Leading lawyer S.C. Bar's Paylor says women shouldn't hold back

Alice Paylor, incoming president of the South Carolina Bar, wants to help law school graduates think creatively to find jobs and encourage women lawyers to better advocate for their own career goals. Paylor, a partner in the Rosen Hagood law firm, has been named one of the country's top lawyers.

Wade Spees

A Charleston attorney already nationally recognized for her legal skills is the new president of the 14,000-member South Carolina Bar.

Alice Paylor, a partner in the Rosen Hagood law firm, is a past president of the S.C. Women Lawyer's Association. She concentrates in complex commercial litigation, school law and employment litigation.

Although the Sullivan's Island mother stays busy with work and family, Paylor thinks women can hold high-profile jobs, raise successful families and even find time for themselves. She also thinks women should better advocate for themselves to reach their career goals.

Despite her own schedule, Paylor also has served on the Franklin C. Fetter Family Health Center board and city of Charleston Redevelopment and Preservation Commission and as chairwoman of the Sullivan's Island Board of Zoning Appeals.

What does she have in store for the state's legal community next?

She recently answered questions about her experiences and goals.

Q: As you step into the S.C. Bar presidency, what do you consider to be the most significant issue facing women attorneys?

A: I began practicing law in 1977 and went to a women lawyers' lunch attended by 12 women, who were most of the women practicing law in Charleston at that time.

Women are now a much higher percentage of the legal profession, but the number of women serving as judges is still very low.

One issue is that women are less likely to strive to be partners in law firms.

Women also are still being called on to run their households and to be the primary caregivers for their children, creating many issues regarding their work-life balances.

I am reading Sheryl Sandberg's book, “Lean In,” and she zeroes in on professional women who do not stand up for themselves and lurk in the background rather than taking a seat at the table.

The most significant issue facing women attorneys is to step forward and take the positions they have earned.

Q: How will serving as president of the S.C. Bar differ from your time serving as president of S.C. Women Lawyer's Association?

A: Serving as the president of the S.C. Bar will be different because every lawyer in South Carolina is a member of the S.C. Bar, so there is a very diverse constituency to be served.

One of my goals this year is to make sure that our diverse membership is included in all areas of the bar and that the bar's services are relevant to its diverse membership.

Q: What is the biggest problem facing the legal profession today?

A: The biggest problem facing the legal profession today is the influx of new lawyers who are not able to obtain work in the legal field.

Many of these newly licensed attorneys hang out their own shingles even though they really do not know the business of practicing law, including all of the ins and outs of running their own businesses in addition to not having any experience in practicing law.

The bar has a task force to study these issues and to make recommendations to our law schools to better prepare their graduates for the possibility that they will be unemployed.

Q: Are there too many lawyers in South Carolina?

A: I do not believe that there are too many lawyers in the state. However, I am concerned that there are many new lawyers who are not finding the jobs that they expected to be waiting for them once they passed the bar.

I encourage these new graduates to think outside the box when considering job positions. Those who are creative will be more successful in finding jobs than those relying on traditional methods.

Q: Would you recommend law to younger generations?

A: I love my profession. It has opened up avenues that I could not even have dreamed of when I was growing up, including my being president of the S.C. Bar.

I would definitely recommend law to young people, but I would caution them not to go into it unless they have a passion for it and are willing to devote what it takes to find the right position and to strive to be the best wherever they end up.

Q: What is your favorite part of the law practice?

A: I am a litigator. I love complex business cases because each case is different and is an opportunity to learn about different businesses and different issues.

Every case presents a challenge, both with the facts involved as well as the law that applies. Every trial allows me to work on my public speaking skills and to improve my interactions with people.

But my absolute favorite part is winning because that is why I practice law and work hard for my clients.

Q: What do you do when you are not working?

A: As a lawyer, I work a lot. My kids used to tell me that they would never be a lawyer because I had to work too much. However, I do enjoy my down time.

I work out every day. I live on the beach and love walking and running my dog, Riley. My family and I love to go on cruises. My primary ways to wind down from stress are to go shopping and read by my pool.

Q: If you had not gone into law, what would you have done?

A: This is a very hard question for me to answer. When I graduated from college in 1974 with a degree in political science, there were very few job prospects, especially for a woman.

My mother wanted me to get a teaching certificate, but I knew that was not what I wanted to do.

Q: Do you believe that women can have a successful, high-profile job position and have a happy family?

A: I definitely believe that women can have it all. Although many women stereotypically hold themselves back, when women assert themselves and go for what they want, whether it be a rewarding career, a husband and children or both, they can do whatever they want.

I have a great family. My husband, Kit, is very supportive of me and encourages me to go for it.

My children, Chris and Margaret Ann, are very proud of their mother, and that is very rewarding in and of itself.

I encourage women to do it all and be the best that they can be.

Previous versions of this story inaccurately described the nature of Alice Paylor's law practice. She concentrates in complex commercial litigation, school law and employment litigation.