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[BALANCE] Litigating As A Woman Attorney--It's Quite The Balancing Act

I recently came across a great article from the American Lawyer via entitled: Obstacle Course--To make it in the male-dominated world of litigation, women have to break through old stereotypes to build top-tier practices.  The article discusses the challenges faced by female litigators--both inside and outside the courtroom. 

Inside the courtroom, women litigators confront "subtle gender expectations":

(F)emale litigators...are in a unique bind. They're expected to attend to all of the details of running a case; and yet, to advance their careers, they must resist becoming the stereotype of the "pleasing" female. They're expected to be tough advocates for their clients, but not too tough, lest judges or opposing counsel call them the dreaded b-word. Many balance the long and unpredictable hours of litigation with family responsibilities, but many also feel they must work harder than men to prove that they are serious about getting the good assignments, and eventually the prize of partnership. They must consider the implications of every gesture, from bringing coffee to mentioning child care problems.

(W)omen today still face reminders that the playing field isn't level in or outside of the courtroom. Assistant U.S. attorney Ruemmler remembers an elevator ride with one defense lawyer in the 2004 Enron Nigerian barge trial who said to her: "While we're picking the jury, why don't you go get us some sandwiches?" Ruemmler, 35, was one of three lead prosecutors. ..

Outside the courtroom, women litigators juggle the demands of family with their highly demanding area of practice:

For women struggling to balance the demands of work and family, litigation presents many challenges. By definition, litigators work on companies' most pressing matters. Clients want to reach them 24/7, and it's hard to lobby for the largest cases if you try to draw hard lines on your personal and family time. Plus, travel is routine, and shifting court schedules guarantee unpredictable hours.

It's a schedule that doesn't mix well with family or a life outside the office. Of course, litigators who are fathers also struggle with finding this balance. But the burden of family responsibilities still falls disproportionately on women, many say. And the years leading up to the brass ring of partnership often converge with women's prime childbearing years. ...

Litigators aren't just balancing the demands of their own clients; they must also devote time to finding new ones. Most firms today demand that partners generate significant business. But the traditional modes of winning business from the male-dominated corporate boardrooms-dinners, weekend social outings, rounds of golf-are additional demands on time that are hard for those with families to meet.

I thought that this article raised some excellent points and its analysis of the issues that women litigators confront on a daily basis was spot on. 

Litigation has always been the area of law that I enjoy the most.  I love the thrill of picking a jury and find the adrenalin rush (after rush after rush) of trial to be exhilarating.  Some of my fondest memories as an attorney occurred during jury trials. 

Catching a witness in an outright lie during cross-examination is particularly rewarding.  Even more rewarding was the not guilty verdicts that followed in record time after successful cross-examinations of complainants and cops.  I love trying cases--always have, always will.

And yet.  And yet.  I have a family--a husband and young children whom I actually enjoy spending time with on a daily basis.  Little children who are growing up so fast--so quickly.  And, I love watching them grow.  I love watching their minds develop--their little personalities emerge.  I love them more than life itself, and unfortunately, I can't say the same about about litigation.   I enjoy it and it's in my blood, but I can live without it--for now.

So, research and writing it is.  And, it's good thing.  I've always enjoyed and excelled at that aspect of practice--almost as much as I enjoy litigating.   But, the call of the courtroom is ever present.  I'll hold it at bay for now.  But, in the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger:  I'll be back. 

You can count on it.


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