By Stefanie Murphy • October 18, 2018•Careers, Firms and the Private Sector, Issues, Balancing Private and Professional Life
From an early age, I knew I wanted to go to law school, but not for the reason most people go. I wanted to go into law school to go into law enforcement and become a special agent. I was applying for jobs in while in law school and received an offer as a special agent in my second year, but turned down the job in order to finish law school. In my third year of law school, I met a private attorney and was asked if I wanted to work for his criminal defense law firm. I started off as an intern and then upon graduation and passing the bar I started to work at the firm as an associate. At that time, I had just gotten married and was having my first child. I placed my dream of law enforcement aside to start a family.
After my second child, I went back to my dream and the reason why I went to law school and applied for special agent positions. I was offered a job as a special agent and received a start date for training but it would mean several months away from my children. I turned down the offer and continued my career as a Rhode Island criminal defense attorney; it was one of the hardest decisions I have made. I was so torn between following my dreams and being there for my family, but I realized that dreams can change over time and I was not giving up on a dream, just recognizing that I now had other dreams.
My dreams were now about my family and becoming the best criminal defense attorney I could. Being a criminal defense attorney has its own share of struggles and obstacles.
I cannot speak for other states, but in Rhode Island, there are not many women who are private criminal defense attorneys. Every day in Court I see many women who are prosecutors and many who are public defenders. All of who, I work with and have great respect for but there are not many women in the private defense world.
Each day, I am usually in at least two different courthouses representing my clients and as I look around the courtroom I am amazed that in the group of private attorneys I am surrounded by mostly men. When I first graduated law school, I was fortunate to meet and watch several private women attorneys in actions. These women inspired me and helped me make the decision to venture out on my own. There were few women but the women I saw in action were incredible and amazing.
So here I am in the private world, turned down jobs in law enforcement and left a firm seven years ago and hung up my own shingle; this was the best decision I could have made. I get to work for myself, make my own hours, and do what I love.
Hanging up my own shingle was not easy and very stressful for the first couple of years. Worried about whether the phone would ring or if I would get a new client this week. Each year, it gets easier and the worry lessens.
My hope for women in the legal industry is for each woman to make choices and decisions that are right for them and their own unique circumstances and not be intimidated to enter into a field and make your own path.