The American Lawyer recently suggested lady lawyers struggling in their careers turn to an unexpected new role model: the dominatrix. Although the article is less titillating than the headline (“Ladies, Get Out Your Whip”), it suggests that the career-counseling dominatrix can teach female lawyers—whom the article suggests are accustomed to “[n]ot getting credit, fear of asking, freezing at critical moments”—to “train” the men in their lives by making the men submissive.
Set aside the fact that an article encouraging male lawyers to train their female colleagues in such a way could only be found in the deep recesses of 4chan. In this article, I suggest five women all lawyers could view as role models long before turning to someone in leather and chains.
1. Judge Amy Coney Barrett
Currently sitting on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Amy Coney Barrett is a sterling role model for all lawyers. Barrett was nominated by President Trump in 2017 and survived a heated confirmation hearing, which included an exchange that has not aged well: Sen. Al Franken “question[ed]” her “judgment.”
Barrett is a beloved member of the faculty at Notre Dame Law School, where she teaches civil procedure, federal courts, and statutory interpretation. She is the mother of seven children, and—as this writer can personally attest— a generous and kind woman who gives to and expects from her students attentiveness of the highest quality.
2. Sister Nirmala Joshi
Any lawyer worth his salt should respect those trained in law but who live without practicing law. Sister Nirmala Joshi lived that life in spades. Raised in India and the eldest of ten children, Sister Nirmala was brought up in a Hindu family but, after being educated by Christian missionaries, converted to Catholicism and joined Saint Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.
While a religious sister, Sister Nirmala attended the University of Calcutta and obtained her law degree. As a Missionary of Charity, Sister Nirmala dedicated her life to serving the poorest of the poor, and eventually succeeded Saint Mother Teresa as superior general of the institute.
3. Professor Erin Hawley
Erin Hawley is counsel at Kirkland and Ellis LLP and an associate professor of law at the University of Missouri. As a member of the academy, her research focuses on constitutional law and the federal courts.
Hawley has all the markings of a legend in the making: graduated from Yale law, clerked on the Fourth Circuit, clerked for Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, briefed NFIB v. Sebelius (the Obamacare decision), and worked at Bancroft PLLC. Her sparkling credentials even outshine those of her husband’s, state Attorney General Josh Hawley, who is vying for Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill’s seat in November.
4. Judge Meg Ryan
Ryan sits on the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and is therefore not quite a household name. However, given the structure of military courts, the decisions of the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces are often unreviewable—meaning final—or only reviewable by the Supreme Court.
After graduating from law school, Ryan served on active duty in the Marine Corps and as Judge Advocate General’s Corps trial counsel both overseas and at military bases in the United States. She was later selected by Gen. Charles C. Krulak to serve as his aide de camp.
Ryan’s name has been floated as a potential Supreme Court pick, and there is no doubt the court would benefit from Ryan’s independent thinking (she is known for writing independently far more often than the average appellate judge) and rich faith.
5. Marie Kenyon
Marie Kenyon is a testament to the lasting effect one can make when focusing on a single community. Kenyon has been the backbone of St. Louis’s Catholic Legal Assistance Ministry, an arm of Catholic Charities, for almost three decades. Kenyon’s ministry offers legal aid to the underserved population of St. Louis, Missouri.
While state governments establish and fund criminal defense attorneys for indigent populations, countless people are left without legal representation when handling equally dire civil matters: foreclosure proceedings, guardian ad litem issues, custody disputes. Kenyon lends a voice to those people. It seems that every community across the country has a person like Kenyon: fiercely dedicated to a cause and humble enough to be relatively unknown anywhere else.
Lawyers can face any number of challenges with confidence and grace when they try to model their careers and characters after women such as these.