Elexis Holzberg

Attorney 2.0

My father is an attorney, and everyone says how similar we are. But I like that I am the "girl version."


I grew up idolizing my dad. He is elegant and charming, easy on his feet, a fast-talker, brilliant, commanding and compassionate. My dad is an attorney. He is everything the movies and media painted as an archetypal lawyer. And I thought the world of him--still do. Strangers, friends, family, all gushed how similar the two of us were--our eyes, our hair, our personalities. I beamed in his presence. I soaked up his ferocious liberal politics. I listened intently as he described the injustice of tort reform, not having any idea what that meant before, and only slowly grasping the realities of it all today--year one of law school.

I floated for a while in college, unsure of myself and who or what I was supposed to be. I write a fashion column--that has always been what has defined the "career" aspect of my life. I love to write, and read, and soak up anything. But even now, as to the future, I suppose I still do not know. Still, following a year of "thought" after I graduated, I realized that at the very least, I knew my next step. I began law school this past fall and something in my dad changed. The pride that I had always felt from my dad magnified. His eyes would tear as I described to my parents how I had won my first big election in school. When I spoke of my favorite professor who rallied against the Military Commissions Act in class one day, my dad asked question after question thrilled to see my own newfound passion. Every decision I made, he zealously supported, from world-class shopper to JD candidate. Suddenly, law school fit me--and I felt right at home.

In our first year oral arguments I practiced my opening lines before a mirror. I paced a bit and cupped my hand on my chin, the way my dad had always done in the court rooms. I practiced the words to say with my dad the night before our final round. I carefully fixed my black suit that morning, tucked my hair behind my ears so as not to fidget with the strands, I stepped up to the podium, and came alive. I smiled, I responded to questions, I made arguments I never knew I had, I even giggled. The judges' responses were positive, I was thrilled. The funny thing was the lines I had so carefully fine-tuned with my dad only hours before, those were the lines the judges were uneasy with. They all agreed that what judges and juries would respond to, what would someday make me a good lawyer, were the things about me I never knew were important. They liked that I giggled. They liked that I smiled and got too excited when I thought up an argument off-the-cuff.

It was okay that I channeled Elle Woods circa Legally Blonde in my speech. It was okay that I bought the patent pumps I raved about in my fashion column only the month before for the very special occasion of a law school oral argument. It was even okay that when my hair fell from behind my ear I might have twirled it for a second and then stuffed it back where it belonged. I like the feminine spirit that I am as a lawyer-to-be. I like how I am my father, strong and quick. But I like that I am perhaps the "girl-version." Law school has taught me to be this smart balance of strength and femininity.

In life I am shy and sweet-tempered. I giggle when I am nervous, and that tends to be often. I have now lived to tell the tale of my first year of law school, and yet, for the life of me I cannot describe who it is I want to be "when I grow up." I want to be a writer, I want to travel, I want a family, I want to get involved in politics; I want to speak to people who will listen, because sometimes, when put on the spot, I am inexplicably at my best. I would like to think that I can be this well-rounded figure of power in high-heeled shoes. I love that I am a combination of my brilliant father, my equally successful mother, and my own shy "floater" self. The law, my dad's picture of the law for me, and my first-year eye opening experience has made me the woman that I am so proud of today.

2 Comments

Legal Eagle

I'm a little surprised to hear that your law teachers think giggling works. More power to you, I guess!

mimigaribian

On one hand, it's great that you realized you shouldn't try to be just like your father—you are a different person and will find your own way and style.  On the other hand, I wouldn't put too much weight on the judges' comments.  It sounds like they were buying into gender stereotyping a bit too much.  I have a hard time buying that one should "giggle" during an oral argument.  It's possible that the judges found this acceptable from a woman because they expect such things from a woman but would have frowned on it in if coming from a man because they would expect him to be more professional.

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