Sunday, April 18, 2010

Movin' On Up, to the First Chair - The Fate of Women Trial Lawyers

There are many fine trial lawyers who are women.  More women are trial lawyers. Many more than when I started in practice.  But, we need more women willing to go to trial.  This blog is for those who have not made it to the first chair, perhaps not even to the second chair.  This is for the woman who is afraid, like the rest of us, and who wonders if there is something wrong, if she is just too scared.  This blog is for the "everywoman" lawyer who wants the best for her client but fears she is not good enough, not strong enough, not tough enough.

I never thought I would quote Franklin Roosevelt, but his statement, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" is apt, not only in life, but especially in trial.  We usually imagine things much worse than what really happens in everyday life. Fear of failure is much worse than failure.  Fear of anything is worse than just about anything you can be afraid of.  We are all afraid at times.  Even the biggest, strongest, toughest male lawyer gets scared in trial.  We need to just do, even if we are afraid.

 In my opinion, a trial lawyer needs to be able to do the following;

1.  Listen.  Listen wholeheartedly and completely without thinking or experiencing anything else.  Listen and be present.

2.  Care.  Care for your client.  Figure out what you love about your client.  Figure out what irks you about your client and what that trait reminds you of in you and why it irks you so.

3.  Understand.  Understand your opponents, both parties and lawyers, and why they are doing what they are doing.  Understand your client.  Understand the jury.

Most lawyers, most people, can listen, care and understand.  Most people could try a case  We, as lawyers, complicate things and forget our real purpose. We make it seem too hard, too complicated, too fraught with traps.  Lawyers complicate simple things.  We need to simplify.  Life is more simple than we make it.

We make going to trial seem complicated because it is so frightening.  Women trial lawyers are oftentimes perfectionists.  It is frightening to not appear perfect, to appear to be fallible.  We didn't get to this place by appearing weak and for me, appearing weak is my greatest fear,  Embrace your fear.

In a previous post, I claimed that women are better trial lawyers than men.  That was a joke.  It's not true.  The truth is that being an effective trial lawyer has nothing to do with gender.  In the past, women have been too willing to take a subservient role, though.  Why is that?  It is easier to appear to be perfect if we don't risk the perception of imperfection.  Going to trial invites the risk of the perception of imperfection.

This is a plea to women who care, who feel strongly, who have a sense of justice. Go to trial, champion your client's cause. Risk failure, risk rejection.  It is scary, it is hard.  However, you don't need to be the most articulate, beautiful or intelligent person in the room.  But, you do have to be sincere, care, and be spontaneous.  Whom of you cannot do that?  I suspect there is not a one.

1 comment: