, a highly skilled and accomplished female trial lawyer who was beat out for a prestigious position to a man even though she was better qualified.  Why?  Gerry Spence opined in my presence that it would be hard for women to be trial lawyers because we are not natural fighters or warriors. I told him that he was wrong because we women fight all the time - we fight for our children, we fight for ourselves, we fight for justice.  It's just that we aren't as loud.  I don't think we need to be.

 Is it true that women are ill-equipped to fight in the rough and tumble world of trial work? I say NO!!!!  Resoundingly NO!!!!!  What I am going to write about are my own opinions and observations only.  I believe that women have the capacity to far outshine their male trial lawyer counterparts.  But, women have not excelled in traditionally recognized ways.  I think there are a couple of reasons for that.

First of all, women, by and large, have much smaller egos than their male counterparts.  For instance, I second chaired a case with my partner and we won.  We belong to a local lawyers group that meets monthly. Although our all female firm tries many cases with results as good as the male firms, I cannot remember one time when a meeting was devoted to stories about one of our cases. There is another woman in the organization and I know that the same thing has happened to her.  However, with the male trial lawyers, not only do they have meetings devoted to them when they win, I remember attending a meeting where one of the male lawyers spent the whole time talking about what great strategies he had and things he had done in trial in a case that he LOST.  The long and short of it is that male trial lawyers brag more than women trial lawyers.  I will explain how this lack of ego and bragging in women can make them better trial lawyers than the men.

Second, women are less likely to take risks that men are.  I mean less likely to risk going to trial, to risk acting as first chair, to risk making a mistake in front of others,to risk losing money, and to risk asking for money from a jury.  Women need to take more risks.  

Third, because there are fewer women trying plaintiffs' civil cases, we look to males as models for what a trial lawyer is.  Yes, they fight.  Yes, they talk a lot.  Yes, they brag.  Out of those three traits, the only male trait that is really effective is that they fight.  The other two traits are detrimental to representing clients.  However, since we have male role models, people, espouse that you have to act like a "man" to be a successful trial lawyer.  That is poppycock.  I will tell you why,

Men are more ego-centric and are more likely to make the trial about themselves.  "I won this trial."  "The jury gave ME..."  While female lawyers are more willing to focus on the client.  Women are more likely to be nurturers.  Nurturers protect and nourish their clients.  And by "protect," I mean fight for their client.  Women don't have to be the focus, and sometimes men, who want to be the focus step all over their female counterparts to get attention.  Mind you, these are stereotypes and generalizationsw and not all male trial lawyers are like this.  In fact, I have tried several cases with men, most notably with Rafe Foreman, who did not demonstrate the male egoic traits I have ascribed to male trial lawyers.  When a trial lawyer makes the case really about himself, he has lost sight of his job.

These are the typical female traits which allow women the potential to be superior trial lawyers:

1.   Ability to LISTEN instead of talking all the time.  In my opinion, many trials have been lost because the lawyer failed to listen and was hell-bent on being the star of the show.  Women are better listeners. Better listeners are better story-tellers.

2.   Women have more EMPATHY.  Empathy, or the ability to place oneself in the shoes of another and understand them is a critical trait for people, not just trial lawyers.  Kindness, caring and understanding all come from empathy.

3.   LACK OF OVER-ACTIVE EGO allows women to be in the moment, be real and spontaneous.  All traits helpful in life as well as in trial.

4.   Because of women's EMPATHY, LACK OF EGO, AND LISTENING ABILITIES, women are more trustworthy.  Sincerity, honesty and trustworthiness (along with preparedness, etc.) are the keys to persuasion.  Women have the innate ability, that some women suppress, to be sincere and trustworthy and focus on their clients.  Those are building blocks for great trial lawyers.

The only beneficial trait I see less in women than men is the desire to take risks.  Women are simply going to have to jump off the cliff and try cases.  Once this happens, I predict that society's view of effective trial lawyers will change and women will be venerated.  Women are as smart as men.  Women prepare as hard as men.  Women are oftentimes more believed than men,.  The lawyer who is believed and has the jury's trust is the one the jury will want to win.

So, I think women lawyers need to try cases, but not just copy the styles of men.  Women need to be confident enough to be themselves and not to adopt the annoying egoistic qualities of some of the male trial lawyers.  I hope that we are starting a movement where women take their rightful role as trial lawyers.  Women are well suited for the job.


