3 Classes of Women Lawyers

18 January 1916 — August Chronicle

+++++“Elinor Byrne, writing in the New Republic, divides women lawyers into three classes. The first have ‘with infinite patience and determination secured a foothold in the profession. Their creed is that by proving their ability to do so, in the same way that men do, some of the things men lawyers are doing, they will establish their fitness and gradually be given greater opportunities.’
+++++The second consists of women who ‘discouraged by the prejudice against them, or disillusioned by realization or the chasm between the law as it is practiced and their ideals of justice, have dropped out of the profession.’ These women often become valuable in social work, but feel that they have wasted years on law study.
+++++The third class have gradually become convinced that they do not want success if it means they must do what successful men lawyers are doing.  But they are unwilling to give up the practice of law because they feel there must be something worth while in doing so.’  They do not want merely to play ‘a game in which the lawyer’s part is to help the client follow his own desires regardless what the law is, regardless of justice.’  Women lawyers ‘do not think we have any special intelligence or any unusual spiritual insight qualifying us to reform the world. But we do believe that if ever we are to accomplish anything worth while in the law, we must begin now, while we are in the full tide of rebellion. The question is, what are we to do?’
+++++One may venture to answer the writer’s question, ‘Get to work educating public opinion.’
+++++Our present method of administering law is antiquated and absurd.  Men lawyers, as well as women, are beginning to see what the layman has known for a long time, that the body of law does not fit modern life, and that making a game of the profession whose ideal should be the administration of justice is prostitution.
+++++But a long road must be traveled in making the individual want justice for the social body as a whole rather than to gain his own personal desire if that be antisocial or unjust.  If lawyers will insist upon what this woman wants to do, ‘find out what the law is in any given case, help to have the case decided by the law, and finally, try to change the law so as to make it representative of the needs of the community’ that will mean a revolution in legal affairs.
+++++But supply follows demand.  Clients must be willing to abide by the law.  If women lawyers like the writer of that article can spread the gospel of justice as opposed to word juggling and law evasion, they will find their yearning to ‘accomplish something worth while in the law’ abundantly satisfied.”


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