Attorney at Work’s “Women in Law” series honors Women’s History Month with a focus on successful women lawyers who have carved a path for themselves in the legal industry and beyond. First up: counselor and advocate Lauren Tetenbaum.
Lauren A. Tetenbaum
Lauren A. Tetenbaum is a top immigration lawyer turned women’s advocate and therapist who specializes in life transitions affecting millennials and young women. With advanced training in perinatal mental health, Lauren currently provides clinical and coaching services to individuals and groups of working, new and aspiring parents. She counsels millennials, Gen Z members, and teens on topics including relationships, career paths and anxiety disorders. Below we talk with Lauren about her path to success.
How did you get started in legal advocacy?
Lauren A. Tetenbaum: I volunteered during my junior and senior years of college at the University of Pennsylvania at a legal nonprofit so I could learn the basics about divorce law, family law, and domestic violence–based restraining orders. As a telephone counselor, I spoke to people who needed help and resources and just someone to listen to them. I loved it. For my minor in women’s studies, I took a course on gender and the law and got hooked on the idea that I could really accomplish something on behalf of women as a lawyer and professional advocate.
But then while in law school, I missed working directly with people so I chose to also pursue a master’s in social work. During this time, I interned and volunteered with numerous organizations dedicated to advancing gender equality and reproductive rights, as well as to the assistance of immigrants and survivors of domestic violence or human trafficking.
What made you interested in becoming an advocate for women’s issues?
LAT: Since I was a child, I have felt compelled to be a resource for women experiencing vulnerability. I grew up in a privileged but socially conscious and feminist household where my father was respectful and loving to all the women in his life. My mother, a naturalized citizen who left her home country with only what she could carry, began her second master’s degree when I, the oldest of three, was in high school. I watched her study, work, volunteer, and enjoy her family. I learned from them the way that women should be treated and how much women can accomplish when people believe in them and truly partner with them.
I began my advocacy for women as a teenager, interning for Planned Parenthood headquarters’ marketing department, fundraising for the largest social services organization for women in Israel, and serving as my high school’s Women’s Issues Club president. I went to college to study communications because I thought I’d want to write for women’s magazines, connecting people through stories and advice on shared experiences. I marched for women’s lives with Hillary Clinton in Washington, D.C., in 2004. I performed in “The Vagina Monologues,” raising funds for the only rape crisis center in Philadelphia and bringing awareness of sexual assault to many of the fraternities on campus. My career path has not necessarily been linear, but every step I have taken on behalf of advocating for women has led me to where I am today professionally.
What are you most proud of in your career?
LAT: Though I am not particularly religious, I firmly believe in the Jewish tradition of tikkun olam: of taking action via good deeds to pursue social justice and repair the world.
As a lawyer, my good deeds have included obtaining orders of protection and visas on behalf of single moms, members of the LGBTQ community, and teenagers who survived various forms of abuse. I am proud my legal skills and education gave me the opportunities to do so. In this present moment, I am even prouder to be an ‘inspiring advocate’ (as a friend recently called me) without needing to be a lawyer. I just need to be myself.
I remain dedicated to helping women personally and professionally, despite no longer practicing as a lawyer. I have successfully campaigned for more comprehensive parental leave policies at law firms. I have coached women on staying in the workforce by implementing and advocating for more manageable schedules that align with the needs of their full lives. I have brought dozens of isolated moms together for connection when they needed it most, all while raising thousands of dollars for nonprofits helping underserved women and families. I have provided mental health services to depressed teenagers and emerging adults and have counseled pregnant and postpartum women suffering from anxiety.
How do you define success?
LAT: When I look at me, I see someone who uses authenticity to help others. I see someone who can and does make a difference. I believe that success, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
Upward mobility can be important, but so is the adversity: the zigzag, the road less traveled, the one step forward and two steps backward paths. Hardship builds strength and resilience. It creates an opportunity to make a change — which, at its core, being a lawyer is all about, right?
I have everything I used to dream about having, and I am grateful for that. I have my health and a partner and children who love me, a career that is both challenging and flexible, friends who support me, opportunities to contribute to my local and broader communities, and joy from small moments.
Advice for women lawyers or law students?
LAT: If you don’t love what you see when you engage in self-reflection, consider adjusting your attitude to one of acceptance, kindness and appreciation.
Take the time to reflect on your priorities, values and goals. Know that it is okay if they have shifted over time, along with your identity. Think about who you want to be now. Practice empathy. Reach out for support if you need it (we all do).
Inspiring Stories From Women in Law
Read more about Lauren and 22 other inspiring stories from accomplished women lawyers in Women in Law: Discovering the True Meaning of Success available on Amazon.
Proceeds go to Ms. JD, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the success of women in law school and the legal profession.