Job Hunting Difficulties that Female Legal Professionals Face

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Women may have lost somewhat the competitive advantage gained during the last ten years from the "reverse discrimination" trend in hiring. Law schools burst with women today. Organizations no longer are surprised to see women's names in interviewing slots. Although a woman with excellent grades still commands interviewing deference, women are no longer automatically attractive to employers in law fields. The principal gain is the hiring liberalization of old-line law firms and corporations. Appearance and job hunting difficulties peculiar to women necessitate a special analysis.

Physical Appearance

Women must look good but not too good. Balance professional appearance and femininity. To be effective, emphasize professionalism without sacrificing the appearance effect of a female visage in the interviewee's chair. The balance requires attention to clothing, bearing, gesturing, and personal approach.

Clothing should be practical and serve its purpose - to emphasize the required appearance. Minimize jewelry; enhance an existing physical trait rather than create an unnatural one. Minimize make-up. Nothing should be overtly remarkable. Concentrate on your interview and not on the feminine impression or effect you create.

Improper Questions

You may encounter stereotypical questions that reflect misunderstanding of current trends in law interviewing.
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?

  • How long do you expect to practice law?

  • Have you any social ties to this (or another) city?

  • Are you married?

  • Are you engaged?

  • Do you plan to marry soon?

  • Are you divorced?

  • Have you children?

Meet these inquiries with equanimity and direct the interviewing focus to another topic. If pressed or greatly offended, suggest that such questions do not relate to professional qualifications. Keep your objections professional and not personal. Unprofessional inquisitioning rarely emanates from younger lawyers, although some, imbued with historical tradition, may regard it as obligatory as questioning about grades.

Young male lawyers can present other obstacles. Apparently confident that they represent sexual attraction in the firm or that the applicant will believe that a date enhances hiring opportunity, lawyers may inquire whether it might not be useful to continue the interview at dinner or later in the interviewing trip. Avoid these opportunities: acceptance is unprofessional and will not aid your cause at the firm. A young lawyer, even if on a hiring committee, has little hiring influence. The proposition reveals a lack of discretion and a serious miscalculation of the young lawyer's role in the system: he would probably be dismissed if his interviewing technique became known.

You likely will not encounter questioning as to the reasons for your entering law at all or for desiring to work in business-related law rather than family law. In earlier years, divorce and adoption counseling was often assumed to be the appropriate occupation for a woman starting in law. If such a topic arises, express your interest in a particular area of the firm's practice, and step on to the next question.

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