Denver Bar Association
July 2005
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Book Review - Women-at-Law: Lessons Learned Along the Pathways to Success

by Daynel L. Hooker

Having read several self-help books offering advice to young lawyers, I’ve come to expect the same unsolicited monotonous opinions that suggest ways for new attorneys to conquer the legal world and become brilliant rainmakers. Not that this type of advice is useless, but what I’d like is some instruction that I can apply on a daily basis and use as a frequent reference tool that’s handy and doesn’t require research.

For me, Women-at-Law: Lessons Learned Along the Pathways to Success, by Phyllis Horn Epstein, not only fits the bill, but turns out to be a pleasantly useful gem. Epstein makes efficient use of her 353 pages, covering a myriad of interesting topics in 14 chapters, including career choices, dating and romance, the elusive balance between personal and professional life that lawyers are striving to achieve, and a chapter on role models and mentors.

If you’re looking for a quick read, this isn’t it, but it wasn’t intended to be.

Epstein interviews women at various stages of their legal careers: law firm partners, law school
professors, and state and federal judges. Many of these women are like Epstein — Temple University Law School grads — but that doesn’t detract from the content. Each chapter incorporates the specific event that triggered Epstein’s journey on the particular subject, as well as historical background, which provides depth and perspective to each topic.

For example, Chapter Two, "The Right and Privilege to Be a Lawyer," includes a discussion of the 1873 U. S. Supreme Court case, Bradwell v. Illinois, which upheld the Illinois Bar Examiners’ refusal to permit Myra Bradwell to sit for the Illinois Bar exam, refusing to hold that such a denial violated her right to equal protection under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Epstein goes on to discuss lawyers and suffrage, the early years of law school and her own desire to be a lawyer since childhood.

The real treasure of this book is Epstein’s anecdotal, "A Day in the Life" sections at the end of each chapter, which offer personal vignettes of what occurs during a day in the life of specific lawyers. For example, in Chapter Four’s "Career Choices," Epstein covers large firms; small firms; solo practice; in-house counsel positions; and demanding practice areas, including labor, mergers and acquisitions, and tax law. Following is Jane Broderson’s two-paragraph account of her busy day at a national staffing agency and as a mother of five. "My day starts at 5:30 a.m. when the first alarm rings. … I have the chance to breast feed my little one in the car. … Evenings are devoted to homework, dinner, and all the things the house and home require."

For me, the "Day in a Life" feature in each chapter serves as an excellent illustration that women have many choices in deciding on a path for a legal career, despite the limitations that exist in the legal industry, as well as in all professional arenas for women.

A final added bonus is Epstein’s Appendix H, which offers biographical information about the dozens of women she interviewed for this book. In addition to their full names, Epstein includes their home state and current employer. After reading about some of these women, this last piece of data makes it very easy to contact these remarkable women and learn more from them directly about their lessons learned along the pathways to success.


Daynel L. Hooker is a corporate/intellectual property
associate at KLB Services, L.L.C. You can reach her at

Women-at-Law: Lessons Learned Along the Pathways to Success is a publication of the American Bar Association. To order, visit

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