How to Break a Good Old Boy Network

Good old boy networks and the legal profession have been tied together in popular culture, most memorably in my mind with Boss Hogg and the Dukes of Hazard. Luckily, at least in my neck of the woods, good old boy networks have largely died out or were never there to begin with. However, if you’re a young female in a courtroom full of older males or a metro attorney in a courtroom full of golf buddies, you can feel as though you’re the odd man (or woman) out.

Whether it’s because of your gender or your geography, there are ways to break past the good old boy network.

1. Don’t presume the good old boy network exists.

It can be frustrating when your “fantastic” abilities in legal persuasion don’t appear to be winning the day. If you’re in a new environment, it can be tempting to chalk up your issues to a failing in those around you. Mentally giving up or outright accusing other attorneys or judges for having a good old boys network will most certianly do nothing but harm your interests.

2. Don’t try to prove you’re the alpha dog.

If you feel like the odd duck in the room, it can be tempting to overly assert yourself. This is especially true for lawyers whose life’s passion is to stick up and assert the rights of their client. While you should never become a shrinking violet, throwing your weight around will rarely score you points with a new crowd, whether or not a good old boy network truly exists.

3. Keep your focus where it should be, legal precedent.

When you’re up against a good old boy network, your best tactic is to do your homework. Don’t rely on your charming personality to win the day, rely on legal precedent. Come prepared, not only with legal citations, but with hard copies of statutes, authoritative case law, and commentaries. Highlight them if need be. Give those hard copies to the judge. If you can show the judge that the issue is clear and ruling against your client will certainly mean being overturned by a higher court, you can minimize the role of any other forces that are at play.

Originally published on April 4th, 2011 and updated on July 18th, 2019


  1. Avatar BL1Y says:

    In addition to not assuming there is a good old boys network at your firm, don’t assume that all the straight white men in your firm are in it if there is one.

    If you frame the issue as women being disadvantaged because of the good old boys club, you’re going to alienate the men who have the exact same disadvantage.

  2. Avatar Odd Man Out says:

    Having been the odd man out, this most times will not work, in a system where the only way to move up is to old boy up. Any other suggestions, or words of wisdom?

    • Avatar BL1Y says:

      Go look at all the people who have moved up who weren’t part of the old boys network (it’s the majority of partners in law firms today), and then re-evaluate your use of the word “only.”

    • Avatar Jennifer Gumbel says:

      If an old boy system truly exists, work outside the system. If you can’t get a job because you aren’t related to any lawyers in the area, start your own shop. If you can’t pick off high value client because you don’t golf with them, try to find high value clients that have been ignored.

  3. Avatar Russell St.Clair says:

    how do you fight the network if your not a lawyer Iv’been trying for 9 years to no avail

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