Boss Lady

Best practices for women beginning a career in law

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Women are breaking barriers across industries and the legal profession is no exception. According to data reported to the American Bar Association (ABA), the number of women enrolled in law school has outnumbered men since 2016. However, increased enrollment is only the first step for women on the path to becoming successful attorneys. Although improvements are being made across the industry to improve equality, according to the ABA, barriers and implicit bias are still being faced by women as they pursue a career in the legal profession. It is evidently still vital for women to support each other and help their junior colleagues starting out as lawyers. 

Learn from the experienced attorneys

Seeking guidance and connecting with experienced lawyers is vital to your success early on. Ask questions. Do not be afraid to go to your boss or colleagues for help. It’s sometimes more beneficial to ask for advice if you’re unsure about something instead of trying to figure things out on your own. Observing how your experienced colleagues handle cases and client interations will, not only help you to gain knowledge, but will also help you as you begin to develop your own style and technique. 

Leave your ego behind

When starting out, do not assume you know everything because you absolutely do not. The practice of law is nothing like law school. And, unfortunately, there are a lot of aspects of law for which law school simply cannot prepare you. Improving your practical and applied legal skills takes a long time – you learn something new every day.  If you experience a set-back or make a mistake, it’s important to understand that that happens to everyone. And, view it as a learning experience.  It is also important to not be afraid to trust your instincs and to maintain confidence in yourself and your ability to practice law. No one is perfect, and you can only grow as you gain the personal experience. 

Gender discrimination is alive and thriving

As a female in a historically male-dominated profession, women are often held to different, even higher standards. Although tough to put into practice at times, do not let anyone’s misperceptions stop you from feeling confident and moving forward. If you prepare and try your best, you won’t let yourself down.

Perseverance pays off

Working hard in law school and then working hard at your first job after graduation is essential to becoming a successful attorney. The latter is most important because exhibiting a desire  to succeed, showing your superiors that you are dedicated and committed to gaining the experience and skills to become a successful lawyer.

Network. Network. Network

Joining legal organizations is a very effective way to socialize and build a rapport with other attorneys and judges, as well as develop lifelong mentors. When I was a newly admitted attorney, I joined the Women and the Law Section and the Young Lawyers Section of the Delaware State Bar Association. It was a great way to meet other attorneys and to acquire mentors and contacts. I made a lot of connetions with many people with whom I am still in contact.  

Maintain a healthy work-life balance

Despite the hard work and determination needed to pursue a successful legal career, it is important to take time to care for yourself and to create an optimal work-life balance. Staying late at the office and ordering take-out at 10:00 PM happens. But, it’s important not to let that become a daily occurrence. Eating well, exercising, relaxing on the weekend are critical to avoid mental and physical exhaustion. It can be hard, but it is vital to build good habits and develop a healthy work-life balance early on in your career to prevent burn out. Work is just a part of your life – not your entire life.

 

Ultimately, while I can only speak to my own experience, there is no blueprint to navigate a career in law effectively. Hard work, perseverance, and self-motivation are the main driving forces behind becoming a successful attorney. Learning from experienced others, trusting your instincts, networking, and working hard, are all ways you can put yourself on the path to career success.

About Eileen McGivney

Eileen McGivney is a rising presence in the New York legal profession. In 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 she was selected to the New York Metro Super Lawyers Rising Stars list in the personal injury practice area. Prior to joining The Perecman Firm, McGivney served as an attorney at a prominent plaintiff’s firm in NYC. She was also an attorney at a personal injury law firm in Delaware for several years before moving to New York City. Admitted to practice law in the New York State Courts, Delaware State Courts, and Pennsylvania State Courts, she is also a member of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association.

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