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.