Five Lessons From Women Lawyers

On Friday, October 17, 2014, at the University of Puerto Rico School of Law, the National Women Law Students' Organization  hosted the panel discussion “Women Lawyers: A Look in Time,” where four female lawyers and one recent graduate talked about their experiences in the legal profession. Each guest had a different background and years of experience, which made their perspectives diverse. Participants had the opportunity to ask questions and request advice from the guests.

It was an honor to spend some time in the company of these hardworking women. They are true role models and a source of inspiration to those who want to be successful. Here is what we learned from each one of them:

1. Dean Vivian I. Neptune Rivera: She discussed her experience as a working mother, as well as the challenges she faced during her time at a law firm referred to as a “boy’s club.” She encouraged students to be assertive and to not be afraid of negotiating their salary. According to Neptune, this will help open a path for the new generation of women lawyers.

2. Hon. Lourdes A. Robles Torres: “Never turn away from the Canons of Professional Ethics. You should be able to go to sleep knowing that you did the right thing.” She told us how, at the beginning, she was not taken seriously; often excluded from the decision-making process. But according to the Judge, “Conformity isn’t part of my nature.” Through hard work, and with the support of her husband and family, she was able to move up the professional ladder. Her final word of advice was to never allow the opinion of others get in the way of our dreams.

3. Eidalia González Tosado: She talked about her experience as a former geologist working in the U.S. “I was the Puerto Rican woman in charge of supervising a group of men.” To her, this presented a challenge: How could she earn the respect of these men? She encouraged students to act in a way that will make others, including men, treat them as an equal.

4. Verónica Rivera Torres: For her, it is very important that women get involved in activism in favor of women’s rights. She spoke of her experience working in cases against discrimination, as well as her pro bono work. Rivera stressed the importance of understanding gender dynamics and the problems these may cause during litigation. She encouraged women to speak with conviction: “Even if your voice trembles, you should never be afraid to speak up.” She also mentioned how important it is to open the doors to other women. It is her belief that the more women get involved in our cause, the less discrimination we will suffer.

5. Zoán T. Dávila Roldán: She spoke about the challenges that women face while going to law school, such as wanting to speak up in class, but being afraid to do so; and about the “triple shift”, experienced by students who besides working, also attend to their children at home. She believes it is important to keep a strong bond with other women, even after you graduate. It is for this reason that she encourages women to become member of organizations such as NWLSO. Her mother, who went to law school while working as a school director, was her role model. Her mother’s experience, as well as the experience of others lawyers who were also passionate about their work, were Davila’s inspiration to follow this career.    

Janice Crespo is the Historian and Blog Administrator for NWLSO's chapter in Puerto Rico as well as a second year law student. To learn more about NWLSO's Puerto Rico chapter you can visit www.womenatuprlaw.org

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