Women legal proffesion

Is the law still a good female career choice with only 8% of all lawyers in the 1%?

I've been writing about legal practice recently because I inadvertently caused a women lawyer-legal-secretary kerfuffle in the legal blogsophere.

That got me asking myself how good a career choice for women the legal profession remains.

Let's first talk about money. Of the 1.2 million lawyers actively practicing law, only approximately 24,560 are in the top 1% of all wage earners (based on the ABA Journal's recent estimate that lawyers make up only 8% of the 1%).

So the law is not a path toward riches.

Having worked in the legal industry since 1975 (first as a typist, then as a paralegal and finally as an attorney) I don't need statistics to tell me that legal practice does not generally deliver wealth.

There are only so many hours in a day that an individual attorney can bill. Even if you hire younger attorneys, pay their overhead and take a percentage of their billable hours for yourself, the business is still hands-on and incredibly time consuming.

As a law school friend of mine said at the commencement of both our legal careers, "I don't want to make the money; I want to make a machine that makes money for me."

That's what Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos did.

They're in the 1%.

But what do you really want to do with your life?

Contrary to most people's opinions about most other people, not many of us are driven by the desire to get rich. Most people want financial security, as good or better a future for their children as they experienced themselves, meaningful occupation, spiritual well-being, autonomy, a higher purpose than their own narrow self-interest, and access to education and affordable medical care.

That being the case, is the law still a good place for women to be?

Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes.

I could write a book on this topic but because I'm finishing another book right now and am planning the next one after that, I'm going to give you a bullet point list and invite comment from my women lawyer readers.

  • knowing how to find and move the gears and levers of civil society and its governance is having the keys to the kingdom, particularly in a society based on law rather than the rule of autocrats;
  • once you spend three years and one miserable summer studying for (and passing) your state's bar exam, you will be a lawyer for the rest of your life with all of its attendant benefits, most prominent of which is your ability to prevent yourself, your loved ones and anyone who can pay for your services from being victimized by other people, private institutions and the government;
  • ok, you can't always prevent injustice, but your law degree and license to practice give you a better than fighting chance to resist it;
  • you get to participate in the lives of people, to deeply learn about their culture, their businesses and sometimes the challenges of their personal lives in a way you never otherwise could – it's like travel to foreign countries where you leave the tour group and have dinner with a local family – you'll never see that country the same again;
  • you have the incredible privilege of delivering justice to people whose lives have been disrupted or threatened with destruction by unfair treatment by others;
  • you get to read and write, strategize and scheme, and, produce, direct and star in your clients' courtroom dramas, thereby using all the talents and skills you were born with or were ambitious enough to acquire;
  • you are treated with respect as an authority – people listen to you – and even if they often disagree, you have been trained and will become skilled at presenting your clients' needs and rights, and pursuing their available remedies;
  • you will never be unemployed because you don't need employment; you need only an online shingle, access to an online legal library and an assistant who knows how to get your papers filed in the courthouse or your patent applications delivered to the USPO;
  • it will take you at least a decade to perfect your craft, meaning that you may often be uncertain but will never be bored; and,
  • you will never have to work an unskilled, spirit killing job again.

Sound good?

I'll let my readers give the downsides.

(Published by Forbes - November 3, 2011)

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