I decided to go to law school when I was a junior in college in 1973. I bought the LSAT Prep Book with trembling hands; it seemed a momentous thing to do at the time. But I wouldn't enter law school until 1977 after working as a clerk typist and paralegal at a midtown Manhattan law firm. During that time I also volunteered at Legal Aid in East Harlem and at a 24-hour crisis center. All of these experiences helped me get into a law school I wouldn't have been qualified to enter based on my grades and LSAT score alone.
I decided to lean in for multiple reasons, not all of them laudable. I'd been working at a radical feminist women's center during my junior and senior years in college and decided I didn't want the life of poverty I saw those women leading. It felt like selling out, but on the other hand, I didn't want to follow the path my mother had mapped out for me—to become a teacher or a secretary so I'd "have something to fall back on" in case the husband forecasted for me died or left me.
My ambition was to rise above what I believed was a low station in life. I needed to prove to myself that I could do what was still seen as a man's job, and I wanted to have economic stability so I'd never have to worry about having a man die or leave me.
I went to law school and practiced civil litigation for 25 years. Then I went back to school to get a legal Master's degree in conflict resolution, started a mediation/arbitration practice and launched a blog about negotiation. I found my bliss in training women how to negotiate and in consulting with high-potential and high-achieving women to help them close their wage and leadership gaps. I co-founded She Negotiates Consulting and Training with my business partner, Lisa Gates, in 2010, and am poised to enter into a strategic partnership with Carnegie Mellon's new Women's Negotiation Institute.
How can anyone say how his or her life changed by making scary choices? Would I be a secretary? A waitress? Would I have married a successful man and had children? Would I have become a journalist struggling to make a living? My life is good because I never gave up trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. In fact, I'm still working on it today. I'm grateful for the opportunities that opened up to me as a woman born into mid-century America who came of age during the "second wave women's movement."