  1. Lynne, I haven't thought about all this in a long time. You are absolutely right on every point you make. I laughed out loud about the meeting about a case the guy lost - I think I've heard the same presentation. I see all these young women lawyers and am so happy to see them in the practice that I have failed to notice that they are not trying cases. Your idea that we need to teach each other - and perhaps be systematic about encouraging young women to be trial lawyers - is right on. Thanks so much for being an inspiration - sometimes a quiet one - to so many.

  2. You are right no. Gerry Spence will never understand the power, talent or skill of female trial lawyers.

  3. Why do so many male trial lawyers devalue and underestimate women trial lawyers. That is why I will no longer be involved in the Trial Lawyers College. It is run by mysogonistic men who do not appreciate or value women. The men at TLC get all the atta boys and accolades and the women are pretty much ignored or treated poorly. Thank you for writing such a great, empowering blog piece!

  4. Young women are happy and eager to try cases. The men who hire (or in many instances fail to hire them) need to let go of their egos and old fashioned notions that women are too fragile for the "rough and tumble or litigation" and allow and encourage young women to try cases. Early on I had a boss who encouraged me to try cases. I was 95 pounds and very soft spoken. No one would ever call me aggressive. My boss did not regret his decision. I won consistently. As long as an attorney knows her/his case and is comfortable with her/his style, the attorney will be a good trial lawyer. Whether you are a man or women simply does not and should not matter.

  5. I agree with the last comment. Women should be encouraged to try cases and the men who hire them or for whom they work should promote them and encourage them. Sadly, far too often men put down women, take advantage of them and take credit for the work women do. Or worse, don't even give women and recognition or credit for their accomplishments. We women need to stand up for ourselves and take control of our own careers! I got an email a while ago about a trial seminar for women being held in Palm Springs in May. Seems like a great chance for us women trial lawyers to come together, learn, grow and build mentor relationships with other women. I certainly plan on going and can't wait!

  6. Sorry but in saying this are you not contradicting your own point by stereotyping all women into a cliché passive facade? Isn’t it important to emphasize the lack of difference between male and female lawyers not just relabel false historic stereotypes used for oppression in positive terms?

  7. I just finished a trial where the other attorney badgered and belittled me every step of the way. He tried to bully my client and I and in the end it backfired and I think he came across as an abusive jerk more than a convincing advocate. Anyway, the "tougher" he got the better it was for my case.

  8. I believe there need to be more female trial lawyers in criminal defense. I am so alone here as the only female trial lawyer in this county that I wonder sometimes about staying here. TLC made me realize that I have something different to offer. Not better, not worse, but different. I don't case how far science goes, no man will ever give birth and no female will have a truly working penis. Doesn't make either one better, in fact, it take both to procreate so why worry about it. Females may not all be suited to be trial lawyers... so what. We should all do what we are capable and comfortable with and we should all step outside that comfort zone!

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  12. Brave, risk-taker - more and more women have thrown off meek and deferential attitudes. Women trial lawyers are as tough as men. In fact, women trial lawyers may be a little braver than men because not only do they have to fight for their clients, they must fight in an area that was a traditionally male battleground. more information

    1. Choudhury roy I don't understand why women in male dominated industries like trial lawyers must be a little braver because it is male dominated. What does the classification male dominated really mean and isn't practically every industry male dominated? All male dominated really means is that there are more men in it than woman. Of course there are more men than women up until recently because up until World WAR II women weren't in the work place.they got married and stayed at home. since the war and especially during the last decade women have been pouring into the work place and are now better than 50% of the labor pool.Will this mean in a short while most industries will have more women than men. This will be good because we men than following your and most women's example we can start claiming as a handicap that we men are working in a woman dominated industry as our excuse for not being treated equally.

  13. Just some more male bashing. This quote shows this is just another female supremicist venting some more BS.Of course the author might be a male because there is no shortage these days of males triping all over themselves to anounce to the world their own gender's inferiority.Take Dan Abrams book "Man Down" for example in which he tries to prove women excel over men in everything. You would think he shouldn't be so proud of his gender being so inferior.

