Michel visiting the winter garden in the Biltmore Estate.

Attorney Michel Starkey’s Story – Women’s History Month 2022

I consider myself very fortunate in the path I took to get where I am today. I am an attorney, yes a male dominated occupation, but over the past 20 years I have seen a magnificent change in the amount of women entering this field.  I am fortunate in that I affiliated myself with a law firm that is certainly family oriented and welcomed me as such from day one.  I actually started at the firm as a receptionist, I had finished my undergrad degree and was at a crossroads in my life so I applied for the job at the suggestion of a friend that also worked at the firm. I was immediately encouraged to further myself, even in the interview being told I was overqualified. Over the next several months to year I was encouraged to look into law school by one of the partners, so that is what I did.  The four partners I still work for today were my mentors throughout law school and I was so fortunate to know that I already had a position at the firm as an associate attorney when I finished. So, like I said, I am one of the fortunate ones, my path in this once male dominated field was quite easy for me in that regard.  Yes, I was the first female attorney at this firm, but I never once was made to feel under-qualified or inadequate because I am a woman. 

However, outside of the attorneys I worked for in the firm, that was not always the case.  There were numerous cases I worked on with opposing counsel where the way I was spoken to was on the cusp of sexual harassment and definitely situations where I was not taken seriously.  It was certainly very frustrating, but something I just had to learn to overlook.  Over time that has seemed to get better as I became more respected in the community. 

In law school I had the pleasure of interning for a female judge in a criminal court in Marion County. She was tough and even feared by some of the attorneys that came before her, but then in her chambers her caring persona came out and you could tell she really had a passion for her job and was determined to help these offenders that came before her better themselves. I knew from that moment my strong sense of independence was going to help me persevere in this career, and I strived to gain the same respect that she had gained from everyone she worked with by maintaining my confidence and staying “tough”.  

I feel as a woman and certainly as a mother, I have an advantage in that my empathy helps my clients to feel comfortable and more at ease in an otherwise high stress experience for them. I also feel being a mother has helped me in being a better attorney with my ability to multitask and manage my case load but yet still make each client feel important. 

Honestly, I feel women are making an amazing appearance in this industry now and I would certainly encourage any young female to aspire to this career. I know my view is probably different from someone working in a large city or very large firm where obstacles to women may be more apparent, but my community seems to be very welcoming to female attorneys and I am certainly proud of the path I took to get here.

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