An Interview with Paulette F. Balin

September 22nd is American Business Women’s Day: a day to recognize the accomplishments, contributions and achievements of American businesswomen, often in the face of limited structural opportunities in past decades.

Today, we would like to recognize Balin Law’s founder and principal attorney, Paulette Balin. Paulette began practicing law before the U.S. Supreme Court included its 1st female Justice. While 1980 doesn’t seem like that long ago, the field of law was not exactly welcoming to women. Nevertheless, she persisted, and we are so glad.

Paulette Balin has been named a Top Rated Social Security Disability Attorney several years in a row and it’s easy to see why. The number of lives Paulette has touched is immeasurable. We see it in client reviews every day. Her tenacity and expertise in her field, combined with the amazing team she has assembled at Balin Law, has helped so many families in their darkest hour and saved so many others from that despair.

For this day of recognition and reflection, we interviewed Paulette to learn more about her experience as a female attorney, business owner, and as an American Business Woman.

Interview with Paulette Balin

Q: You started your own law firm in 1980. What was the legal environment like in 1980? Were there many other female attorneys?

Back then lawyers were very much discouraged from any kind of advertising or in-your-face marketing. It actually took a lawsuit to overturn that ban, but even so, marketing was much gentler than it is now, and there were no screeching billboards or TV blasts.

I basically hung out a shingle and just volunteered for trials as co-counsel to very skilled litigators and would observe them. Through having handled many criminal cases as co-counsel, that led to my being placed on the assigned counsel list for the criminal defense of indigent defendants. I just hustled really and was referred cases by the bar associations and other attorneys and friends and family.

There were a handful of other women lawyers back then, and many often got discouraged by the “ol’ boys’ network” mentality. I just plugged away and enrolled in various bar associations and women’s groups. My scope of practice was mainly divorce back then and found many women felt more comfortable conferring with a female lawyer.

Q: What were some of the factors that drove you to start your own firm?

I had worked as a law clerk for the Presiding Judge at the Eleventh District Court of Appeals right out of law school, and had a wonderful exposure to court transcripts and honed good writing skills for the judges. Then I worked at a personal injury law firm as an associate, but I felt that I was not fully valued there and opportunities for women were limited. So I decided that I had had enough experience, contacts, and knowledge to forge ahead on my own; I just opened my own practice and the rest is history.

Q: When you were attending law school or early-on in your career, did you have role model or someone who inspired you?

During the year that I was an associate at a personal injury firm, I looked up to my colleague Louise Mosher, who was patient and very knowledgeable. She taught me the ropes and understood the terrain. She was and continues to be an inspiration to me.

Q: Has your focus been on Disability Law since the beginning? And what lead you to devote your practice to helping people with disabilities?

My first disability case in 1980 was an appeal to Federal Court on a case that another attorney had handled earlier.  I gave it a try and found it fascinating.  And I won the case! That whetted my appetite for Social Security Disability, and then handled many more. 

In 1994 I decided to limit my practice to Social Security Disability law and never looked back.  Initially it was sort of scary to turn down the divorce cases, but I was committed to this new journey. 

My father had become disabled as the result of a gunshot wound (when accosted by a robber at a hotel) when I was in college, and my world was then turned upside down.  I saw the rigors that disabled people face and wanted to do my small part to help them.  It’s been a win-win, as I enjoy my work, help people, and get paid when I win a case.  So everyone’s happy.

Q: What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as a business owner?

I think the one habit that makes me more productive as a business owner is that I have embraced my friend’s adage: “you don’t know what you don’t know.” So, if I don’t know something, but feel as if I am missing out on something, I seek out the advice and wisdom of others around me. I listen well to my clients and to my staff who are in the trenches and am a better and more well-rounded person for it.

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