Women in Litigation
Contributed by Daniela Villafranca
This is exactly the phrase I entered in my internet browser to try to inform myself a little bit about the presence, position and participation of women in the world of litigation, very confident to find names of colleagues in the world of litigation both nationally and internationally. This happened a few minutes after talking to my husband about my experience in an international arbitration where, until that moment, there was a predominantly male atmosphere, in the Court, the lawyers of the parties, the witnesses and the experts. From a simple commentary on something that had come to my attention, he suggested that I write about my experience as a litigator. My experience as a WOMAN litigant. While I thought I could wait to do so, my immediate reaction was to start writing minutes after I hung up.
This is how I came up with the title of this article: Women in Litigation. Perhaps a very common or general phrase. Very inconspicuous or even monotonous. It may be all of these things, but it was this phrase that made me think that perhaps something needed to be said about the women who are in this world of litigation, particularly in the Central American region. When I did the search that I anticipated, the results were not what I expected. I did not find links to the lives of great lawyers. I did not find in the first options the papers of colleagues who, surely, have done exceptional work in different parts of the world. Women in litigation is, according to this widely used source of research, a result of gender violence or abuse and not, on the contrary, the result of years of study and professional preparation. In other words, the natural result of a search with the terms “woman” and “litigation” leads us to a series of articles on violence against women and I thought: Is this a mistake? Will the same results appear if I do the search on men?
By varying that one element in my search, the results now range from terms such as litigant, litigation, and a very timely key to understanding different litigation processes. As a Lawyer, as a mother of a child (possible Lawyer, artist or potential Rocker) and above all, as a woman, this result made me sad and motivated the way I have written this article.
Initially I thought to fill it with quotes, names, cases and important phrases. That a “cross examination” here and an expert housekeeper there. Seeing those results sitting in a hotel room, sacrificing time away from my family to be part of a litigation and arbitration team that, by the way, is spectacular, I decided that there was only one way to write this: with my heart.
Because that’s the reality. Women involve their hearts in everything! This, far from being a limitation, is a huge contribution to any work team and, why not, to a team of experienced litigants. In my case, I have realized that when I contribute most to a case, it is when I get fully involved in it, when I empathize with our clients, when I manage to put myself in the shoes of the witness or expert witness we have called to testify. Women have a clinical eye that, in the field of litigation, is extremely timely, useful and helpful. Seeing what no one else sees.
We do this in so many areas of our lives and it is, in my opinion, a very important characteristic of a litigator. See the window of opportunity in an argument. Analyzing a brief with a different vision and that provides defining elements in a case. Collaborate in the definition of a strategy. Anticipate lines of questioning. Organize all the components of a judicial or arbitral file. And, my favorite part, writing. Putting those team discussions into words. Take the position of the case to be transmitted with such clarity that, when the evidence is evaluated, the argument fits in such a way that it is as easy for the Judge as it is for us to reach the defining conclusion.
I have had the great joy of being part of a litigation team made up of people I admire very much and who, from day one, have motivated my development and professional performance as a litigator. This, in my opinion, is fundamental for the development of any professional: the formation of positive work teams. Particularly in litigation and arbitration, the formation of work teams is truly indispensable. Teams that work like a machine with the best precision; that communicate with a glance; that trust and value what each one brings to the table.
I know that my experience is still short, but, in the same way, short or long, it is an experience that allows me to conclude that this is an exciting work in which we have the opportunity to advocate for the correct application of the law to the specific case. A space of the Law that allows us to apply and put into practice our theoretical knowledge; an area that combines criteria and aptitude, knowledge and experience, mind and heart.
It may be that I started out thinking that this article would have a different approach, much more theoretical than it has been. If, finally, this reflection serves to motivate and encourage just one colleague to venture into the world of litigation, we will be more than those who will one day achieve that common, general, unremarkable and monotonous search on the Internet, enriched with the names and experiences of women litigants who will raise the practice of law in our country.