An Unexpected Cause of Gender Inequality in the Law
An Unexpected Cause of Gender Inequality in the Law

Written by Katy Goshtasbi

Posted on: May 9, 2023

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An Unexpected Cause of Gender Inequality in the Law, image of a woman near a sunset.

We have a real problem on our hands in the legal world and it’s not just about women lawyers leaving the practice of law.

As I was co-authoring the Wellness Study Report addressing the attrition crisis of women lawyers in a post-pandemic world, I had a realization.

I tend to look at life from a different perspective often. My perspective tends toward the bigger picture and underlying causes of unhappiness, unrest or strife. Over the years, I’ve done much research and work on the underlying causes of lack of diversity and gender inequality.

Our problems in the legal world around gender inequality and the attrition problems we face in practice is the cause of our inability to stop and see the bigger picture.

It’s not that lawyers, and people in general, don’t care about others, equality, etc. I’ve found it’s because we can’t seem to find, make, have time to see the bigger picture.

“That’s it?” you ask. That’s it. And that’s a big deal.

The legal profession is a noble one. We do so much good for our clients and justice. As lawyers, we are trained to see both sides of an argument, the gray areas and the greater implications for our clients.

We are also trained to rely on precedence. This reliance on prevailing law, tends to put us in a mindset that is focused on the past. It often leads us to have a mentality that hinders us because we are conditioned to use our reliance on the past to subconsciously believe, “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”. This perspective does not allow us to always see the bigger picture necessarily.

Yet, how often do we each really step back and view diversity and gender equality from the bigger picture? Could it be that “it is broken” and we just don’t have the time to fix “it”?

How often do you step back and really stop and make time to think about what it would really mean to have an equal number of lawyers and staff that represented all walks of life, be that gender, race, beliefs, hair color, etc? How much of this is based on fear of not seeing the same type of people around us? Maybe it’s a thought of, “If you don’t look and act like me, maybe I’m not safe with you?” Safety is a real issue for all of us.

The solution is not just to “make time” or be a better lawyer and human. It’s to effectively step out of our left-brained, analytical mind, the one we use each day to be effective lawyers. Once we step out of linear, left-brained thinking, we are able to access our right-brain.

This right-brain is the part of us that allows for more expansive thinking and creativity, allowing for safety in our world. This is the part of us that clients count on for creative, ethical solutions, for dynamic interactions and effective communications. This is also the part of your brain that allows you to show up and be dynamic, captivating and work with less effort and with more ease and grace.

For our purposes here, accessing your right, creative brain allows you to suspend judgment and see others for the valuable, safe beings they are- no matter if they look like you or not.

Ready to get started? Stop and consider:

• How often do you allow yourself to have unstructured, creative time for thinking, planning and just being?

• Take 5 minutes each day to sit still and “daydream”. This is NOT a waste of time, but your opportunity to access your right, creative brain.

• Notice what comes up when you daydream? When I do so, I invariably always come up with creative ideas and solutions to a left-brain problem that I’ve been grappling with.

• What other outlets for creativity do you have? If none, why?

• What’s your perception of creativity? Is it just for children and those without legal careers? I had a successful lawyer client who came to me because she was feeling very disconnected from her practice and her life. It left her uneasy and anxious. I discovered she had been trained for many years as a classical violinist. She had stopped playing when she became a lawyer because she felt it wasn’t appropriate anymore. Through our work together she gave herself permission to own her creative side as a violinist. This process allowed her to enjoy her practice more, do her work with more ease and grace, feel more authentic AND embrace others for their differences more easily. If she could be herself, then she could allow others to be themselves, too.

Katy Goshtasbi is a securities lawyer, business development expert, coach, consultant and founder of Puris Consulting. She works law firms, lawyers, executives and organizations on mastering transitions/changes, finding their authentic voice/power to influence/inspire, improving mental & physical wellness/diversity and developing brands that get their message out effectively.

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