An Inside Look Into In-House Counsel: The Woman's Experience

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on August 19, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Women have been getting a lot of attention lately. We recently talked about whether you should lean in, opt out, and the best law firms for women. Today, we give you an inside look into the thoughts of female in-house counsel.

Specifically, we wanted to know if, as women, they had unique career issues. Not surprisingly, the various women we spoke to brought up shared experiences, and they seem to mirror the issues in the corporate world in general -- affecting everyone, both women and men.

The Glass Ceiling

Many of the women noted that most of the executives in their companies were men, bringing into question whether the glass ceiling is still alive, well and recently Windexed. One attorney noted that having a supportive manager, who was also a woman, helped her advance her career, as compared to women with male managers. Which brings us to ...

The Good Ol' Boys Club

Many times, women in-house counsel may be the only woman in a meeting, especially if they work for companies in a male-dominated field. This can be isolating because the small talk may revolve around topics and terminology that they don't have much familiarity with (sports, lawn mowers). Of course there are women who can talk shop about sports and any kind of motorized vehicle, but the effect of being the only woman in a room can be intimidating. It may be harder to build a rapport with male colleagues, and there is always the nagging question of whether you are actually being heard.

Team Spirit

Men emphasize "I" and women emphasize "we." It seems women don't self-promote as easily, or take credit for, their achievements at work as often as men. Which makes sense when you consider ...

The Bitch Perception

All women everywhere at some point have been called a bitch for doing something innocuous, which if done by a male, would go unnoticed. Women in-house attorneys need to walk a fine line between advising their clients sternly, and being perceived as a bitch. It doesn't always work.

The Work/Life Balance Myth

Yes, life is a bit easier than those days at BigLaw, but the whole idea of a work/life balance is still a myth. Many have that nagging feeling that they aren't spending enough time with their kids -- a sentiment not shared with most of the men they work with.

We may have come a long way baby, but our insightful talks with these in-house attorneys makes one thing clear: we have much further to go. If this issue is near and dear to you, consider attending the Women, Influence & Power in Law conference sponsored by InsideCounsel in Washington, D.C. this October. If you are based in the Bay Area, try to get involved with Leading Women in Technology, a non-profit advising women executives in the technology field.

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