The Twelve Year Old Girl Lawyer

Has anyone noticed that when people want to call someone young, the standard age they refer to is twelve? I've noticed. I've noticed mainly because people always tell me I look twelve. 

I remember my first day ever going to court. I spent two hours just deciding what to wear to make myself look older. Some suits were too baggy and some heels were too high, but I eventually found an outfit that made me think, "okay, I think I can pass for at least twenty-one today." Well, I was wrong. 

I had a contentious custody hearing at the probate and family court. I was up against an attorney who has been practicing since 1976. Trust me, he looked like he'd been practicing since 1976. Standing next to him, I might as well have been his granddaughter. Of course, he called me "doll" and "dear," and liked to remind me how long he had been practicing law for. He would constantly add, "I've been doing this for a long time, I know how this is going to go." Despite of the constant belittling and attempting to corner me into a settlement agreement, we were going to argue in front of the judge. When we walked up to the clerk, the first thing I was asked was whether I was opposing counsel's intern. When I answered that I was an attorney, the clerk exlaimed, "You look twelve!" No surprise there. Opposing counsel responded with, "She sounds twelve too." 

While waiting for the case to be called, I was constantly questioning whether I sounded like a little kid. Well, I do sound like a little kid. My thoughts about my apparent adolecense were interrupted when the case was called. The hearing lasted about twenty minutes. The best part of the hearing was when the judge granted my motion. Opposing counsel gasped, the clerk looked at me in disbelief, and I couldn't help but smirk. While walking out of the courtroom, opposing counsel approached another attorney he appeared to be friends with. He said, loud enough for me to hear, "I just got beat by a twelve year old."

I'm not sure if there's a "moral" to my story, but there is this: being a female attorney is difficult in and of itself, but being a young female attorney poses it's own difficulties. However, looking and being young doesn't stop you from adovcating for your clients and winning cases. If anything, it should give you the motivation to beat the stereotype. It should give you the motivation to cause surprise and  impression in the courtroom. It should give you the confidence to be you and nothing less. 

And, as a plus, it may even give you the satisfaction of being the twelve year old girl lawyer who can beat the rest. 


Tatum Wheeler

Great article! Though I’m not a lawyer, I often get asked if I’m in high school. I sincerely appreciate you sharing your experience and am taking away your message of using these instances as “motivation to beat the stereotype.”

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