It’s not fair. It’s not fair. It’s not fair–I know. It’s not fair that we have to be twice as good to get the recognition and acclaim and basic respect as some mediocre/average people who happen to sit in positions of power and privilege. If we do twice the work, we should get double the rewards! But sadly, we’re not there yet. A resounding common-thread of advice that successful Latina lawyers share is that you have to be doubly prepared to exceed expectations and gain traction in your career. The reason for that is two-fold. One, we want to blow dumb asses that question our abilities out of the water. Like, you really didn’t see me coming, did you? Two, we feel your hesitancy and doubt–often in the core of our being–so we aim to be the best, most prepared, most capable to gain control and prove to ourselves that your misjudgments are wrong.
Being the most prepared is easier said then done. It requires time, effort, and dedication–a mental tax that’s not equally spread among our White counterparts. But if you want that promo, partnership, or referrals you need to have a frank conversation with yourself and come to terms with what you have to do to get to your professional goal.
Where should you even start?
One. Read everything. Like duh, but I don’t mean just read the statute or the basic case law that’s controlling—I mean really dive in and know the law you’re practicing. The best attorney I know (Latino, obvi) would boggle my mind because he knew the statutes and case law forwards and backwards. He would read, annotate, research small clauses–it was cray. But you knew that when he came to argue, he came correct because he had done his homework. Do that–as much as you can. Stay as updated as you can and beyond basic shepardizing and independently do research on current case law and legal theories.
Two. Over prepare. I don’t mean waste your time on things you know won’t help, but when you’re doing something for the first time, really prepare so much that you look back and realize you over did it. When I took my first deposition, I over-prepared because I wanted to feel as in control as possible. I read how-to articles on deps (written by lawyers, not wiki-how lol) and watched youtube videos of deps (this Texan one is still my fave) Over-preparing helped me keep my calm and I could see through all the tricks that OC attempted to do during the dep.
Three. Practice, practice, practice. When you’re going on the record or representing another person, in general, it’s best practice to showcase your best self. Stuttering, forgetting things is sometimes normal (especially when you’re new), but why not try to avoid that in the first place? Don’t be afraid to admit that your skills don’t always come naturally and that you need to put in the work. When I was interning at the public defender’s, they allowed me to do arraignments. A great experience for law clerks–usually. Except, my first time up, they just told me I was going to do it. They didn’t go over the process or any of the things I was required to say (I’m smart enough to have surmised that we needed to plead not guilty lol). So my first time on the record was rough. I was too embarrassed at the time to ask for clarification or more guidance and did a shitty job; don’t let your pride get the best of you. Practice, even the small things at first, so that everything feels natural and you’re prepared for any surprise.
Four. Be Fearless. Being the most-prepared–being doubly good, isn’t just about knowing the rules and presenting yourself confidently. It means that you actually produce above-average results. This means you have to be willing to think outside the box. You should push to try new arguments, advance theories, and change policy if your work requires it. My biggest wins have included cases where I argued social theory as discretionary factors. Calling out male privilege or systemic sexism isn’t something easily accepted by immigration–but effectively persuading systems of power on nuanced topics is kind of my jam. Yet, I wouldn’t have thought to do that if I didn’t push myself to think creatively in my arguments.