When one reaches a certain age in pursuit of their career, friends and family start asking the annoying yet predictable questions: “When are you going to slow down?” and “When do you plan on retiring?”
These questions always make me bristle because I wonder whether men are asked them at the same age. Why should I slow down when I firmly believe, and am told by others, that I am at the pinnacle of my career?
Taylor Swift, in her song “The Man,” acknowledged the challenges women face in their careers, whether at the beginning or the end, when she wrote:
I’m so sick of running
As fast as I can
Wondering if I’d get there quicker
If I was a man
And I’m so sick of them
Coming at me again
’Cause if I was a man
Then I’d be the man
I’d be the man
I’d be the man
Of course, “the man” is just a figure of speech. I consider my gender to be one of my greatest assets, and I feel the same way about being “a woman of a certain age.”
There is a saying that when it comes to your health you should choose a young doctor, but when it comes to the law you should choose an experienced and seasoned attorney. I will not comment on the former, but with regard to the law, I strongly agree that a person should always hire an experienced divorce attorney, one who has a solid reputation with judges, knows the other players in town (from the attorneys to the forensic experts, accountants and mental health professionals), and is perfectly at home in the courtroom.
An experienced divorce attorney can take the temperature of the judge and knows when to change tactics. She is comfortable and secure when negotiating deals and is formidable to face at a deposition. She will have the insight needed to predict the outcome of your case and can expertly guide you through the rather difficult process of divorce. What you do not want to be is a test case for a young attorney with very little experience in the law or in life. Remember that young lawyers have spent the majority of their lives in school. They are unlikely to have experienced purchasing a house or negotiating (or even reading) a contract, and they may not yet have experienced a long-term relationship.
When I was a young lawyer trying my first case, my “elderly” client (she was probably in her 50s, but what did I know?) forgot why she was in court. I asked to speak to the judge (the legendary Kenneth Black), who was very kind and helped me get through a difficult party’s testimony.
In a contested adoption case I tried early in my career, I was up against a very seasoned, quite handsome attorney (think Tom Selleck). He represented the husband, who testified against his estranged wife (they were also in the midst of a divorce) as to why she was not physically or psychologically capable of adopting a child. I should have objected to the husband testifying, since spouses hold certain marital privileges, and I could have prevented this damaging testimony from coming into evidence. Due to my inexperience, I failed to make the objection. The seasoned attorney pointed out my mistake to the judge and I was devastated because I believed I had ruined my client’s chances to adopt. On the way back from court I called a colleague and mentor who was kind enough to share his wisdom with me. I followed his advice, and when I made my final argument, I told the judge that I had intentionally allowed all of the evidence in, including the testimony of the estranged husband, because even the most damaging evidence could not change the fact that it was in the child’s best interest to be adopted by my client. We won, and my client was allowed to adopt the boy as a single parent.
I caution clients when they go to court to expect the unexpected, but when the unexpected is thrown at you, you want a seasoned attorney who can handle those situations with grace and ease.
Year after year, these are the experiences that make mature attorneys so valuable. A mature lawyer has also experienced the many obstacles and challenges that life inevitably puts in one’s way. She has learned to survive some of life’s major milestones, such as birth, marriage, divorce, and death. She also has been exposed to almost every conceivable kind of case, from high-conflict custody cases to complex marital dissolutions. I caution clients when they go to court to expect the unexpected, but when the unexpected is thrown at you, you want a seasoned attorney who can handle those situations with grace and ease. As I always say and try to make a habit of doing: Make lemonade out of lemons.
When my clients pay my high hourly rate, they are not just paying for my legal expertise, they are paying for the years of experience under my Gucci belt, my knowledge of the system, and my hard-fought wisdom about relationships and life. And although what I do can be grueling, it is also very rewarding (and honestly fun) in many ways.
No, I have no plans to hang up my designer suits, or to pass on my 5-inch Louboutin shoes to my daughters-in-law just yet. I love what I do and can honestly say that I have never been more on top of my game. Like Taylor Swift says: If I was a man, I’d be “the man.”