Nora Farah

Two Kinds of Law Students: High-Roller Helens and Justice Janets

I am convinced that there are only two categories of law students on the first day of student orientation: the High-Roller Helens and Justice Janets. Helens have a million reasons why they want to be attorneys, all of which they accept in the form of cash, credit, or check. Helens are competitive and sneer at the prospect of being anything less than a corporate defense attorney, making the "big-bucks." Helens practically cannot have children, but they typically have all the toys they desire. Janets, on the other hand, want to become lawyers so that they may fight for truth, justice, and the American way. Janets see the law as the key which sets the truth free. Janets see Helens as cold, heartless, and walking coronaries, while Helens regard Janets as hippies with their heads in the clouds. When I walked into my law school orientation last May, I was proud to be a Helen, but my work with the McLennan County District Attorney's office has transformed me into a Janet with a broader view of the law.

As a woman entering the legal profession, I have had to take a step back and think about how I want to be remembered. Do I want to be the wealthy, workaholic woman who is known to be tough and shrewd, the type of woman the modern feminist movement would applaud as showing the inner strength and intellect women are blessed with? Or, do I want my victories to be remembered for the justice they served and the fact that I made the world a better place? As a woman, I have come to realize that I want to look back on my life in seventy years and see an advocate, not necessarily a lawyer. I want to advocate for something higher than the amount on any paycheck; I want to advocate for truth. This may sound elitist and naive, but I know that I have a higher calling than being a Helen. I want to find a career where I can fight for justice, a career that will allow me to sleep every night knowing that the motions I submitted, the agreements I reached, and the trials I worked on each day contributed to making the world a safer place.

As important as my career would be to me, I do not want it to completely define who I am. When I began my legal education, I knew I wanted to have a strong and closely-knit family as well as a career, but I underestimated how much time and energy each required. It is easy to take for granted the simple beauty in life captured in cooking dinner with loved ones each night and discussing what happened that day. After some introspection, I realize how invaluable and precious these times are to me. These are truly the moments that make life worth living, and unfortunately the life of a High-Roller Helen, with eighty billable work-hour weeks, is not conducive to many of these evenings. By the same token, however, working tirelessly to save the world cannot be my only focus. There is far more crime to solve and justice to serve than any woman can single-handedly accomplish. To truly live a fulfilling life, a life which I can look back on and be satisfied, I must maintain a sense of balance. I have found such balance as an intern with the McLennan County Criminal District Attorney's office.

Initially, my only motives for interning with the District Attorney's were to earn some class credit while away from the classroom and to see practicing attorneys at work. Although only required to complete ninety hours over the course of nine weeks in order to receive class credit, I have become so passionate about my work that I spend 45 hours at the office each week! The attorneys are incredibly competent and driven, giving each victim and each case their full attention. At the same time, they are complete human beings with spouses, children, community leadership roles, and senses of humor. The parents go to their children's dance recitals and coach their little league teams, activities that I fully believed I would have to sacrifice to pursue a legal career. These attorneys are nothing like what I pictured full-time attorneys with such a demanding job to be. I feel like I have finally found my niche.

As a woman entering the legal profession, I seek to be all that is encompassed in being both a woman and a lawyer. As a woman, I want to have a husband and children and, more importantly, devote to them the time they deserve. As a legal professional, I want to fight for justice, protect the weak, and advocate for those who have no voice. Although I began my path in the law as a Helen, there is much more I want to accomplish in my life than all the high-rolling can ever satiate. I want to see that justice is done both in my legal endeavors and to my family.



Why do you assume that feminists prefer Helens?  As seekers of women's social and economic equality, I would come to the opposite conclusion.  Alternatively, I think that a post-modern feminist would tell you that women's equality is about the freedom to choose the lifestyle that you want without judgment from others.    

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