The unbearable lightness of being a (female) lawyer

by Arna Delle-Vergini

female lawyer pic

One of the frustrations of being a blawyer (lawyer/blogger) is that, more often than not, one cannot blog about one’s own clients. And yet, that is where all the best stories happen: in and around court. How to get around this? Well, this is this blawgers attempt. To protect my real identity, in this blog I’m going to call myself “Andy”. Oh, and I’ve made up a whole different country too. Just for added protection. 🙂

Once upon a time, there was a land called “Mysonia”.  It was a strange, half-forgotten land, where the quality of people’s lives was predetermined from birth essentially, according to the colour of their hair.  Basically, in this land, if you were born a brunette, you were considered to be a second-class citizen, blondes were first-class citizens and redheads were the ultimate rulers. Gender was irrelevant. In any event, there were rules and regulations about whom one could marry and have children with (as there are in our own country of course) but, since there were so many more brunettes than blondes or redheads, exceptions were allowed. These were rarely happy marriages though, as the brunettes would be routinely treated awfully by their partners and whilst there were laws that protected second-class citizens from being victimized, in practice, it happened all too often and little was done about it. Anyway, a great war broke out in this country and many people, of all different coloured hair, fled. Some fled to the US. Some to the UK. Some to France. Some to Sweden. And some saw fit to flee to Australia.

Our story picks up in Australia where “Andy” a lawyer is briefed to appear in a bail application on behalf of “Felicity” a blonde Mysonian who recently arrived in this country. Felicity had been charged (again) with breaching an intervention order. This was her third breach. She had a history outlining multiple assaults against her partner, Phillipe, who was; you guessed it, very much a brunette. On this occasion, Felicity bashed Phillipe so hard that he had to be hospitalized. After her arrest she made it very clear to the police that she had nothing but contempt for laws that protected brunettes from violent assaults and made it clear that she would repeat her behaviour the minute she was released. This was unhelpful for a bail application but Andy had been doing this for a while and was quite sure he could manage it.

It was 9.15am when Andy first met Felicity in the cells down in the Melbourne Remand Centre. He said a cheery “hello” and began to take Felicity through the remand brief. At one point he noticed Felicity looking at him strangely, but he decided to just continue. Eventually, he realized that the “strange” look was one of anger, possibly even contempt, so he asked Felicity if everything was all right.

“No, it’s not!” she said, with some anger. “They have sent me a prostitute”.

Andy looked around him quickly to see if anyone else had slipped into the interview room. Nope, just him.

“A prostitute?”

“In Mysonia, married brunettes do not work. The only brunettes who work are prostitutes. You are not married.”

Andy looked at his ring finger. “Oh, of course, I’m not married and I’m a brunette so you think I must be a prostitute”.

“You are a prostitute”.

Andy felt that, perhaps, reason might assist in this circumstance and explained: “Oh, no, you see, in this country, brunettes are allowed to work doing all sorts of work and it doesn’t matter whether they are married or not.”

Felicity did not seem at all pleased with this answer. In fact, she became angrier and demanded to know again why they had sent a prostitute in to act as her lawyer. Furthermore, Felicity didn’t believe, even in Australia, that Andy actually could have been a qualified lawyer, rather than a student, so she demanded to see Andy’s ID. Andy produced his ID but Felicity just became more and more enraged. She was starting to yell at this point and white flecks of foam were spurting out of her mouth. Eventually she started banging on the glass: “I want a proper lawyer. I want a redhead”.

Since Andy got paid either way, he was happy to leave Felicity foaming at the mouth in the cells while he organized a lawyer with different coloured hair to come and represent Felicity.  As luck would have it, there was a perfectly capable blonde idling about in chambers, so he flicked the brief to her and then casually made his way home.

As he was driving home he thought about two things. The first was how he might spend the rest of his day. (He favoured sitting at a café reading a book only slightly over sitting in a warm bath reading a book.). The second thought he had was: “what must it feel like to be born into a world that thinks you are superior by nature of your hair colour?” He had some idea of this because, in truth, even in Australia – the lucky country – there was a little of this caper going on. He had had some experience of people who were raised to see themselves as superior. These were people who were treated as smarter and funnier, even if they weren’t. These people were paid more to do the very same work as anyone else; consequently, they were typically wealthier. These people were given more airtime, as if everything that fell out of their mouths was golden when, really they talked as much rubbish as anyone else. These people often believed that they had no advantage whatsoever, but the moment someone tried to challenge them about their advantage, they instantly became very defensive and angry. They would say things like “just exactly who do you think you are?” Because Andy liked himself a lot, he didn’t spend a lot of time with these people but he had spent enough time with them to know that they existed and that, underneath it all, their greatest fear – greater than any other fear – was of being exposed. Their greatest fear was that one day, someone would discover that they were not actually superior after all. Andy couldn’t think of anything worse than living with a fear like this. It made him feel very sorry for them.

Postscript: Felicity was not satisfied with the blonde lawyer either and promptly sacked her. Felicity had come to feel a deep distrust of all Australian lawyers after having met Andy; after all, what kind of country allows brunettes to practice as lawyers anyway? No one will be surprised to hear that Felicity was not granted bail on this particular occasion.