Women In litigation: The other side
I recently came across a statement of Justice Chandrachud where he remarked
that the advent of virtual Courts has increased the productivity of young women
lawyers. When it is the month of June right after a long vacation at the Madras
High Court, I see a rush of fresh graduates maneuvering around the Courts, and
it feels wholesome to see the cycle of new budding lawyers embellishing the
However, we also begin to observe that during the course of time the women
lawyers consistently disappear from the profession. By the time a decade is
down, the women lawyers sustaining can literally be tallied in numbers. I could
hardly count the women practicing currently, who I knew and saw back then in
It put food for my thoughts, and I began thinking what are the opportunities
available for women in this profession? I started contemplating if women are
discriminated by any client only by virtue of being a woman or did their
opportunities/achievements diminish because of their gender. The answer to this
was in the negative.
So, then what is the problem that has to be identified? The elephant in the room
has to be addressed; this profession is physically and mentally challenging in a
gazillion ways to the fraternity as a whole regardless of the shortcomings with
the gender. In such circumstances, it is about the survival of the fittest, and
nothing is a walkover for any lawyer who began from the scratch or without any
Being a female lawyer does not score any brownie points before any Court nor
does it ease the challenges in any manner. And what has to be seen here is a
'professional' in the making. Further, when we dig deep, it is unidentified as
to why the ratio of women lawyers is comparatively less as when compared to the
There are many issues apart from the incessant domestic duties of women lawyers
who play a pivotal role in leading and moulding their families and running
offices. Being a boss at home and at work perhaps is a challenge but cannot be
written off as impossible. It is appropriate to intonate that leading a family
is a tedious and a relentless journey but so is the struggle for our dreams,
aspirations and ambitions that are beyond horizons. It is also an undisputable
fact that this balance is demanded from any kind of job, not just the legal
To retain and establish an independent practice in law is not a 9 to 5 job, and
it requires many elements that are not conventional. We have to adorn many roles
such as an entrepreneur, a professional, an administrator and a leader.
Litigation is not just about having knowledge of law but overcoming toxic work
environment, meagre remuneration, taxing work life, extreme physical exertion,
hard-wearing work in the registry in the initial days.
Towards the end of this pursuit lies a sense of accomplishment, power and
position, an empire (in whatever size), a team and contribution to the bar. Is
everyone ready to complete this expedition is another issue altogether. To be
entitled to this triumph we have to make it clear that this profession is not
meant for indolent people.
Today's young women lawyers ought to be taught that they should not be
apprehensive to take the leap and that they do not need gender reservations to
hold high offices but sheer grit and perseverance, which is the very same
journey for all. They deserve to be meritoriously rewarded with elevated
positions and not merely fill in a disproportion of genders.
We have seen empowered women assume offices as Judges of the Supreme Court, High
Courts and subordinate Courts regardless of their marital status. This brings me
to the fundamental point being that regardless of being married or unmarried,
every woman has a family and a job to do, the responsibilities are the same but
it only differs towards whom they are catered to.
This difference is crucial to understand that the 'balance' that we emphasize
about is not just premised on the marital status but with the equilibrium of
running an office in terms of administration and excelling as a lawyer. The
moment women are able to comprehend this reality, we would be able to see many
women being able to break stereotypes and not just settle for something that has
been told and accepted as a parable without even trying.
Judges can also reprimand women, and what follows next is that they still wear
their robes and go back to Court the very next day. There are some days where we
would have enlightened the Court in an efficient manner and been applauded for
that as well; many have experienced all of this. It is an essential requirement
that women possess emotional intelligence and strength to overcome any kind of
suppression and discouragement.
There are some discomforts for women in this profession, and there is no denial
about that. However, keeping that aside, the financial hurdles, the setting up
of a practice, the task of building a client base and making a team of lawyers
are the very same parameters for women and men, there can be no disparity here
without a second thought. The question is are women lawyers willing to go that
extra mile and embrace such challenges?.
Apart from the rigorous efforts and the fair share of struggles to sustain,
women in this profession have not been discriminated in any manner only because
of their gender. And neither were their opportunities thwarted., It is an
admitted fact that many have savored the best this profession has to offer to
women at a very young age, and achieving an independent practice within the
realm of their resources with the very same challenges on par with any other
professional. The answer to this if pondered deeply will make many women wonder
that maybe it is themselves who are coming in the way of breaking the stereotype
and not the stereotype itself.
The patriarchal set up may be orchestrated in such a way that women do face
hurdles in general, but is not fair for us to also admit that women are breaking
free through all impediments? Have we not had occasions where we have seen the
Courts pass pathbreaking verdicts favoring women? And it is evident that male
judges have played a significant role.
If we could go back in time, 20 years ago, we wouldn't have found many women
opting for law as a profession, but today with the flourishing law schools
around, we see women in equal ratio or even more in every classroom. These women
are progressing delightfully, where they have the luxury to travel to different
cities to participate in coveted moot competitions emerging as winners and
acquiring esteemed internships. Some women lawyers rove towards the corporate
world and are doing wonders; however, still fewer in number.
What happens to these women? Where do they go? It is prudent for us to
understand that if such women had the liberty and opportunities to be empowered
by virtue of such educational qualification, then isn't it just to say that
women have to wriggle through all challenges with all their dynamism to taste
the best that this profession has to offer. And everything that is required is
the sustenance, which this profession demands inconsequential of the gender. It
is unfortunate that even women hailing from privileged backgrounds are not ready
to take the plunge.
Also, reiterating what Justice Chandrachud has said, the virtual courts have
indeed opened the flood gates for many women to come conquer and proportionate
the ratio. As the virtual courts have cut down the long working hours, which was
the biggest obstacle of women to balance family and work, we are just a click
away from attending any Court hearing from wherever we are. It is time that
women start benefitting from such backhanded blessings in disguise to make the
best out of it. Also women of today have access to many shortcuts and resources
with the modern technology that has come into existence which was not available
To conclude, we cannot change the centuries old domestic structures but are in
the metamorphosis of bringing in the revolution we want to see. Fortune always
favours the brave; we sure can bring in the difference that we want by beginning
to sustain here despite all odds and excuses. The next time if someone asks a
female lawyer for some good news, the answer could be rocking, rolling, and
running an office.
Law Article in India
You May Like
Legal Question & Answers