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Who Was the First Female Lawyer in the United States?

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In 2020, 54.5% of first-year law students in the U.S. were women, and female lawyers made up 47.3% of all associates nationwide. Each year, female attorneys have become increasingly prominent as associates and partners in the nation’s top law firms (including the founder and managing attorney of Avrek Law, Maryam Parman). It celebrating these achievements, it is also important to look back and acknowledge the famous female lawyers who blazed a path ahead, paving the way for those to come.

Who Was the First Female Lawyer in America?

Arabella Babb Mansfield has the distinct honor of being known as the first woman attorney to be certified in the United States. Known as Belle, Mansfield graduated from Iowa Wesleyan College in 1866. She then studied law at her brother’s law office for two years before she went on to take her bar examination. The all-male Henry County Bar Association granted her admission in 1869, amending Iowa state legislation to allow women the right to practice law. Although Mansfield never worked as a traditional lawyer, she became a well-known educator and public speaker on women’s rights issues.

More Notable Women in the History of U.S. Law

Ada Kepley

In 1870, Ada Kepley became the first woman to graduate from law school in the United States. Despite this success, Illinois barred her from receiving her license and practicing law. Later in life, Kepley turned her efforts to writing and social reform (with a particular focus on the temperance movement, which opposed the consumption of alcohol). Kepley was finally admitted to the bar in 1881, but did not formally practice law.

Myra Bradwell

Born in 1831, Myra Bradwell was a publisher and political activist. In 1869, Bradwell passed the Illinois bar exam, but was denied the right to practice by both the Illinois Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. Not to be deterred, Bradwell focused her efforts on social concerns (most notably women’s rights to own property). Although Bradwell could not officially be counted among the practicing lawyers in the 1800s, she did eventually receive her license to practice in 1890 from the Illinois Supreme Court, followed by the U.S. Supreme Court two years later.

Detail of two attorneys shaking hands - who was the first female lawyer?
Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Perhaps the most famous female lawyer of the 20th century, Ruth Bader Ginsberg became the second woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Appointed in 1993, she served until her death in 2020. Ginsberg began her law studies at Harvard, before transferring to Columbia Law School for her 3L, where she tied for first in her class upon graduation in 1959. After law school, she focused mainly on teaching after joining the faculty of Columbia Law in 1972, where she later became the first female tenured professor. Ginsberg was a major advocate for reforming gender inequality and women’s rights, and was the co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Women’s Rights Project.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Although Hillary Clinton may be best known for her role as the First Lady from the years of 1993 to 2001, she was also one of only 27 Yale Law School graduates in 1973, and stands as one of the country’s famous female lawyers. Throughout her career, Clinton focused on intellectual property and patent infringement law, and was twice named on “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America” list issued by the National Law Journal.

Michelle Obama

Like Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama is widely known for her time as First Lady. However, prior to her famed time in the White House, Obama graduated from Harvard Law School in 1988, and pursued a successful career in intellectual property. In the years that followed college, Obama also devoted herself to public service, working actively with many non-profit and medical communities. Among other notable efforts and achievements, Michelle Obama founded and served as the executive director of the Chicago chapter of Public Allies.

Maryam Parman

Born in Tehran, Iran, Maryam Parman immigrated to the United States and officially began her pursuit of justice and public service in 1994 when entering law school at the Western University College of Law. Prior to law school, Parman studied pre-med at the University of California, Irvine, where she developed a deep understanding of personal injury, and a passion for assisting the wounded.

After receiving her Juris Doctor (J.D.), Parman was promoted from clerk to associate at the law firm she had started work at in her final year of law school, and was later promoted to partner after just two years. One year later, Parman founded Avrek Law, where she has become one of the highest earning female attorneys in the United States.

In addition to her work as a leading “no win, no fee” attorney, and serving as a board member for the Trauma Intervention Program, Parman’s humanitarian efforts extend to the Maryam Parman Foundation for Injured Children: a non-profit dedicated to funding healthcare services for children, founded by Parman in 2017. Maryam Parman also serves as a mentor to many up-and-coming female lawyers in both the English and Spanish-speaking communities.

Hiring the Best Female Attorney for Your Case

If you’re looking for the right female lawyer to help with your personal injury case, Avrek Law is here to help. Over half our legal team is comprised of female lawyers and employees, and we are proud to follow in the footsteps of the remarkable famous female lawyers that have come before us. With over 45,000 cases resolved and $1 billion recovered for our clients, it is our mission to help injury victims obtain justice. View our locations and schedule a free consultation today!

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