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