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Lawyers of San Diego is a specialty bar association committed to advancing the status of women in the law and society. We will be using this space to share articles written about Lawyers Club events and programs, and items of interest to our members which are relevant to our mission.

 

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Student’s Corner: Can We Have It All?

Posted By Student's Corner, Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Can We Have It All?

 

At 6:00 a.m., my alarm goes off and I ignore it. About 15 minutes later, my son goes off with a faint moan from his crib, and I wobble out of bed to prepare breakfast for us downstairs. Breakfast isn’t fancy; he eats Cheerios. I have to prepare just enough for him so that I can put on my makeup undisturbed. This has all been timed through a series of trials and errors. Before, he would run into the bathroom with Legos, or I would find myself going back and forth between tasks, losing precious minutes that could be saved elsewhere. That’s the amazing thing about law school: minutes matter.

 

I have school in the mornings, and my internship in the afternoon. By the time I make it through the week, I’m mentally preparing for the week ahead. In the midst of all this, I encounter women in Lawyers Club who have more than one child, more than two commitments, and countless reasons why they remain humble. They tell me they love what they do. They tell me it’s difficult to find the time for soccer practice, but they do. These are highly-influential, volunteer enthralled, successful attorneys who make my 6:00 a.m. shuffle look like a walk in the park. They don’t just inspire me, they instill a fire in me to want more than what society says I should ask for.

 

In light of the Lawyers Club drawing special attention to issues such as women in the workforce being paid considerably less than men, I found the issue to be so much more important than I’d ever imagined. I look around at my female classmates, and wonder if they’ve considered that the weight of motherhood and the pursuit of their passions are things that may conflict someday. Pondering this, and reading PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi’s 2014 article positing that women can’t have it all, got me thinking . . .

 

Can We Have it All                                        

(poem by Ashanti Cole)

 

Can we have it all 

 

If that means letting things fall?

 

To the wayside. . . some days might expose our flaws.

 

Days to nights . . . to daylight

 

Can we have it all?

 

The love

 

The life

 

The house

 

The rights

 

The child

 

The smile . . .

 

With a passion and a dream that screams so loud without drowning all of the above out?

 

 

Can we have it all?

 

 

We must.

 

We strive for the lives that died.

 

We scream for the tears she cried before 1965 . . . before a time our votes were denied.

 

We must fight for the dream we see when darkness succumbs closed minds.

 

Show them light.

 

Show them that despite their circumstance through color, class, or creed.

 

We deserve to be seen. To show little girls they can be more than pageant queens. Through injustice or through a beaming glory that shines through prosecution, defense, contractual agreements, and more . . . .

 

We must be better than we have ever been before.

 

We will not be ignored.

 

We will have all that's worth striving for.

 

 

Ashanti Cole is a rising 2L and mother of one. Born and raised in Compton, Ca, she enjoys advancing the mission of civil rights and humanitarian efforts through spoken work poetry, and one day through the legal profession. 

Tags:  have it all  Nooyi  poem  Students Corner 

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Guest Blog: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Posted By Sandra Morris, Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Guest Blog: The more things change, the more they stay the same. 

 

I belong to a family law listserv that includes others besides members of the family law legal community. The other day, a professional preparing a vocational evaluation inquired as to whether any of the attorneys on the listserv would hire as a paralegal a woman who had a 30 year-old paralegal certificate and had not worked as a paralegal since 4 months after receiving it. This resulting question and answer brought me up short:

 

A male attorney answered, “If she’s Scarlett Johannsen [sic], yes. Or Jennifer Lawrence.”

 

A female attorney responded, “So . . . if she was good looking eye candy, her actual skills wouldn’t matter? What is this, 1950?”

 

1950 indeed. Insuring we were not in a time warp, the female responding attorney was told that the male attorney was just joking.

