Keep Asking Until You Get a Yes

I don’t think you’ll find a female attorney who hasn’t shown up for a deposition and been mistaken for the court reporter. Or been called “doll” by opposing counsel. Or been subjected to mansplaining about something she knew backwards and forwards. And those were on the good days, because it means she got to take the deposition, got to negotiate with opposing counsel, or got a seat at the meeting. How did she get those opportunities?

As lawyers, we are trained to advocate—for our clients, for our causes, for the correct application of the law. But as women, we need to advocate for ourselves too, and that doesn’t come as naturally. My advice to younger women starting out in law and seeking career opportunities is this: Ask. And then ask again. And then ask again. If you see an assignment or a project that you want, ask for it. Want to speak in court? Ask. Want to depose that expert? Ask. Want to attend that client pitch? Ask. And for every nine “Noes” that you get, don’t be afraid to ask again. Maybe the tenth will be a “Yes.” And then, when you do get those opportunities—when you turn a “No” into a “Yes”—let people know that you did a good job—that you secured the critical admission or that you won the motion.

Sing your own praises and sing the praises of the women you’re working with. Self-advocacy can be exhausting, and it can feel defeating, but it’s so important for our own professional development and for the role models we’re creating for the women attorneys behind us. The old adage, “Women have to work twice as hard to be seen as half as good,” can still ring true if we let it.

Don’t let it.