Are women attracted to public interest law because it is a friendlier environment for women? Rather, the opposite seems to be true. A 2004 study by Harvard Law students showed that twice the percentage of women than men said that “helping others” was one of the most important factors in choosing a career. Relatedly, women have achieved more top-level positions in the non-profit sector than in private law. This seems to imply that women are attracted to public interest law because they see it as a means to fulfill their desire to help others. But, does this also suggest that women see for-profit law as just that – for profit?
Will Rogers once said, “Make crime pay. Become a lawyer.” The above facts about women in public interest law beg the question of whether women see private law as embracing this adage, and not about justice and helping others.
Opportunities abound in the private law sector for helping others, but perhaps through slightly different means. If public interest is a good way to help others through the lawyer-client relationship, why can’t private sector work be a good way to help others through the lawyer-lawyer relationship? Women in private law are in a unique position to connect with other women through the medium of a law firm. Women lawyers can help other women by developing mentor relationships within firms, bringing women’s issues to the attention of firm committees and local bars, and even by blogging on a women-in-law website. Rather than looking to help others through law careers that are supposedly woman-friendly, women should seek careers and opportunities that allow them to be friendly women.
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