    But Dan isn't the only one whose proud of his inferiority. Male bashing is very much in vouge these days. Just google Do women make better plumber,better auto repair mehanics,better welders, better writers, better truck drivers, better heavy equipment opperators, better taxi cab drivers better salesmen, better leaders, better euntrapuners etc etc etc and the results will be that yes indeed women are much better than their male counter parts at practicaly everything. I'll bet there are even some studies out there proving women make better men than men do!!I'll bet there are studies showing women get biger firmer and longer lasting erections than men do.

    I even read one blogger who claimed that behind every successful man their stands a woman. So even when a man pulls off a miracle and does succeede at something women want to get the credit for it. What I could never understand is that since women want to take the credit for every man that does something good why then don't they take the blame for every man who does something bad? Women are like God. Ever notice how it is with God? God gets the credit for every good thing mankind does while not taking any of the blame when His creation screwup. Well with women it the same way.

    It must gore women that Jesus Christ was a man and not a woman. Didn't God know how susperior women are than men? Why then didn't He send His daughter. Maybe if He had sent His daughter she could have figured out how to save the human race without getting herself nailed to a cross. Maybe if Jesus had been a little better at multitasking he wouldn't have ended up in some garden bleeding from every pore.If men are so inferior why did God appoint man to be the head of the house? No wonder the world is in such a mess! If God had had the good sense to put women in charge He wouldn't have had to be crusified!!

    Notice in the blog above much is made of the male ego but it seems to me the way the author writes she has a fairly big ego herself. The major problem the author displays is her piling on. she has not said anything redeeming or good about male trial lawyers. She should realize that pride as the good book says Goeth befor a fall. Maybe if women stoped proclaiming their alleged superiority and gave a little credit to men, men would be more inclined to listen to her but quite frankly most men would be justifyably turned off by her condencending approach.She is not going to prove her case to the ones she trying to persuade by heaping condemnation on them.She just lost this case with this reader.

  14. In many civil law countries, prosecutors are trained and employed as part of the judiciary; they are law-trained jurists, but may not necessarily be lawyers in the sense that the word is used in the common law world.[63] In common law countries, prosecutors are usually lawyers holding regular licenses who simply happen to work for the government office that files criminal charges against suspects. Criminal defense lawyers specialize in the defense of those charged with any crimes.[64]

  15. David AuCoin demonstrates the fragile male ego that is hurt by a woman advocating for more women to work in a traditionally male dominated profession-- yes, David, all women are attacking YOU and all MEN when they, also, want to work as trial lawyers. Yes, it's all about YOU David

  16. Hi Chicha: Looks like I hit a nerve in you. I notice how you described my ego as fragile. I have never seen it in print where the male ego was ever described as healthy. Of course we know the female ego is strong and healthy where the male ego is huge and fragile and sickly. Well females do have egos and they are just as fragile and sickly as males.

    The blog above makes the same mistake so many females make which is in their haste to present themselves as superior they pile on so many good things about themselves while saying practically nothing good about men and then women wonder why men don't praise them. Maybe if women stopped praising themselves males would be more praising of women but when women praise themselves so much they hardly leave any room for males to praise them.According to the female author women have the ability to listen as if men don't. And of course without a smidgen of evidence she perpetuates the myth that women have more empathy.Well if she had a little of that alleged feminine female empathy she alleged women have I would not have felt the need to to try an anchor her to the ground before she floated off into outer space with her pride. She didn't display any empathy for her male readers And of course women don't have egos another blatant lie.Then she ends her case by saying there is only one male trait that women don't have. That means women have all the other traits that are good. wow don't we think we are the cat's meow!While she accuses men of bragging her whole blog is one gigantic boast.

    I can support a woman who is trying to make the case that women are just as good as male trial lawyers but when women try to present themselves as superior like when she wrote "These are the typical female traits which allow women the potential to be superior trial lawyers" she is walking on the fighting side of me. As long as women keep trying to prove they are superior they are hurting there own cause.she starts right off in the title with"Women trial lawyers As Good or Better Than Men". If she had left off "or better than men" I could support her but the words or better is really saying women are better trial lawyers. A little more humility is in order. Remember when a writer only says positive things about herself and nothing positive about males it comes across as male bashing. She may think women are superior lawyers but she lost the case with me.