How Young Female Lawyers Can Step Out of Their Comfort Zone - Sara Williams ESQ

How Young Female Lawyers Can Step Out of Their Comfort Zone

November 8, 2021

Growth starts when you step out of your bubble, your comfort zone. This is the cozy place where you feel safe and you operate under known circumstances. However, for young female lawyers, breaking this bubble is the first step towards cutting your career path in the legal industry. Junior lawyers do not stay junior forever – you must always have goals and dreams, as high as getting to become a senior partner in your firm. Unfortunately, just like in other male-dominated industries, the world of law has placed many barriers between female lawyers and the leadership roles they seek to reach.

I know all these, not just from statistical data, but more importantly from my own experience. But I also know another thing: if you really want to build a legal career, you can do it. I can teach you how to become a force to be reckoned with in the courtroom and how to find a balance between your professional life and your personal life.

Young Women Lawyers Are Taking Over the Legal Profession

We are witnessing a generational change in the law industry. Older senior lawyers are set to retire – as many as 400,000 of them in the next decade, according to the American Bar Association. The same organization has calculated that, right now, 43% of all legal professionals in the US are millennials – people born between 1981 and 1996.

There is new blood coming into the business of law, and many of these newcomers are female professionals with a passion for law and justice. According to the Census Bureau, the average age of female attorneys is 42, while the average age of male lawyers is 50. For the younger generation (25 to 34 years old) the proportions are equal.

And all these young and enthusiastic female lawyers want to leave their mark, become role models for younger generations and contribute to the legal industry. But how do you start moving up on the legal services ladder, as a fresh graduate of law school?

As I said at the beginning of this article, you need to find the courage of stepping out of your comfort zone. You will never accumulate the extensive experience required from female partners in big law firms if you keep moving between the same boundaries. You will never be able to change the attitudes towards women lawyers if you do exactly the stereotypical things associated with female attorneys: sitting in the background and playing a secondary role in the law profession.

Ways to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone and Grow Professionally

When you join the legal industry, you aspire to blend your life experience with memorable landmarks in your professional and personal life. You want to be able to measure how much you’ve grown as a person and as a lawyer in achievements: becoming a senior lawyer, being made co-managing partner, and so on.

To do that, you need to consider how your outgrow your role as a junior female lawyer. Here are some considerations for you:

1. Seek Mentorship Opportunities

Mentors do not simply stumble into your path. You need to find the role models you wish to emulate and give them reasons to consider mentoring you. This means a lot more than just being diligent at work. You need to develop your communication and networking skills. You have to demonstrate enthusiasm whenever you have the opportunity to work with your potential mentor.

In time, you may win not just a mentor, but also a sponsor. Sponsors can break the glass ceiling between female professionals’ aspirations and the limits imposed by sexist industry double standards.

2. Do Not Shy Away from Difficult Tasks

If you want me to paint an accurate picture of successful female senior lawyers, then the most important trait is that they put their money where their mouth is, as the saying goes. They want to demonstrate their skills in difficult tasks, so they seek difficult tasks.

Where others are taking a step back, they step forward and accept those tasks. This is how the first woman in history made it into the law profession, this is how iconic female lawyers like Ruth Bader Ginsburg made a career in government agencies overseeing the rule of law.

3. Build Connections in the Law Office

Successful attorneys have a huge network in the business of law. They have reached this point by starting early – from their junior days in the firm. And they never focused solely on top business law lawyers, but also on building connections with their peers.

Guess what, time is flowing for everyone, and all lawyers work on their individual career goals. The senior partner you want to impress sometimes in the future, when you aim for a a co-managing partner position could be your colleague from years ago, freshly out of law school like you. If you have a genuine connection from your junior days, you have a better chance of building a partnership in the future.

4. Seek New and Challenging Legal Specializations

As our world becomes increasingly complex with new technologies, so does the ramification of legal specialization. Young female lawyers who want to stand out in their profession choose to specialize in these new fields, from solving a complex IP conundrum, to ascertaining the legal status of various digital assets.

Legal tech skills are in high demand. So make sure that you acquire these skills and use them whenever they are needed in giving legal advice to clients and colleagues.

5. Take Initiative and Share Your Ideas

You want to make a difference in your professional life. You don’t want to be just another lawyer carrying folders from place to place. And you have ideas. But you would not dare speak up before a more senior attorney.

This is what stepping out of the comfort zone means – having the courage to share your ideas. You may not get credit from the very beginning. Your idea may not be actually used. But you have already left your mark – you have shown initiative and a proactive interest in the success of the law firm you work for.

6. Accept Pro Bono Cases

Pro bono work means representing a client in court for free. Such cases are usually assigned by courts in partnership with various law firms. For young female lawyers, these cases represent a great opportunity to accumulate trial experience and to showcase their skills.

Senior attorneys and other legal services stakeholders pay attention to the junior attorneys’ performance in pro bono cases. They are the legal industry version of volunteering work, and it is extremely beneficial for a young attorney’s resume. Taking pro bono cases shows that you are not in the legal industry only for the money, but are committed to offer anyone the fair legal defense they deserve in a trial.

7. Advocate for Flexible Work Arrangements

You will not accumulate bonus points if you sacrifice your personal life for your career. On the contrary, this shows that you are weak and can be sidelined without putting up any kind of fight. Of course, you have to be professional and diplomatic in every instance of asserting yourself.

After all, if you cannot face a confrontation with your superior, how will you face an experienced prosecutor or senior lawyer representing the other party in a trial?

