“Wow, that’s a firm handshake” — Challenges of a Female Criminal Defense Attorney

My friend and colleague, Leslie Smith, posed a great question this morning on Facebook. She asked: “Female criminal defense attorneys: does anyone know why there aren’t that many of us?” While there are female attorneys working as prosecutors and public defenders, there are few female criminal defense attorneys in the private bar. There are even fewer that focus solely on criminal law. A discussion ensued, posing some possible answers: perception by criminal defendants that older male attorneys are more competent, the fact that more criminal defendants are male and therefore might prefer male attorneys, less female attorneys interested in criminal work, etc.

The whole discussion got me thinking about how far women have come in our profession. However, I’ve found that we still have a long way to go to receive equal treatment to men. Since we’ve opened our firm, Courtney and I have had several frustrating encounters with male salespeople. It is amazing that in this day and age, men (who are trying to sell us something) think it is appropriate to refer to us as “girls” and remark on the strength of our handshakes. Recently, one male salesperson, attempting to sell us advertising in his magazine, told us that for his women’s only edition, he will have all the featured women go to the Kentucky State Capitol and take some pictures. One will be a serious picture and another one will be “crazy” where all of the female attorneys will throw their arms up, put on wigs, and act goofy. I find it very hard to believe that this would ever be suggested to a male attorney.

That being said, Courtney and I work in a primarily male dominated office space, and have been treated with the utmost respect by our male colleagues. These men have proven to be great resources and we are lucky to share space with them.

I’m not sure of why there aren’t more female criminal attorneys (or female litigators in general). I do know that we have some great female criminal defense attorneys in the Louisville area. Maybe we need to come together to talk about these issues. I would definitely be interested in discussing what we can do to see more female criminal attorneys in our courtrooms.

About Abigail Green

Abigail Green is an attorney based in Louisville, KY. She is a founding partner of Kellner Green, PLLC and practices primarily in the areas of family and divorce law.