It is no secret that women practicing law have long encountered issues including gender bias and pay gaps, which have historically led to high attrition rates. While women enter the profession in equal numbers to men, statistics show that they make up just 23 percent of partners and 19 percent of equity partners. If you are a woman attorney at a crossroads in your career, in search of guidance in making a big decision, or just in need of a healthy dose of hope, inspiration, or sheer determination, look no further than Her Story: Lessons in Success from Lawyers Who Live It.
This collection of essays features stories from more than 40 women who are partners and associates in law firms, attorneys general, in-house counsel, business owners, district attorneys, state and federal judges, and more. But they are, of course, much more than attorneys. Some are mothers, some are wives, some are grandmothers. Some have young children, some have grown children, and some have children with special needs. They are active in their communities, their families, and their bar associations. No two of their career paths look the same, and yet all have found success and, perhaps more importantly, happiness and fulfillment. And they have all taken the time to share, in the 311 pages of this book, tips, tools, advice, and stories that allow the reader to find greater fulfillment in her own professional journey.
Lest anyone think this book is just for women, it also features essays by two men on topics including the generational shift and quality of life in the practice of law, as well as finding and retaining quality lawyers. The book is an invaluable read for all attorneys who seek to improve their own quality of life and practice and who seek to better the future of the profession.
The book is conveniently broken into eight chapters, each containing several essays. It begins with a foreward by the cochairs of the ABA Section of Litigation’s Woman Advocate Committee and a preface by the editors of the book that foreshadow what the reader can expect. As the foreward aptly notes, the book “avoids the unattainable image of a woman precariously balancing on a tightrope in favor of telling real stories about real professional women being managers of their careers and families.” The foreward concludes with the hope that readers will “learn, laugh, cry, and be inspired.” Her Story achieves each of those goals in a uniquely personal and relatable manner.
The chapters that follow are titled such that readers can pick and choose which sections to read (or reread) based on their goals or circumstances. If you seek insight on any of these practical and accessible chapter topics, this book is for you: (1) Career Management Matters: The Case for Fostering Work-Life Balance among Employees, (2) Preparing for the Long Road Ahead: Redefining Balancing versus Managing and Developing a Plan for Success, (3) Gaining Momentum: Particular Strategies for Success, (4) Being “It All”: Keeping Values Straight and Valuing Your Strengths, (5) Building Endurance: Life Lessons and Big Picture Strategies for Achieving Long-Term Success, (6) Maintaining Perspective: The Importance of Aligning Personal Goals with Professional Aspirations, (7) Getting Back Up: Managing Crises along the Journey, and (8) Going the Distance: Maintaining Perspective throughout the Journey.
Each chapter concludes with a single page of “Reflections,” which poses a series of questions that will both help the reader apply the lessons of the chapter to her own career and push her to more thoughtfully consider nearly all aspects of her professional life. Despite its length, the conversational tone and thought-provoking nature of this book make it a quick and worthwhile cover-to-cover read. However, the careful organization of the book by topic and the incorporation of a series of reflections to close each chapter make it equally useful and enjoyable to read a chapter, put it down, and pick it back up weeks, months, or even years later.
This book is an invaluable resource for women attorneys in particular, but also for all who support them, who champion the advancement of gender equality in the profession, and who seek to leave the profession better for the next generation of women attorneys. From the first-year law student to the senior attorney to those retiring from the profession, everyone can find their perspective reflected in these pages. The years of hard work by so many who contributed to it are truly a gift to litigators everywhere.
C. Thea Pitzen is an associate editor for Litigation News.
- “Why women leave the profession,” ABA News (Nov. 28, 2017).
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