Alexandria Crouthamel and Zaine Shetayh: Trailblazing Attorneys and Beacons for the Next-Gen Female Lawyers

Alexandria Crouthamel and Zaine Shetayh: Next-Gen Female Lawyers | Crouthamel Law Offices | CIO Women Magazine

In the hushed reverence of law libraries, the absence of women’s voices was a stark reminder of their exclusion from the legal world. Courtrooms echoed with a different kind of surprise when a female lawyer rose to argue a case. Legal precedents reflected a society built for men, leaving little room for the realities faced by women. These were the challenges confronted by the early female trailblazers in law. Their legacy reflects the power of persistence in the face of adversity and a reminder that justice, like the law itself, should be blind to gender.

Our issue, ‘Empowering Stories of Female Trailblazers in Law – 2024’, focuses on celebrating the accomplishments of these pioneers and the many who followed in their footsteps. These stories illuminate the past and serve as a beacon for the next generation of female lawyers, demonstrating the limitless possibilities that lie ahead.

When we speak of trailblazing women in law, we are astounded by the accomplishments and expertise of Attorney Alexandria Crouthamel (Founder of Crouthamel Law Offices) and Attorney Zaine Shetayh, who have garnered profound recognition in the legal field for their potential as well as their immense contributions. While Attorney Ally is known for her tenacious and aggressive approach when defending clients in complex criminal and family law concerns, Zaine is a dynamic and thorough attorney with over two years of demonstrated firm experience in various areas of the law. 

In this editorial interview, let’s dive deep into their respective professional journeys, leadership personas, and their take on the future of the legal landscape. 

Alexandria Crouthamel and Zaine Shetayh: Next-Gen Female Lawyers | Crouthamel Law Offices | CIO Women Magazine

Rising to the Ranks

Alexandria Crouthamel completed her undergraduate studies at Alvernia University in Reading, Pennsylvania, majoring in forensic science with aspirations of becoming a forensic scientist. She gained practical experience through internships at the district attorney’s office in Berks County, focusing on crash reconstruction and fingerprint analysis. However, realizing that a solitary lab environment was not suitable for her, she shifted her career aspirations away from forensic science.

Graduating from college early, Alexandria interned with Judge F.P. Kimberly McFadden at the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas, a connection facilitated by her grandmother. Although she mainly observed proceedings and wasn’t directly involved in court cases, this experience solidified her desire to pursue law as a profession. She prepared for the LSAT during her semester off and applied to law schools.

In addition to her internships, Alexandria also interned at Northampton County Prison during her college years. This opportunity allowed her to accompany some of her case management clients to court, giving her first exposure to courtroom proceedings. This experience further fueled her ambition to become a criminal defense attorney, ultimately leading her to pursue law school.

On the other hand, Zaine pursued her undergraduate studies at Penn State, majoring in communications with a focus on rhetoric and a minor in psychology. Her lifelong aspiration to become a lawyer led her to New York Law School, where she obtained her law degree. Initially drawn to New York City, Zaine gained valuable experience as an intern in the prosecutor’s office in Brooklyn during her third year of law school. This opportunity allowed her to practice in the courtroom under supervision, an experience not typically available to third-year law students in Pennsylvania. 

However, Zaine eventually decided to return to her hometown in Pennsylvania, where she took the bar exam and commenced her legal career. Initially working alongside Attorney Leighton Cohen, she primarily focused on criminal defense and personal injury cases before transitioning to family law, explicitly handling custody and divorce matters. Recently, she joined forces with Attorney Crouthamel, forming a mutually beneficial partnership that has significantly increased her workload and client base. Grateful for the opportunity, she is now fully immersed in her career, embracing the challenges and opportunities it presents.

Navigating Complexities and Challenges of the Dynamic Landscape

From Alexandria Crouthamel’s perspective:

Alexandria launched her firm at a young age, opening it when she was 27. Now at 30, she reflects on her challenges, especially the skepticism voiced by many, particularly older men, who doubted her ability to attract clients. In the legal landscape of their specific counties, where female attorneys are scarce, she encountered additional obstacles due to her gender and age. Despite facing disparagement and condescension from some male counterparts, Alexandria remained resilient, driven by her determination to succeed.

In the early stages of her firm, Alexandria accepted various cases, even those outside her specialty, such as landlord-tenant and personal injury matters, in her pursuit of success and financial stability. Over time, her reputation as a straightforward and authentic advocate, coupled with her and her colleague Attorney Shetayh’s youthfulness and assertiveness, garnered them a growing client base. As their clientele expanded, they recruited support staff and, more recently, welcomed Attorney Shetayh to the firm.

With a focus on criminal defense and family law, Alexandria Crouthamel has built a thriving practice, serving a substantial client base primarily in the Lehigh Valley area. Despite occasional criticism and challenges from older attorneys, Alexandria’s assertive demeanor and commitment to her clients have enabled her to navigate such situations effectively. While some may disapprove of their rapid rise, Alexandria and Attorney Shetayh remain undeterred, fueled by their dedication to providing aggressive yet empathetic legal representation.

From Zaine’s perspective:

Zaine believes that women encounter challenges in various fields, including law. She perceives a tendency for women to be underestimated and feels the need to assert herself more forcefully. Despite these obstacles, she observes that women are some of the most successful and assertive attorneys she knows.

