Gritty girl lawyer tips

Written By: Lee Holcomb

Many female attorneys have been unable to find the success and happiness that they dreamed of when they were in law school. It seems that there is a belief among many women that to be a successful attorney you must rise through the ranks to become a partner in a law firm or general counsel at a large company. Why is that? Especially in light of the fact that traditional attorney jobs frequently come at the expense of taking time away from the things we love the most. In many instances, these jobs not only drain our time and energy but also fail to bring the happiness and financial success that is typically thought to go hand in hand with landing the perfect job. More importantly what is the solution?


While becoming a partner or a general counsel may be a valid dream and goal for some lawyers, it is not the only option nor is it the only path to success. Many female attorneys will, in fact, have as much if not more happiness and success if they have a less stressful job, more time to spend with their families, or simply free time to travel outside of work.


How do you accomplish this? We all know that attorneys are increasingly facing longer hours and less financial success? Although technology has brought new issues and problems to the legal industry, it has also brought many solutions. We are in the age of a new legal market. Learning how to leverage technology to boost your legal career is how many attorneys are distinguishing themselves today.


Technology was not on my mind when I started practicing law in 1998. My foremost focus was deciding what type of law I wanted to practice. Did I want to be a trial attorney, practice employment law, or perhaps work for a hospital in the healthcare industry? Now that choice is a secondary decision for many lawyers. The first and more important question may be, “how is the security or longevity of my practice going to be affected by technology?” At least, that should be a question that you are considering if you want to ensure that your legal career is profitable and has some room to grow over the next ten to twenty years.


Your second question might be, “how can technology make my life and my legal practice better?” What lifestyle choices are most important to you at this point? If you are having a child and need some time away from your current job, consider discussing with your boss whether they would allow you to work remotely after your maternity leave is over. Or perhaps your spouse's job has relocated your family to another area of the country. In today's interconnected world, you may not have to leave your current job. Before making a final decision, discuss the possibility of working remotely with your employer. Transportable jobs are more abundant than ever before and there are even more opportunities on the horizon as business, technology, and the law combine to create innovative new legal delivery solutions and careers.

Here are some additional tips that might help you rethink and reenergize your career.


Identify what a “successful career” means to you.

o   Take time for self-observation and time to accept that what you originally thought was the “perfect” job as an attorney may not be the perfect job for you.

o   Think about how you can create a legal career that is unique to you and your talents. Not what you think that others believe that you should be doing. But what your inner voice knows is right for you and your life.

o   Identify what you are passionate about and then apply what you have learned about yourself and your talents to create a unique career path that works for your lifestyle.

Learn how to embrace the changes in your personal and professional life.

o   With change comes growth. Sure every career change is difficult. But all career paths and life experiences can be used to build a unique portrait of yourself, to distinguish yourself, and help you find a legal career that is part of the core of who you are and who you want to be as a person.

Today more than ever before, playing by the same old rules is not necessarily the way to go. What additional skills and certifications will help you get to the next career step?

o   There are many online learning options (classes and certifications) that can help you increase your marketability. Take some time to explore whether there are some additional courses that will open up more career opportunities.

Look for the less obvious career path and recognize the route to success may not be the straight climb up the ladder, but a much less obvious path.

o   Consider whether your knowledge of privacy law might be a perfect segue to a career in cybersecurity.

o   Perhaps taking a new job, outside of the law firm, with a start-up technology company will bring you more free time or open up career growth? Or a smaller corporate job?

Learn how to tell people what you do and how to ask for help. 

o   This is one area where many female attorneys struggle the most; I know that I do. We frequently downplay what we do or don’t even mention it at all. If you don’t learn how to tell people what you do and how they can help you, they won’t be able to help. 

o   It may sound difficult, but if you take it one step at a time it won't be that hard to make a change. Practice asking for help at home first. Once you get comfortable asking your family for help try it out at work. 

o   I love helping my friends, my clients, and my colleagues make the most out of potential opportunities. You will likely find that most people feel this way.

And finally, as best said by Mr. Rogers.

o   “There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.” – Fred Rogers


When we start to look at our careers as not just attorneys, but as female attorneys and learn how we can distinguish ourselves in our careers, we will start to find more and more legal careers that fit our expectations and fulfill our needs.

Lee Holcomb