I deal daily with women in the law who make the oft-heard complaint about the lack of fairness and parity with their male colleagues in the law. One – in fact three, things – that struck a chord with me was comments made by the highest paid lawyer in the country, Judy Sheindlin, the famed ‘Judge Judy’.
I was considering something she had said about making it as a lawyer, well before she started her eponymous television show at the tender age of 52.
She had studied in a class of 126 men, as the only woman, when she attended American University and she was not particularly popular.
We all know that she has gone on to great fame and greater fortune – securing a self-negotiated TV deal that nets her around $47 million a year and has created a $300 million fortune for the sharp-tongued television judge.
So what can we learn from a trail blazer like Judge Judy and what sage pieces of advice can our women lawyers take from her also?
I think there are three things here that women lawyers may take to heart and use to advance their careers.
First, love your work. If you’re not enjoying the law or your legal career in whatever form it takes then move on. You need to have that passion or love at least before you can succeed and be happy with what you’re doing.
“Find your passion, what you’re good at naturally, and find a way to make a living at it.”
Second, don’t let being ‘average’ drag you down. Judge Judy was disappointed as a much younger woman when she found her IQ results showing an average rating. She didn’t let that alter her self-perception, instead aiming as high as she could. She wanted to be (brutally) honest with people, a trait that characterizes her, but to also be honest with herself. That’s a key factor for anyone in their life and careers – be honest. And don’t think you’re less than anyone else.
“Don’t let someone else tell you what you’re worth, don’t believe someone else’s vision of what you’re worth.”
Third, its in her downloadable book – “Be the Hero of Your Own Story”. She is a firm believer in creating your own destiny and learning how to define what you want and how to get it. It may seem clinical and cold, but Judy Sheindlin is smart and actually quite soft despite the tough exterior.
What she does do however, is work very cleverly to determine what she can do and work with tenacity to achieve it.
Sometimes life and certainly the law can be tough and unforgiving. But to relent in the face of ignorance, prejudice and ‘gender inequality’ is to simply lose the battle. And women are better than that.
So take a leaf out of Judy Sheinlin’s book – in fact download it here. It’s still a great read.
*Sandra Mahoney is a Miami-based legal consultant and recruitment professional