Why Being A Woman In Law Is An Advantage

Why Being A Woman In Law Is An AdvantageThis week we welcome back guest writer Hillary Vaillancourt to talk about some advantages to being a woman in the legal field.

As women, we constantly hear about all of the reasons why the legal profession can be difficult. Clients assume we’re not tough. We have to earn clients’ respect. We have to earn the respect of our peers. We have to work twice as hard for half the pay. It’s impossible to have work-life balance. And, a family? Forget it.

But, there are many ways in which being a woman in law can be a great advantage. When you think of all the ways that being female is an asset (not a hindrance), you can see how to empower yourself in your career. Play to your strengths and you can accomplish whatever you set out to do.

You Are Underestimated

When I graduated law school I was only twenty-three years old, but I looked like I was about seventeen. Someone actually asked me one day in court if it was “Take Your Daughter to Work Day.” I was holding case files and a briefcase and thought I looked the part of a real lawyer, but was reminded just how much perception can play into the legal field. At first, I was upset and felt I had to work harder to prove myself. Then I realized that being underestimated was a huge advantage. Other attorneys didn’t expect me to know much of anything. I had the element of surprise in my favor.

And, when I negotiated plea deals, I came across to the older attorneys as almost like a granddaughter. They didn’t want to disappoint the sweet, new attorney that reminded them of their college-aged loved one. I got fair, but really quality deals on behalf of my clients.

I quickly learned that I didn’t need to act like a tough know-it-all. I just needed to be myself. And, if other attorneys or even clients sometimes didn’t expect much from me, being able to prove them wrong was incredibly rewarding.

Different Skill-Sets

Everybody is different, of course. And, the age-old gender stereotypes of men being tough while women are better at the so-called soft skills isn’t necessarily true for everyone. Whether you identify with the classic gender stereotypes or not, there are certain skills that you, yourself, have that set you apart from others.

If you do identify as being stronger with the soft-skills, that can be a huge asset in your practice of law. This can be especially true in certain areas of law. An estate planning attorney who takes the time to really get to know her clients is likely to be more successful than an attorney who gruffly makes snap decisions about a client’s estate. And, that client will be more likely to come back to you when they need to buy or sell real estate, when they need an update to their estate plans, when they want to establish a trust, or when they need any other additional legal services.

Not only do these soft-skills help you serve your clients well, but they also helps you build a successful practice.

Comeraderie

Perhaps because women do face so many challenges, we understand the struggles we go through. In my experience practicing law so far, there have definitely been plenty of helpful male attorneys, but nobody will celebrate your successes or commiserate with you over your struggles better than fellow women in the legal profession.

I recently experienced some serious frustrations at my law firm. I applied for the job rather than hang my own shingle, because I figured the mentorship I was promised at the law firm would help me learn my new jurisdiction faster than if I slogged it out on my own.

The problem was, I wasn’t really mentored the way I expected I would be. Instead, I joined several female lawyer groups on Facebook. I found women there from all different legal jobs: in-house counsel, solo practitioners, partners at small law firms, aspiring partners at big firms, and every other legal job (and sometimes legal-adjacent job) you can think of.

There are women who post questions about how to balance breast feeding and litigating. Questions about where to find stylish courtroom attire. Questions about how to handle announcing a pregnancy at work. Questions about how to take maternity leave. Questions our male counterparts would never think of or would have little to no first-hand experience on the subject.

Not all women are supportive of other women, but the women who are—they will be your absolute best cheerleaders and help you blaze a new path in your own legal career.

Embrace Your Strengths

Too often, we as women, are taught that our gender is a disadvantage, something that has to be overcome. But, when you play to your strengths, even if those strengths are typical female stereotypes, you become stronger. And, when you become a part of a supportive female community, there is no limit to what you can accomplish—especially in the legal field.


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About Hillary Vaillancourt

Hillary Vaillancourt is a lawyer and writer at The Vaillancourt Law Firm, LLC. She has experience in a wide variety of matters including food law, education law, real estate law, family law, criminal law, contracts, and estate planning. She earned her JD from New England Law|Boston and is licensed in Virginia.

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