WashCo attorney showcased in 'Women Veterans in Law' panel
It isn't easy being one of a growing number of women in the legal field, nor is it easy being a woman serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Washington County deputy district attorney Trinity Hatch happens to have both experiences under her belt.
Hatch was honored on Monday, April 25, as part of a discussion panel by the Warrior Scholar Project, a nonprofit that supports veterans who transition into higher education.
Monday's conversation showcased women who are veterans and now work in careers in law. But it was also a conversation about how challenging it is for women in either of those male-dominated worlds.
"I'm certainly not going to deny that there are challenges with the military itself, and each branch has their own 'issues,' we'll call them," said Morgan Varty, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and Montana assistant attorney general. "I am not by myself going to take down anything … but how do I myself get to a place where am accomplishing what I want for myself?"
Varty focused on tests, coursework and paths that could get her promoted so she could implement the changes that she wanted to see. But her experience isn't unique to her, and it demonstrates the kinds of considerations that women must navigate in all walks of life.
Hatch described how one of the difficulties for women in law — aside from sometimes being the only woman in the room — is the issue of being perceived as too soft or too pushy, depending on the situation.
"I think all genders feel that, but I imagine women think about this even more," she said. "We're kind of always thinking about that."
In court proceedings in particular, Hatch says that one thing she struggles with is being assertive enough to be taken seriously, while not coming off as unsympathetic to the real people who are involved in criminal proceedings.
"It's always a matter of being nice while not being taken advantage of," she said. "Basically, you don't want to be seen as a pushover."
But Hatch also wants to be true to herself and authentic to her friendly personality.
She said everyone learns in law school to be the kind of attorney that authentically represents who they are. Juries, judges and opposing lawyers can easily spot a fake, which can hurt the case.
That's why, Hatch says, she sometimes has to take the advice of her male superiors with a little grain of salt. She says she always takes tips to heart, but there are times where she feels as a woman that she wouldn't be met with the same results if she tried a tactic that works for male attorneys.
"It would come off differently in front of a jury or a judge, for all these various societal reasons," Hatch said. "It does come off differently being a woman and it's difficult that we do have to think more about that. … It's something to keep in mind as you go forward in this profession."
In those instances, Hatch says she tries to seek out women with experience in the field to ask for their insights. Thankfully, she says, that's possible in Washington County District Attorney's Office because there are several female attorneys working there.
But this isn't the reality everywhere, and other panelists discussed how they can often be the only woman in certain areas of law or in the military service.
Alexandra Trobe, a U.S. Air Force veteran who now works as a law clerk in the Court of International Trade in New York, says that she has had that lonely experience both during her time in the military and during her time in law school, and beyond.
"Being the only woman in the room, you automatically stand out," she said. "It can come with a lot of pressure, but it can also be an empowering thing because you realize that you worked really hard to get here. I earned my spot, and now I'm going to blow your mind by showing how prepared I am."
Hatch says she clung a little bit to her military background as a way to maintain the rigid structure and hierarchy that life provides. When she left active duty in 2015, she stayed in the reserves for a year because she thought she would really struggle to adapt to civilian life.
Instead, she found that leaving the service helped her pursue the career that she wanted. When she enlisted, she was initially interested in a career tract that focused on paralegal work, but she missed the recruitment window for that program and instead trained with a cybersecurity detail.
While Hatch spoke fondly of her overall experiences in the Air Force, she said this experience helped her learn "what she didn't want to do" with the rest of her life. Similarly, this helped her see that if she wanted to pursue a career in law, she would need to more fully embrace her transition to civilian life.
"I thought I wanted that comfort blanket, but it was so hard to go from being a civilian, doing my English degree, to being a sergeant doing tech stuff," Hatch said. "I didn't really see those things meshing together really well."
All the panelists described how their time in the military, particularly as women in the military, has helped them overcome other obstacles and forge a path forward. They all said it's helpful to put things into perspective when cramming for the LSATs or for finals week during a particularly challenging term in law school.
"It was also just having that recognition that this isn't the hardest thing I've ever done, it's just the hardest thing I'm doing right now," Hatch said. "It's going to pass, and it's going to be worth it in the end."
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