6 Women Lawyers Who Changed the World

6 Women Lawyers Who Changed The World

Women lawyers have found themselves at the top of the world. Recently, people have begun to see the benefits of having a woman lawyer on their side protecting their legal rights.

While the world is adjusting and continuously embracing the rights of women, there are six women who come to mind who have helped to make that change possible.

In this article let us talk about 6 women lawyers who have changed not only the legal profession, but the world as we know it.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg

A list of the top lawyers would not be complete without Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Ruth Bader Ginsberg was an American lawyer who served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1993 until she died in 2020. She was a beacon of hope for many young women who aspired and continue to aspire to be part of the law practice. 

During her time, it was difficult to get work as a woman lawyer because she was a mother. She was advocated for by her former professor and as a result, Ginsberg was able to attain a clerkship. She fell in love early in her life, and marrie, Martin Ginsberg, nine days after she graduated from college. It was only when they moved to Massachusetts that Ruth decided to enter the field of law, just like her husband Martin. 

Ginsburg was a famous advocate of women's rights. She served as a member of the Supreme Court but before that she wrote majority opinions that set a lot of precedents even up to this day. Cases such as United States v. Virginia (1996), Olmstead v. L.C. (1999), Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Environmental Services, Inc. (2000), and City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York (2005).

As an advocate for women’s rights, she was a volunteer lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union and became a member of the board of directors, and then one of the general counsels in the 1970s. By the 1980s, she had already made a quite a name for herself, and President Jimmy Carter decided to appoint her to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Here, she served until her appointment to the Supreme Court in 1993.

When Ginsburg was left as the only woman in the Supreme Court, she became more forceful with her dissents. In the case of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co, the dissenting opinion she made was created to the creation of the Fair pay Act that makes it easier for employees to win discrimination cases. She was dubbed as "The Notorious R.B.G.", and she later embraced the name. 

Janet Reno

Janet Reno is an American lawyer that embodied the American work ethic and dream. Born in Miami to Danish emigrants, her mother wrote a weekly home improvement column and her father was a reporter for the Miami Herald. Attending public school her whole life, she was eventually sent to her uncle, who was serving as a United State military judge at that time. 

After a year, Janet returned to Florida and eventually enrolled in Cornell University with a major in Chemistry. After graduation, Janet decided to enroll at Harvard Law School. At that time, there were only 15 women in a class of 500 students, but she was successful, and graduated in 1963.

Janet began her career working as a lawyer for two law firms. She later joined the staff of the Judiciary Committee of the Florida House of Representatives. A year later, Reno ran for a seat in Florida's state house but she lost.  That same year, she was appointed as a lawyer in the Dade County State Attorney’s Office. Even if she worked for the Judiciary Circuit, Janet eventually accepted a position in a private law firm, Steel, Hector, and Davis.

Reno was a woman of stature and she proved it when she established her open drug court. Reno’s drug court system was later on replicated in other parts of the United States. She then worked actively in a lot of civic organizations.

One of the most popular cases that Reno has handled is when she prosecuted five white policemen for beating a black insurance salesman to death. The policemen were all acquitted and this led to the 1980 Miami riots. Reno is also known for her crusade against child abuse. 

Sandra Day O'Connor

Sandra Day O’Connor is another American lawyer, popularly known as the first female associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. She was the first woman to ever be nominated and confirmed for the position.

Before her tenure on the Court, she was originally a judge and an elected official in Arizona. She served as the first female majority leader of the state senate, and her nomination, she was confirmed unanimously by the Senate. When she announced her intention to retire, it was met with sadness on the part of the judiciary. 

Sandra wrote most of the landmark cases that are studied by law students all over the United States. She wrote the cases of Grutter v. Bollinger and Hamdi v. Rumsfeld. In 2009, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.

Gloria Allred

Gloria Rachel Bloom Allred was born in Philadelphia to a working-class family. Her father was a salesman and her mother a housekeeper. In one of the most shocking revelations in her autobiography, she described how she was raped at gunpoint, how she got pregnant because of the rape, and how she had a back-alley abortion. She experienced hemorrhaging and became infected. She only recovered after she was hospitalized. While she did not report the rape, it was a memory that haunted her all her life. 