Reflecting on her experiences, Zaine notes the male-dominated nature of the legal profession. She is often the only woman in courtrooms, surrounded by male counterparts. Despite occasional condescension and interruptions, she remains composed and refuses to let such behavior affect her. Instead, she turns it to her advantage, catching opposing counsel off guard with her assertiveness and logic.

While acknowledging the challenges posed by the male-dominated environment, Zaine sees it as an opportunity for women to demonstrate their capabilities and advocate for themselves and others. She is determined to establish a strong presence for women in the legal field and prove their equality with their male counterparts.

An Overview of Alexandria Crouthamel and Zaine Shetayh’s Respective Leadership Personas

In her firm, Alexandria Crouthamel has fostered a culture centered around female empowerment. She established the firm with only one paralegal, which remains entirely female-staffed. Alexandria and Zaine are female attorneys, reflecting the firm’s commitment to female leadership. Alexandria takes the helm as the owner, providing leadership and direction, while Zaine steps in when needed, ensuring seamless collaboration.

The firm’s ethos is rooted in open communication and teamwork. Despite being a small firm with two attorneys and five support staff, Alexandria believes they could handle even more work. She emphasizes transparency and accessibility, encouraging team members to approach her with any issues. This commitment to communication extends to client interactions, where empathy and respect are paramount, particularly in sensitive cases like divorce and criminal proceedings.

Alexandria Crouthamel and her team often find themselves playing the role of part-time therapists, empathizing with clients and providing support beyond legal counsel. This compassionate approach is reflected in the firm’s work culture, where empathy and communication are valued traits. Alexandria ensures her team feels appreciated and supported, offering bonuses and recognizing their efforts. Flexibility is another cornerstone of the firm’s culture.

Alexandria trusts her team to manage their workload independently, allowing them to work from home and set their schedules. This trust and autonomy contribute to a strong camaraderie among the team members, who view each other as family. They support one another both professionally and personally, exemplifying the firm’s commitment to collective success and well-being beyond the confines of the office.

In Zaine’s case, she appreciates Attorney Crouthamel’s leadership within the firm, acknowledging her role as the head of the group. However, Zaine values the autonomy Attorney Crouthamel grants her, allowing her to express her style and approach. This level of freedom is crucial for an attorney, and Zaine feels deeply grateful for it. Authenticity is a core value for Zaine and Attorney Crouthamel. They prioritize being genuine and transparent in their interactions with everyone at the firm. Both take responsibility for their mistakes and encourage a culture of accountability, recognizing that errors are inevitable in such a high-stress environment.

Understanding the importance of creating a supportive work environment, Zaine and Attorney Crouthamel ensure their staff feels comfortable approaching them with concerns or mistakes. They view their firm as a team where everyone’s contributions are valued equally, fostering empowerment and collaboration. Innovation is encouraged within the firm, with Attorney Crouthamel providing space for staff to implement new ideas and initiatives that benefit the entire team. This openness to creativity fosters collaboration and drives continuous improvement within the firm. Regular meetings ensure that everyone stays informed and connected, reinforcing the sense of unity and shared purpose among team members.

To Aspiring Women Leaders in the Legal Industry

Keep Going Forward

Alexandria Crouthamel

In the face of challenges and the relentless demands of the legal profession, Alexandria emphasizes the importance of perseverance and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. She shares her strategy of prioritizing time for family and friends after signing off from work, recognizing the toll that emotional stress and high-conflict cases can take on personal well-being.

“Keep going forward,” Alexandria Crouthamel advises, acknowledging the weight of the job but urging resilience despite adversity. She encourages aspiring legal professionals not to shy away from seeking guidance and asking questions, fostering a culture of learning and growth within her firm. As Alexandria Crouthamel reflects on the evolving landscape of the legal community, she expresses her hope for greater gender diversity and representation.

“I hope to see 25 male and 25 female in a courtroom,” she envisions, noting the positive trend of more female judges emerging over her five years of practice. She envisions a future where gender becomes irrelevant in the legal arena, emphasizing advocacy and representation for clients. Alexandria exemplifies her dedication to empowering her team and the broader legal community through her words of encouragement and commitment to fostering a supportive environment within her firm.

Do the work that you like to do

Zaine

Zaine emphasizes the importance of pursuing work that brings fulfillment and joy, urging aspiring lawyers to explore various opportunities within the vast legal field. She believes in the power of networking, highlighting how personal qualities and connections often lead to success more than academic achievements alone.

“If there were a right answer, I wouldn’t have a job. Many things you do are form over substance,” Zaine reflects, encouraging young lawyers to embrace creativity and boldness in their practice. She stresses the value of finding mentors who can provide invaluable guidance and perspective as one navigates their legal career.

Expressing optimism about the increasing representation of women in law, Zaine believes that diversity strengthens the legal profession. “Women are just as logical, if not more logical than men,” she asserts, highlighting the unique qualities female attorneys bring. Zaine shares a personal anecdote about how she and Attorney Crouthamel met during a case, emphasizing the importance of character and empathy in their professional connection. “I could tell her energy. I could tell her kindness. I could tell her compassion,” Zaine recalls, underscoring the significance of these qualities in forming meaningful professional relationships.

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