As a female lawyer fresh out of law school, you may face challenges as you embark on your career. However, choosing the legal profession can be extremely rewarding from many angles. Not only can you achieve success in a challenging and intellectually stimulating field, but you can also make a meaningful contribution to society by working to ensure that justice is served, and the truth is upheld. Additionally, a career in the legal profession can provide you with a decent income, allowing you to pursue your passions and hobbies according to a recent report by lawyer Marcy Resnik during a Great Day Live news segment. One key factor that can help you navigate the early years of your career as a female lawyer is having a supportive and experienced mentor who can provide guidance and support as you navigate the complexities of the profession.
Many women attorneys have left the legal profession due to the challenges they face during their early years as professionals. This is a difficult decision to make, especially after all the hard work and effort required to graduate from law school. Unfortunately, the legal profession may have lost valuable talent due to these women not being able to progress to senior positions and enjoy the same level of professional development as their male counterparts.
Challenges Women Lawyers Face in the Profession
According to research conducted by the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women, women lawyers, particularly women of color, face several barriers in the workplace. They may be more likely to be interrupted or mistaken for non-lawyers, be assigned more office housework, and have less access to prime job assignments compared to their male counterparts. Here are three key challenges that can hamper women’s excellence in their legal careers:
Women in the legal field believe they are underpaid compared to their male colleagues, despite having similar levels of experience. This pay gap has persisted for decades and is often compounded for minority women lawyers, who may also receive more time-consuming office work than their colleagues, further negatively impacting their pay rates.
As lawyers, women are subjected to sexual harassment at work. According to the American Bar Association, 7% of white men and about 25% of women experience sexual harassment. This may take the form of suggestive comments about women’s appearance rather than my work. The ABA report claims that some women have even lost out on prospects for career progression as a result of rejecting unwanted sexual advances.
Women’s legal professionals are frequently disadvantaged for their commitments to their immediate and extended families. Due to pregnancy or parental leave, female attorneys also lose out on prospects for promotions and career progression. These difficulties make many women desire to quit their careers, but the need to support their families financially often keeps them from doing so.
Why a Mentorship Program Can Make a Difference for Young Female Lawyers
Mentorship involves experienced lawyers who are willing to support and guide a junior lawyer, sharing their knowledge and expertise gained from years of practice. In return, the mentee is willing to assist the mentor, give them credit for their guidance, and work towards becoming a confident and successful attorney.
Mentors serve as role models for young female attorneys, providing them with valuable insights and experience that cannot be learned in law school. A mentee will not only seek guidance from their mentor attorney, but may also emulate their work habits, interpersonal skills, and business savvy. By participating in a mentorship relationship, young female attorneys can benefit from the guidance and support of an experienced mentor, helping them navigate the early years of their legal career and setting the foundation for future success.
As mentees progress and develop over time, their mentors can support them in becoming confident and proficient in the courtroom, advancing in their careers from inexperienced attorneys to high-flying lawyers or even partners in a law firm. The mentees can also get access to professional development opportunities through endorsement and get help in balancing their professional and personal lives.