May 25, 2011 Articles

Advice for Younger Women Lawyers

Abbe Fletman offers advice to young women lawyers on how to have a satisfying career and happy life.

By Abbe Fletman

Even though women have been entering the legal profession in significant numbers at least since my law school days (I graduated in 1988), fewer than a third of the lawyers in America are women; about 16 percent of the equity partners at law firms are women—a statistic that hasn’t improved in the last five years; 15 percent of general counsels are women; 25 percent of federal district court judges are women; and women equity partners earn only about 85 percent of male equity partner compensation.

So now that I’ve totally depressed you and myself, I thought I’d give the idiosyncratic story of my own career and some pointers on what I think will lead young women lawyers to a satisfying career and even a happy life. I was born in 1959 at the tail end of the Baby Boom and came of age as the world was changing. I grew up in a middle-class family in Northeast Philadelphia. My father was a neighborhood doctor; my mother trained as a medical technologist but ran my father’s office and raised me and my four sisters. I was always acutely aware that, while she was the first girl in her family to go to college, she did not view medical school as a path that was open to her. When I was in sixth grade, girls were first allowed to wear pants in the Philadelphia School District. Central High School, the premier public magnet school at that time, was closed to me and other girls. It would not open its doors to women until 1983.

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