Women in the Law

How to be taken seriously? Recent grads who formed criminal defense firm fight 'sweetie' image


Being young isn’t necessarily a disadvantage, according to two criminal defense lawyers in Chicago who formed their law firm after graduating from DePaul law school last year.

Katie Kizer, 26, and Amanda Graham, 25, acknowledge there are few young, female criminal defense lawyers starting their own law firms. When they walk into a courtroom, people sometimes confuse them for a paralegal, secretary or student. It’s difficult, at first, to be taken seriously, they say.

“Other lawyers will call us ‘honey,’ ‘sweetie,’ ‘darling,’ ‘the girls,’ ” Graham tells Crain’s Chicago Business in a video. “It can be very difficult to be sitting with your client and have people refer to you in that way.” But once they begin talking, Graham says, people don’t call them “honey” or “sweetheart” any more. Crain’s (reg. req.) featured the two lawyers in its “20 in their 20s” feature.

Kizer says youth can be an advantage. The lawyers work late and leave no stone unturned in their work on behalf of criminal defendants. “We’re lucky enough that we do have that youth and that energy, and we’re so hungry,” she says. “We want to make sure that later in life we have that same hunger and same drive.”

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “‘Aggressive’ is not a dirty word for women rainmakers (podcast with transcript)”

ABA Journal: “Meet 6 law firm leaders, each with a different story, each at the top of her game”

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