In her legal career, Allred was an advocate. Due to her terrible experience, she advocated for clients in civil rights lawsuits that involved sexual harassment, wrongful termination, employment discrimination, and women’s right. She was "a longtime master of the press conference".

Two years after the rape, she met and married William Allred. This was a turning point for her as she then decided to enroll in the Southwestern University School of Law and later transferred to Loyola University School of Law at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Allred graduated and was admitted to the State Bar of California in 1975.

In her career, she has represented dozens of clients against celebrities such as those against Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, Esai Morales, David Boreanaz, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Herman Cain, Scott Lee Cohen, R. Kelly, Anthony Weiner, and Sacha Baron Cohen, 

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris is currently the vice president of the United States but before her political career, she was a lady lawyer first.

In her White House profile, it was stated that she has dedicated her life to public service. Harris was elected District Attorney of San Francisco, California Attorney General, and United States Senator all before she became the Vice President.

Born in Oakland, California to parents who emigrated from India and Jamaica, Harris was raised to be both smart and tough. Since her parents were known activists, the Vice President was raised in a home where you have a voice and your opinion matters. She graduated from Howard University and the University of California, Hastings College of Law.

Her legal career began in 1990 when she joined the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office where she specialized in prosecuting child sexual assault cases. She also served as the managing attorney in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. She was later named as the District Attorney of San Francisco in 2003. 

In her role, the Vice President created a ground-breaking program that aims to provide first-time drug offenders with an opportunity to rebuild their lives and find employment. This became the national model of innovation for law enforcement.

As part of her advocacy for youth reform, Vice President Harris established the Bureau of Children’s Justice where she instituted several reforms for the children. 

She also made sure to look after California as she won a $20 billion settlement for Californians whose homes had been foreclosed on.

Sonia Sotomayor

Sonia Sotomayor is an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Nominated by  former President Barack Obama, she is the third woman who has held a position in the Supreme Court. She is Hispanic and is the first woman of color and Latina member of the Court. 

Born in the Bronx, in New York City, Sotomayor was raised by her mother alone. Her father died when she was nine years old. This did not stop her from fulfilling her dreams as she graduated summa cum lauder from Princeton University in 1976 and later on received her Juris Doctor from Yale Law School.

In her career, she worked as an Assistant District Attorney in New York before deciding to enter private practice in 1984. Since she was an advocate of equality, she played an active role as a member of the board of directors in the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, the State of New York Mortgage Agency, and the New York City Campaign Finance Board.

When she was a judge, she was known fo her tough sentencing. She showed her willingness to take on anti-government positions in several cases, and made it known she supports the law over alliances.

One of the lawyers who practiced in her chambers had this to say about her: "She does not have much patience for people trying to snow her. You can't do it."

Women Rule The Legal World

By now you should be convinced that women rule the legal world. Whether it is by hard work, outwitting the odds, or drastic legislative change, women have done much to influence this country from the courtroom

Image Resources:

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

By Supreme Court of the United States, Photographer: Steve Petteway [1] - Supreme Court of the United States (Source 2), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55329542

Janet Reno:

By Department of Justice. - USDOJ http://www.usdoj.gov/jmd/ls/msreno.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1172563

Sandra Day O’Connor

By Library of Congress (Transferred by Sven Manguard, - http://www.womenshistorymonth.gov/images/profiles/feature_sandradayoconner.jpg and http://www.womenshistorymonth.gov/profiles/sandradayoconnor.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14610645

Gloria Allred

By Gloria Allred is the owner and holds the sole exclusive copyright of the work. - YouTube, screenshot derived from File:Attorney Gloria Allred's Open Letter to Rush Limbaugh.ogv, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37130280

Kamala Harris

Whitehouse Profile: https://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/vice-president-harris/

Sonia Sotomayor

By Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States, Steve Petteway source - http://www.oyez.org/justices/sonia_sotomayor (direct link), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7779138

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