I Am Me: The Feminine Side of Lawyering
Guest blog by Kristi Kelly, Suisman Shapiro
Having a female lawyer can provide a level of personal comfort for some clients. Similar to seeking a female doctor, prospective clients routinely consider gender when seeking a lawyer’s legal advice and advocacy. I am female and I am a lawyer, and oftentimes, clients say to me “I called you because I need to speak to a female about what has happened to me: only a woman will understand.”
Whether you are dealing with a life-changing event such as a divorce, you are the victim of a crime, accident or botched medical procedure, or you are grappling with the nearly impossible feat of work/life balance and facing workplace disparities or overt discrimination or harassment, your unique issue may be one where consulting and a retaining a female attorney may be most appealing.
Perhaps it is because women are natural listeners and problem-solvers, or because female attorneys tend to approach clients and their cases with empathy and a comforting, compassionate tone. We are smart, intuitive, collaborative and persistent. Our ability to connect, on a personal level, with so many of our clients is likely because of these attributes, which work to the client’s advantage when in need of zealous advocacy. Warning: underestimate a female attorney at your own risk. Clients who are comfortable with their attorney willingly share the most important, more intimate details about a situation they are dealing with, arming their attorney with better-problem solving capabilities which often leads to overall positive end results. To their client’s advantage, female attorneys carry these attributes to the negotiating table or the courtroom, where we are well-organized and prepared, and we connect well with witnesses, judges and jurors, often having the tone and demeanor that not only commands respect but is viewed as credible and worthy of the fact-finder’s trust.
I recently read a piece published in 2020 Texas Law Review, “Reflections of a Lady Lawyer” by Lisa Blatt, which is relatable. In speaking as a female lawyer, Blatt wrote “[w]omen don’t look or talk like Perry Mason, and you don’t want us to.” When dealing with the situations in life that typically bring clients to seek a lawyer, there is comfort in having a lawyer who “gets you.” I do not look or talk like Perry Mason. I am me. I am a female. I am a mother. I love my work. I empathize with you. I grapple with the work/life balance (and the inherent mother’s guilt) of maintaining a successful legal practice while driving the soccer carpool and being an attentive dance mom. I hear you. I represent you.
Kristi Kelly concentrates her practice in labor, employment, and municipal law at Suisman Shapiro, the largest law firm in eastern Connecticut. Living along the shoreline, raising her three children, Kristi is an attorney who the firm’s clients connect with and find her approach comforting in the most stressful times in their lives. Kristi regularly works with other female attorneys in the firm, Eileen Duggan, Jeanette Dostie, Carolyn Kelly and Jillian Miller to meet client needs in many areas of law. She is a VA accredited attorney and 2020 recipient of the Connecticut Bar Association’s Honorable Anthony V. DeMayo Pro Bono Award for her work to provide advocacy for veterans recovering from homelessness and mental illness to overcome barriers to housing, healthcare and income.