For Women in Law By Women in Law

Claiming Your Authority

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I recently listened to a podcast on the topic of “Claiming your Authority” by host Kara Loewentheil, a lawyer turned life coach from New York. It had me thinking about how I claim my authority in my own personal and professional life.

The ideas introduced in the podcast are not novel – Kara discusses how women are conditioned to think and behave in certain ways. Typically, this entails women taking a back seat when it comes to decision-making, women being quiet and “polite”, and women taking on more traditional roles in family and work life.

The central theme of the podcast encompasses the tensions between the internalization of seeking approval for decision-making, and the discomfort and push-back women receive in instances where they make decisions for themselves. For instance, one guest blogger spoke to how she set out to make a million dollars a year. Initially, she caught herself thinking “are we [women] allowed to do that?” She discussed the break-through moment when she realized she did not need permission from someone else to pursue her goal.

In my own experience, I have found myself in the same position at times, questioning whether I am “allowed” to do something. This may show up as seeking guidance and approval on certain decisions rather than trusting my own instincts. So how can women proceed to claim their authority in an authentic and meaningful way?

Kara asserts that your authority is exercised when you make a decision, whether it’s right or wrong. She advises that women must be willing to make a decision and support themselves in the aftermath, including accepting a decision that turns out to be the wrong one. This is easier said than done and takes practice. In my view, this can be particularly challenging in a high-stress and high-pressure career such as law. Lawyers are constantly making decisions and are often put in situations where a difficult choice must be weighed out and executed, despite calculated risks.

Below I summarize some key takeaways from the podcast, and I add my own thoughts with respect to specific strategies to claim your own authority:

Start small

Make decisions for yourself without seeking validation or approval from others. Making decisions for yourself, no matter how small, will build upon a foundation of confidence and trust in your own decision-making process.


Build a support system around you

It is important to have one, or a few, colleagues and friends who are in your corner and who will be supportive in your role and the decisions you make.


Don’t doubt yourself

Remind yourself that you’ve gotten this far by trusting your instincts.


Find supportive male role models and mentors

While having comradery with female colleagues is invaluable, I believe building supportive networks with male colleagues is also important. I am fortunate to have had exceptional male mentors and role models throughout the course of my career thus far.


Cherish successes

Give yourself permission to celebrate accomplishments, whether big or small.


Finally, believe in yourself

Even when we make the wrong decisions, there is opportunity for learning and growth. Mistakes make us stronger and wiser.


What does authority mean to you?


About the Author

Leyla Salmi is an associate at Harper Grey and practices with the firm’s Construction and Engineering Law Group. Leyla takes pride in giving back to the profession and her community. She currently acts as a Beedie Luminaries Mentor, providing mentorship to students as they complete their post-secondary education.

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