October 2, 2009

Women in Law

I was telling a good friend of mine from law school about my blog and in describing it I told her about this post in which I explained that too many women in the law and in law school are afraid of color.  Well, during our conversation, we discussed that part of this reason is that the law is such an old and stodgy business that its very hard for things to change and takes a very long time as well.  

In addition, it is still viewed as a "gentleman's profession".  It is not unheard of, and in fact is rather expected that male older partners in firms will talk down to women associates (lawyers just starting out) and exclaim that they do great work, for a woman!  So taken in this context, its almost as if in order for women to succeed in the law, they have to be men.  Now, rationally this doesn't make sense and isn't quite possible, but fashionably it can be done.  This means wearing boxy suits that don't flatter, nothing bright or shiny, few accessories, short hair, little makeup, etc.  The list can go on and on and on!  

What is most unfortunate, for me as a woman of 25 getting ready to start my legal career, is that this is still happening in 2009.  It doesn't matter that a woman has legitimately run for her party's nomination for president or that some of the most powerful people in business are women or that there have been three different women be a part of the Supreme Court.  It is still easier and more acceptable for a woman to dress as a man rather than be beautiful or wear flattering clothes or have style.  

It is in this context that I write my blog.  Knowing that I am going into a world that has changed some, for example women are no longer required to wear skirt suits to court.  HOWEVER, it is still strongly encouraged because some judges really do care if you respect the court enough to wear a skirt suit to court instead of a pant suit.  I know that incorporating color (and style) into a legal wardrobe is difficult.  Its even harder to be pretty and respected, because as is often the case, pretty = dumb, bitchy and unqualified.  And of course, on the other hand, if you're too matronly or out of date, then you get made fun of.  Need I mention Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton and her pantsuits?  How much crap has she gotten because of her pantsuits? A LOT.  But you know what, it is on her shoulders, and the shoulders of many other women that have come before her, that I go into the legal field.  Yes, its hard.  Yes, I will be judged.  But, Yes, I can be successful and still be true to myself.  Yes, I can still have a family and be a lawyer (Case in point First Lady Michelle Obama and HRC).  Yes, it can be done.   

DISCLAIMER: It is not always the case that women are mistreated or viewed negatively simply for being women, however, there are enough of those places that still exist such that a law student like me can feel the negativity even while still in law school.   

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