Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was recently interviewed on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air and recalled her first job and the challenges she faced in securing it. Graduating at the top of her class from Stanford Law School in 1952, her husband (one year in the class behind her) and their family had decided that they would like to stay in the southern California area to begin their careers. Reviewing the local pegboard listing opportunities for Stanford Law graduates, she recalled more than 50 firms suggesting to give them a call for an interview.
Ms. O’Connor called most of them, certainly more than 40 of them anyway, and each and every one refused her request for an interview. Some firms didn’t return her call at all or politely suggested something else for her. Others, bolder, told her, “You’re a woman; I’m not going to hire you.”
Undaunted Justice O’Connor continued her search and discovered a local county attorney who employed a staff of secretaries, accountants and attorneys to oversee the books and handle the county’s business. She knew he had hired previous women and one with a law degree, and her interview went well. She recalled the attorney seeming to like her and, at least for appearance sake, wanting to hire her but suggesting frustration due to budget concerns. Ms. O’Connor knew that other men had been hired and could tell this was an opportunity – limited yes, but an opportunity – and she really wanted a job. She suggested that perhaps she could work for free. “Until you get a little bit more funding, and then only if you think I’m worth it you can pay me what you want”, she told him. Not being provided space in the office she set up shop in the secretarial pool.
This nation’s first female Supreme Court Justice, a renowned jurist with a sharp wit, a quick study, and revered for her evenhanded approach to jurisprudence, a jurist who ascended to the highest chair available for judges, could not even get an interview out of law school, and then when she finally did she worked for free. Her confidence, humility, perseverance, commitment and love for the law paid off. She opened doors, and all of us are better off for it.
Today, workplace discrimination, harassment and retaliation are illegal. But if not for trail blazers and those undaunted by doors shutting in their face, our system, the best in the free world, would still be antiquated and full of bias. Brock Law defends and prosecutes wage and hour claims to ensure fair compensation and harassment, discrimination, whistleblower and other employment law cases in the Bay Area and central Florida. If there is a concern or question about your employment, if you have an issue with compliance or would like to further discuss the handling of employment issues or management, you need us and we would welcome your call.