Being a Female Law-Firm Owner in a Male-Dominated, Racially Unbalanced Field

Born and raised in Pasadena, The Graves Law Firm founder ( recently added author to her résumé with her new book, When Women Run the Firm: How to Successfully Launch and Manage Your Law Practice With Confidence. Here, the certified family law specialist and host of weekly podcast Legally Uncensored shares her thoughts on being a firm owner in a male-dominated and racially unbalanced field.

What prompted you to open your own law firm in 2005, at just 25 years old?

When I graduated from law school, there were limited legal positions available, and, at the time, the offer I accepted was with a family law firm. I loved the work but didn’t love the firm, so I ended up opening my own firm six months out of law school without really knowing what it entailed to be successful. I had a lot of on-the-job training, but here I am 16 years later, thankful that it all eventually worked out.

Did you face any challenges when starting out as a young attorney?

In the beginning, I didn’t feel accepted. Family law is already cutthroat because of the nature of the business so it was challenging. I was young, Black, and a woman, so I knew I had to work that much harder. I was often mistaken for the clerk or a paralegal; it was rarely assumed that I was the lawyer.

What inspired you to write When Women Run the Firm during the pandemic?

I felt like “if not now, when?” It was truly a time to focus on something other than the constant stress and uncertainty of the pandemic. I feel one of my life’s callings is to be an inspiration and have women—Black, white, and otherwise—look at me and say “Wow, if she can do it, so can I! No business background, no law-firm owners in her family, and a law practice straight out of law school. What can I do with my own life?” I hope the book inspires and leads at least a million women to feel encouraged to open a law firm. Most men already feel empowered and confident to do such a task but I feel women still need the extra push. 

Are you seeing a change in the number of women and minorities practicing law in today’s climate?

If you look at the percentages, especially Black women or Black people in general, I think there’s still only 5% in the legal profession so there’s not a lot of us as it is. I still feel like law is heavily dominated by men and while I think this is shifting, we have a long way to go. I hope that my story will encourage many women, especially minority women, to go for it. 

Do you have any advice for women starting out as lawyers?

Believe that you can succeed in a male-dominated field. It will not be easy, and there may be times you want to quit, but always remember you can and you will despite discouragement and possible naysayers. If I can, anyone can!

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