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Advice for the Young Female Lawyer

When I was in my second year of law school, I clerked for a juvenile court judge, who was one of the first female juvenile court justices to be appointed in Massachusetts. The first thing I noticed when I stepped into her office was a wooden block sign on her bookshelf that said “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” She smiled at me, and directed me to have a seat in front of her. As I sat down, she pointed to the sign on her bookshelf and said, “I hope you stick with it. It’s how you’ll make history.”

She didn’t explain what she meant that first day. However, along the entire internship, she put it together for me. In order for women to have an impact on the law and the profession, we have to stay in the profession. Despite the stereotypes, insecurities, and condescending talks, we have to stick with it. She stressed it can be hard, especially as a young woman, but being in the position to institute change and make history is possible. You just have to stay in it despite the hardships.

It later dawned on me: that popular quote that sat on her bookshelf didn’t mean women had to be scandalous, rambunctious, or misbehaved in the general sense of the term. It meant women need to be persistent, powerful, and needed to persevere. In the world, that’s what many people view misbehaved women as. So, I’ll pass on the advice given to me: misbehave. Stay when others want you to go. Stand your ground when others want you to walk away. The only way to change seats at a table is to remain in the room. 

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