In the month of March, we celebrate Women’s History Month in the United States. The month of March is dedicated to taking extra time to appreciate, recognize, and celebrate all of the contributions women have made to the history of the United States. This is a great opportunity to celebrate all of the wonderful women of Western New England University. I decided to sit down and have a chat with female alumni and professors of Western New England University’s School of Law to hear a little bit more about their story, success, and advice.
1. The Wisdom: Have a Professional Support System
Many of the women agreed that one of their secrets to success is their support group of other female attorneys currently practicing law. The women agreed that taking the time to create and lean on this group of women created a sense of unity. The fellow members of their group understand just how rigorous the field of law can be. Together, these women send each other research questions, and inquire about the thoughts of the others in different areas of the law. Further, they often refer cases to each other for different reasons, depending on their practice area. Perhaps most importantly, these women celebrate their successes together. Understanding the unique bond they have created, they realize the importance of support and collaboration, but they always make time to celebrate the achievements of their fellow women.
- Start early! It’s never too early to connect with others in a similar academic and professional point in their lives as you. Often times, building a reliable network and professional support system can take a lot of time, so you can never start too early!
- Utilize social media! A couple of the women mentioned that they use a private group in Facebook as the “home base” of their professional support system. This allows for quick access to colleagues, and the option to implement the use of notifications. When used properly, social media can be a fantastic asset to your professional network.
2. The Wisdom: Embrace Change
One of the pieces of advice that an attorney shared with me was shared to her by Eleanor Williams, Counsel at MassMutual. She said “Life is not a dress rehearsal, but the real act.” Developing a legal career is a process that takes patience, determination, and consistency. It is often that attorneys are fearful to make a switch in their legal career, afraid of what will lie on the “other side of the fence.” Many of the women I sat down with expressed the importance of acknowledging that fear, and ensuring that it does not hold you back, but instead drives your growth. They recommended embracing change with an open mind, and pursuing opportunities that come your way.
- Go with your gut! If an opportunity comes along that continues to fuel your passion – follow your gut feeling. From every opportunity, we take away either a level of success, or a lesson that will contribute to our future success.
- The time is now! The timing will never be able to line up perfectly in this hectic life. If you continue to wait for “the right time,” you may risk passing up on life-changing, career-altering opportunities.
3. The Wisdom: Prioritize
Although this one may seem fairly obvious, every woman I spoke to emphasized the importance of prioritizing the most important aspects of your legal career. All of the lawyers I spoke to touched upon the importance of prioritizing bar passage, and emphasizing the essentials to becoming an attorney. It’s extremely important that we prioritize this as students.
- Take it seriously! Western New England University School of Law offers an exceptional amount of bar preparation options, some of which are required. Do not take these classes lightly, but instead truly utilize these provided opportunities, and understand the importance of passing the bar, allowing us to be one step closer to the dream.
4. The Wisdom: Be Your Authentic Self
Our best work unfolds when rooted in passion. This is a message I heard over and over again among the successful women I spoke to. Although there are many other factors that play a part in the path we pursue for our legal careers (location, salary, status, etc.), all of the attorneys encouraged placing “passion” near the top of the consideration list.
- Find your passion! Set aside time in law school to determine what it is you are passionate about in the legal field. Join clubs and clinics in attempt to see and learn as much as you can while completing your legal degree. Identify what it is that drives your passion.
5. The Wisdom: Celebrate Your Success
It was nearly impossible to get through any of my interviews without addressing the concept of work-life balance. When the topic came up, many of the women were hesitant. The lawyers insisted on remaining honest, and highlighted the intensity of the work that is required in the field of law. Many quickly followed these realities with the assurance that with consistent hard work, also comes success. Attorney Talia Gee stated, “Sometimes we have to remember to stop and enjoy the fruits of our labor. It’s okay, and necessary to do.” Other attorneys added on this topic to not only celebrate your achievements – but do so often.
- Start now! Although many of us have “tunnel vision” on the end goal of passing the bar, it is important to acknowledge that getting an “A” on your Criminal Law final is an accomplishment. Make time to recognize and celebrate your hard work, and make this a habit now that will follow you into your legal career.
6. The Wisdom: Network
Another seemingly obvious piece of advice on this list is to grow your professional network. One of my biggest personal takeaways from interviewing the women of West New England University was how willing and available the alumni, professors, and staff are to contribute to your success. Do not wait until your 3L year to make connections. There is an extensive network of professionals in the Western New England University community that would love to help you succeed in any way they can.
- Visit Career Services! Meet with advisors to set goals and decide which direction your legal career is headed in. Take advantage of different opportunities they present you with, and different established professionals they connect you with.
- Print that Mentor List! Western New England University’s School of Law has a lengthy list of successful and practicing alumni that have volunteered to be mentors for current law students. Read through this list, print it, and connect with professionals that are practicing in an area of law you are interested in.
7. The Wisdom: Set Goals
Naturally, law school attracts individuals that are very goal-driven. With an increased work-load, and the pressures of law school, do not allow goal-setting to fall on the back burner. Every single woman I had the privilege to speak to touched upon the importance of outlining what their academic, professional, and personal goals were, and allowing those to drive their success every day.
- Think ahead! Set tangible, measurable goals for your future. Think ahead to the end of the semester, end of the year, end of law school, and so on.
8. The Wisdom: Make a Positive Difference
Attorneys are in a position to help people. It was unanimous among the women I spoke to that this is one of the highlights of the field they work in. Many of the women mentioned setting aside extra time to get involved with different panels or organizations that allow them to use their knowledge and experience to help others within their community.
- Pro Bono Hours! Western New England University’s School of Law requires pro bono hours to graduate. Take advantage of this requirement to make meaningful connections with people and organizations that will allow you to continue this work into your legal career.
Thank you to the wonderful women of West New England University that took the time to offer up their wisdom for success. You ladies are truly an inspiration, and paint a clear image of what it means to be a successful woman in the field of law.