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Changing the picture of What a Lawyer Looks Like

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What a Lawyer Looks Like
Attorneys Taylor Soule, Margo Rusconi, and Lizett Schreiber in their photos for the What a Laywer Looks Like project.

When I began law school in the Fall of 2001, our dean informed us at orientation that it was the first year that women outnumbered men in the entering class.  Two decades later, we still have daily stories from @LadyLawyerDiary about how female attorneys (and judges) are still being mistaken for court reporters and secretaries.  For both men and women of color, it can be even worse, with some even being mistaken for defendants!

Additionally, there is a stereotype that lawyers are all staid and professional and that this means that tattoos and funky hair colors are out of line.  But in my experience, that isn’t true anymore.  The profession is no longer the domain of cis, white, hetero males.  Lawyers come in all genders, all races, all sexual orientations, and with all kinds of personal style.  I wanted to do something to reflect that.

I have long been interested in photography, and over the years I’ve shot just about everything from landscapes, to journalism, to sports, to portraits and have even been paid for my work.  Recently, I was researching ways to continue portrait photography during the pandemic, when social distancing and masks are required, and not wanting to expose myself or my family to folks outside my bubble, when I came across the idea of a remote photoshoot. 

Starting last April, photographers all over the world began conducting photoshoots using cell phones and video chat technology, such as Zoom and FaceTime.  The model handles the camera and styling, and the photographer directs camera placement and offers suggestions on poses.  Then, typically using the video chat programs internal capabilities, the photographer takes a photo.

This concept intrigued me.  I began thinking of who I knew who would be willing to try out something like that, and my Twitter friends immediately leapt to mind.  Since I use my Twitter primarily to connect with friends and colleagues in the legal community, the vast majority of those I follow and who follow me are attorneys.  This led to the birth of the “What a Lawyer Looks Like” project.

I decided to try and capture lawyers who are women, people of color, or both, or who just don’t fit the mold of the black, grey, or blue-suited straight, white male.  I hope to remind people that lawyers don’t all look the same and may not fit people’s preconceived notions.  I’ve heard time and time again that representation matters and I agree.  This project is an effort to help represent the amazing diversity in our shared profession.  My hope is that the project will prevent the next woman or BIPOC attorney who walks into a courtroom from being asked when the attorney will arrive.

My hope is that, once the pandemic is under control and travel has returned to something like normal, I can follow up with the people who sit for me for a more formal portrait session using my professional lighting and camera equipment.  But for now, I have found the remote photoshoots to be quite fun and interesting.

The legal profession has come a long way in the 20 years since I started law school.  But in many ways, we still have a long way to go.  My photo project is an attempt to help nudge us a bit further down that road to a time when all attorneys, regardless of how they look, are recognized for who they are and what they have accomplished.

You can find photos from my shoots, which are regularly being updated, by following the #WhatALawyerLooksLike hashtag on Twitter and Instagram, or by following me on either service.  And if you would like to participate in a remote photoshoot, my DMs are open.