Denver Bar Association
December 2009
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Book Review: “Dear Sisters, Dear Daughters: Strategies for Success from Multicultural Women Attorneys”

by Mariya Barmak

This collection of essays is from 44 experienced, minority women lawyers to future generations. Each chapter of "Dear Sisters, Dear Daughters: Strategies for Success from Multicultural Women Attorneys" is dedicated to a particular practice setting: large and midsize law firms; solo and small firms; public sector; government and nonprofits; judiciary; elected officials, in-house counsel and academia. The last chapter, titled "The Next Generation Responds," is an essay by a young lawyer who became the first African American woman to graduate from any law school in South Korea.

The authors discuss their own experiences in the legal profession, both good and bad. They offer advice for professional success to the next generation of multicultural women attorneys, including tips on balancing work and family.

I was surprised, however, that many of these experiences and tips for success appeared to be universal. For example, Holly Fujie, a partner with a large law firm from California, advises, "[k]now that with the right attitude, good mentors, and lots of hard work, you can succeed in this worthwhile and rewarding career." Raquel Rodriguez, an attorney from Miami, Florida, says, "Don’t forget to make time for yourself, your family, and your friends. Remember to get enough rest, eat right, and exercise. Take vacations when you can. Expand your horizons." Similarly, Juanita Hernandez, an attorney for the federal government in Washington, D.C., emphasizes the importance of good mentors. She advises young, multicultural women attorneys to believe in themselves. Sharon Burrell, an associate county attorney from Maryland, emphasizes the importance of preparation.

These are all good words of advice, of course, but in my opinion are just as applicable to minority women attorneys as they are to attorneys who are men or do not come from a minority background. This made me wonder whether many of the experiences that the contributors to "Dear Sisters, Dear Daughters" discuss are universal to all members of the legal profession rather than specific to women or minorities. I could relate the most to a comment made by Macarena Tamayo-Calabrese, an attorney currently in private sector in Illinois, who said, "[r]emember your humanity before your race and sex. Words like courage, perseverance, justice, and equality do not have a color or a gender."

Overall, I enjoyed this book. Many of the authors have unique and fascinating stories. For example, several of the authors are immigrants or children of immigrants like me. I could therefore relate well to the comment by Anastasia Yu Meisner, an attorney practicing estate planning and business transactions in Oregon, about straddling the gap between two cultures. I found the story by Mia Yamamoto, a transgendered minority female attorney specializing in criminal defense, to be the most interesting. It was especially interesting that all of her clients continued with her as their attorney following her transition, most without any hesitation.

This book has good advice for young attorneys or even people who are just beginning to consider law as a career. Overall, I was surprised to discover that similar advice came from attorneys from very diverse cultural backgrounds and practice settings. However, in my opinion, the advice in the book is meaningful not only to minority women attorneys but to all attorneys, regardless of gender or background. The compilation of essays now has me wondering whether race and gender still matter in the legal profession in 2009.


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