Is the Field of Law Still Dominated by Men?
Yes, the law field is an area where men still reign, but change, while slow, is bringing balance to the field. Women make up 50% of all law school student, and there are more women in law with each passing year. Many legal associations are working to improve the ratio of men to women in the legal field, and the American Bar Association (ABA) has the American Bar Association Commission on Women which studies the experiences of women of all races who work as lawyers and seeks to improve the experience of female lawyers. On a more global level, the International Federation of Women in Legal Careers is a non-governmental organization of women lawyers who work to fight to eradicate all forms of discrimination against women jurists.
Women who want to become lawyers shouldn’t be deterred from entering into law school whatsoever. However, women in law school should be fully aware of the difficulties that they’ll face in their first year and the self-promotion expected of students who wish to secure a career at a prestigious law firm upon graduation.
What Can I Expect From Law School as a Woman?
The field of law is highly competitive and law school is no different. Women in law school will find that their first year of school is the toughest. Students who push the hardest in their first year are the ones who get the rewards in terms of choice career opportunities. Some students refer to this as “playing the game,” and female students who engage in the game are more likely to succeed than those who don’t. This may sound discriminatory to women on the surface, but the unwritten rules are not designed to weed out women specifically so much as it’s designed to identify students who are engaged and willing to put in the effort to learn.
However, women tend to be put under more scrutiny due to the perception that women in the law field is a rarity. This still goes on despite the fact that half of all law students are women. It’s an unfortunate fact of both the educational and professional sides of the legal field, but change for the better does happen, albeit slowly.
Will I Find Career Success in the Legal Field as a Woman?
Women in law find work in big law firms to government positions and everywhere in between. There are women who make partners in law firms of all sizes as well as win elections for state prosecutor positions. However, it may take a while for a woman in law to get their career started when compared to a male lawyer. Female lawyers who are in senior positions tend to be harder on junior female lawyers because they had to work hard and prove themselves in a male dominated field. They frequently feel that they need to subject junior lawyers to the same harsh treatment in order to put them to the test and make sure that they, too, will be able to keep up with the “pack” as they gain experience and seniority.
Women in law school need to take advantage of opportunities to clerk for judges and internships in law firms. This not only exposes the female law student to what it’s like to work in different areas of law, it also gains them access to a potential employer. Finding employment after graduation is made easier when you and your quality of work is already known by a potential employer.
Should I go to a Male-Dominated Law School?
Yes, you should not let the attitudes of men towards women deter you from going to law school and pursuing your dreams as a legal advocate. The phrase “Be the change you want to be” is very applicable for women in law school, or who are thinking about attending. The more women who are willing to stand up and against outdated attitudes and assumptions towards women in law school and working in law firms, the better it becomes for you and the female lawyers who will enter the field after you. Male lawyers are capable of proper and polite behavior towards women as long as there are female lawyers willing to push for these standards.
Female lawyers may not realize they’re signing onto a career where they have to advocate for clients and themselves, but the field of law can be very rewarding in terms of career satisfaction and income. The issues of competition and discrimination disappear more quickly as the number of women in law increases and minimizes the potential for bad behavior from male counterparts.