By Bendita Malakia • November 12, 2016•Writers in Residence, Careers, Other Career Issues, Issues, Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Other Forms of Discrimination, Features, First Women
haiku: I write. Without it I would self-destruct. Breathing can be elusive.
As a young associate I attended a meeting where I was only one of two women and the only woman of color among nearly twenty attorneys. We women were not shrinking violets in the back reserving our opinions and sitting on our hands: we were at the table, very vocal, leaning in long before Sheryl instructed us to. A few days later, I ran into one of the attorneys who were at the meeting. He rushed to tell me about this fantastic meeting he attended where there were all of these brilliant ideas being shared and how unfortunate it was that there wasn’t any diversity there. As I was about to empathize with that sentiment, I realized that he didn’t recall any women or people of color there. He didn’t recall me being there, and he knows me. Despite my active participation in the meeting where he didn’t participate at all, we women had been rendered invisible and our brilliant ideas had been attributed to others.
Black American feminist lawyer, activist, civil rights advocate and lecturer Florynce Kennedy once said: "Don’t agonize; organize." Those of us who have been rendered invisible and silenced because our presence, ideas and voices are not expected have a unique opportunity to use writing as a tool to connect with each other, build each other up, listen to each other’s stories, strategize for the future, collect each other’s insights and organize our support so that we stay engaged in this matchless profession and be the best lawyers that we can be for ourselves, our clients and our communities.
Lawyers intuitively understand that the law is more art than science, but we don’t think about ourselves as artists. We create laws and new social structures, but we don’t think of ourselves as creators. We write briefs that build opinions and contracts that build relationships, but we don’t write to build or even sustain ourselves.
There are many ways to use blawgs: as marketing and business development tools, to demonstrate subject matter expertise, to develop or sharpen thinking on particular practice area topics – the list is long. For those of us who are the only or few in our legal settings, who are often written out of the story or recast as characters we don’t recognize, blawgs are a tool to forge our own narrative and share those strategies and perspectives that can be the difference between continuing the legal work we sacrifice for and deciding that there isn’t a place for us despite our substantive experience, merit and law degree.