8. Reach Out for Opportunities, No Matter How Distant

There is a saying – aim for the moon; if you miss, at least you will land among the stars. This is very appropriate for a young female attorney at the start of her career in the legal industry. Whenever you have the chance to apply for a new position. to be part in a team working on a big case, take it. Send in your resume. Announce your willingness to be a part of the team.

Also, be proactive in seeking opportunities. Networking remains the single most effective way of hearing about new job openings and new places for team members in big projects. A simple talk over coffee during a break at a conference can open new avenues of opportunities for you.

9. Embrace the Office Culture

Standing out and drawing attention to yourself is good. But pay attention to the office culture. You need as much emotional intelligence as you need professional skills when you start building a career in legal services. You must learn to read the room from the very beginning.

See how your peers interact with their superiors. Watch your own superiors interact with their own superiors. In every law firm there are written rules and the unwritten pecking order. You have to learn both and ensure that you are acting within them when you seek a mentor or you offer your assistance for a project you were not assigned to work on.

10. Empower Other Young Female Attorneys

One of the best anthems for women in the legal profession is “Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves” by the band Eurythmics. This should be a motto for any woman who wants to build a career. Whenever you are about to take one step higher, reach out a hand for those below you.

Even from your junior days, encourage and support other women attorneys at the start of the road in the legal services. Unity and collaboration helped men assert their dominance in every industry. The same principle can help women attorneys get where they deserve – to the point of equality with their male counterparts.

As we are speaking, there is a significant payment gap among the most experienced female attorneys and the most experienced male attorneys. The Census Bureau reveals that the top 10% women attorneys earn less than $300,000 per year. Meanwhile, the top 10% male attorneys earn more than $500,000 per year.

11. Maintain Friends Outside the Law Industry

A true friend will always tell you the truth about yourself. However, an industry bias will always exist if you socialize strictly within the legal services world. Make sure that you have friends in other industries, with different interests and outlooks on life.

These personal relationships will help you have a true image of yourself. Are you too much immersed in work? Are you disengaged and disenchanted? Are you stagnating in your career? These are questions that a true and honest friend, looking from outside, will give you.

12. Accept Assignments Abroad

Working abroad as a young female attorney can help you broaden your horizons, both professionally and on a personal level. Big law firms usually have branch offices in different countries and conduct experience exchange between these offices.

If you are given the opportunity to participate in such a project, do not hesitate to accept it. It is not just for the sake of adding something new to your resume. Learning new law office dynamics, meeting people from a different culture and making new connections are huge benefits.

Each new skill you accumulate will be a bonus, a strong point in your favor when the time comes to be considered for a promotion. Young female lawyers with international experience have a definite competitive edge.

13. Define Success

Before you start working on your legal career, know where you want to get. This is not just advice for women attorneys, it is true for any professional in the law industry. You have to consider your goals and arrange them in a timeline: short term, medium term and long term.

How would you define success three years for now? What about 10 years from now? Also, revisit your plans and reassess them from time to time. Is this goal still relevant for you? Do you still want to get there? Or do you envision a new direction? Never limit yourself or stunt your professional growth, just because it does not conform with plans you made a few years ago. As you mature and accumulate experience, you will identify new opportunities and develop new definitions of success.

Are You Scared of Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone? You Are Not Alone!

Reading this article may give you the initial boost you need to start working on a better version of yourself as an attorney. But, in my experience, the first actual step you have to make will make you feel apprehensive. What if this goes wrong? What if I lose the little I have managed to achieve so far?

Here is a secret you need to know: everyone has “what if” moments. Yes, even the co-managing partner in the law firm you work for. No one is infallible. We all have our doubts, and it is natural to be so. You have worked so hard in law school and in various internships. You probably accumulated college loans that you need to repay. You depend on the security of your job.

However, you must have courage. With diplomacy and respect, you can assert yourself without breaking the rules severely. Plus, from criminal defense to business law lawyers, courage is a desirable trait in a trial attorney. Stepping out of your comfort zone is actually your first big test: do you have what it takes to win a case in court? You are the case; you are your own client. So, go forth and win your case.

People with Less Passion and Skills May Take a Role Better Suited to You

Finally, consider this: if you fail to step out of your comfort zone, you may deprive the legal industry of a skilled and talented professional. Meanwhile, someone else, who may not be as good as you, but is bolder than you, may climb the career ladder faster. They may reach a professional level where your abilities and dedication are needed.

Meanwhile, you are lagging behind, unable to showcase your strengths. The entire world, not just the law industry, needs authentic professionals, who believe in their mission and understand their importance in the role they chose to play in the world. Your integrity, your dedication to truth and justice are the best values in the law world. So put them to the best possible use to others, by ensuring that you get in a position to help them.

Are You Ready to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone? Contact Me!

I am Sara Williams, Esq. As a trial lawyer, I have two main professional goals: to help as many clients as possible find justice and to empower as many female attorneys as I can. Over the years, I have faced the rampant sexism in courtrooms and outside them and I prevailed.

Now, I can teach you how to do it. I can help you build your confidence, hone your communication skills and develop consistency in everything you do. I am proof that you can do it. As a part of the Black lawyers community, I have fought discrimination and became an award winning attorney, because I believed in myself and in my calling.

Now it is your turn to start growing into the amazing attorney you are meant to be. Contact me and let me teach you how to be an unstoppable force in the courtroom!

Contact Me

Primary Contact Form

Recent Articles

Legal Networking for Young Female Lawyers in Birmingham

Why should someone involved in delivering legal services in Birmingham seek out networking? The legal profession...
Scroll to Top