Do you want to hear the good news first or the bad news? What was that? You said the bad news? Here it goes...
I recently wrote an article entitled "Diary of a Female Junior Lawyer", which described the difficulty of entering the legal profession as a woman. Since then, I have had an alarming experience. It was not the all-too-common hidden connotation in a sexist remark or a stereotypical comment that made me feel uncomfortable. This experience was blatant and it was the first instance when I felt intimidated and bullied in the legal profession.
In response to my intention to bring a motion as per my client’s instructions, I was told by a senior opposing counsel that I should know who the big players are – referring to herself/himself (I will keep this as gender neutral but for simplicity I will use "her"/“she” hereinafter) – and that I need to be careful not to portray her and her colleagues in a negative light to the court, because they are the “big players”. She told me that I needed to know that the pool of family lawyers is small, and that she was saving me the embarrassment by talking to me over the phone rather than writing to me about this. She accused me of not following the Rules of Professional Conduct in ways that I still cannot comprehend. I have spoken with multiple mentors, senior counsel, all of whom have confirmed that I was being intimidated. I reviewed the Rules of Professional Conduct, and the only rule that applied to this experience was the one that she was violating: intimidating junior counsel.
I came into this profession with many years of education, many years of doing things "right", many years of caring about the quality of my work. With this background, I naturally care about my clients and advancing their claims, particularly where my clients are faced with abuse, the prospect of losing their children, and much more. My life as a lawyer is not a paradise, which is a common misperception. It was difficult in this moment, while I was being berated and intimidated, to keep my mind focused on protecting and advancing my client’s interests. I think that was done by design on her part. Thankfully, I am part of an ever-expanding network of supportive colleagues who reminded me of my resolve, my professionalism and, above all, my commitment to working tirelessly on behalf of my clients.
This is the good news.
I would like to thank all my colleagues, both junior and senior, who have shown me what an ethical lawyer should be. I am always heartened and uplifted by the integrity of my colleagues.
To my fellow junior colleagues, I am impressed with everything you have accomplished. You are thirsty for more. You are thirsty for a better system, for true equality, for creativity, for a better way of living and working.
I will persist and I hope you will too.