 

I privately thanked the woman for speaking out, but as I thought about this exchange, it seemed to me that we were in a teachable moment. We used to call it consciousness raising. I thought about black face make-up. I thought about Polish jokes. I thought about “there was a car crash with a Rabbi, a Priest, and a Minister…” I thought about blonde jokes. I thought about how many times the subject of the joke was told to suck it up, laugh it off, or be considered humorless by the joke teller and audience. I thought about all the times an audience sucked it up and laughed it off, even when they didn’t like it, rather than appear humorless or non-collegial. And so, I wrote:

 

“I have read the emails with some interest. It is easiest to say nothing, but I believe that it is more important to speak up regarding the issue that has been created, than to remain silent and lose the opportunity for some consciousness raising. 

 

Persons who are not white, male or protestant, or heterosexual, have long been subjected to jokes that are painful to them, but as to which they are told they should pass if off, have some humor, or not make a big deal of it. Not speaking out to say that the comment or joke was hurtful, creates the impression that there was nothing offensive in the remarks, or that whoever did speak out was overly sensitive. Silence is the price paid to not be subjected to further repercussions. 

 

Women have fought really hard to have a seat at the table as equals with men; to have pay as equals for the same work; to progress up the corporate or law firm ladders equally with men. They are not there yet. They need jobs just as much as men. Sometimes, given the number of households headed by a single woman, they need them more than men. When employed, they are often subjected to inappropriate comments and behavior, and risk losing their advancement or even their jobs by reporting it. It is not funny to suggest that all they need to be hired is a pretty face or body.

 

To quote the Supreme Court of Minnesota, which in 1984 quoted Plutarch in censuring a judge in Minnesota for comments made towards a woman prosecutor that were claimed by the judge to be made in good humor, “‘Tho’ boys thro’ stones at frogs in sport, the frogs do not die in sport, but in earnest.’”

 

I received thanks from a number of people, and a couple of angry responses from male attorneys. One disputed there was a glass ceiling and accused me of grinding men under my feet based on a false narrative.  

 

The more things change . . .

 

Sandra, a "Founding Mother" of Lawyers Club, has been in practice since 1970, is a past president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, and is of counsel at Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek.

Tags:  founding mother  guest blogger  jokes  joking  listserv  Minnesota  Plutarch  sexism  vocational evaluation 

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My So-Called First World Problems: 5 Must-Reads for Feminist Bookworms

Posted By Rebecca Zipp, Tuesday, May 23, 2017

5 Must-Reads for Feminist Bookworms

 

The Feminine Mystique – Betty Friedan

 

If you read one book on this list, choose this one. The book criticizes society for confining women to their sexual biological roles as wives and mothers, and explores “the problem that has no name:” The widespread misery of women in the 1950s and 1960s, despite material comfort, marriage and children. Friedan argues that women need to find and nurture their identity beyond that of a wife, mother, and homemaker.

 

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Marie Kondo

 

Believe me, I debated whether to put this book on the list at all, but this book was one of the two most impactful I read in 2015, so here it is. (The other was Ghettoside by Jill Leovy, and if you have any interest in policing or social justice, close the blog and order Ghettoside right now.) Distilled, Ms. Kondo’s message is simple: Get rid of all your crap. I did. Fewer clothes, dishes, cosmetics and books litter our space, and the reward is a calmer home. It’s a quick read – just commit to her method, and Marie Kondo will truly offer you life-changing magic!   

 

Men Explain Things to Me -- Rebecca Solnit

 

This book is for any woman who has ever had her expertise on a subject dismissed because she is a woman.

Mansplain: To explain something to someone, characteristically by a man to a woman, in a matter regarded as condescending or patronizing. Example: Man explains that women did not write in the Middle Ages, to Kathryn Maude, a woman with a PhD on medieval women’s writing.

This book of essays explores the centuries-long history of men silencing women into submission, of men questioning the veracity of women. A memorable exchange details a man at a dinner party laughingly telling the story of his neighbor running out of her home, naked, screaming that her husband was going to kill her. While the man recounting the story clearly views the naked woman as crazy, he is incapable of imagining that her affluent husband might have been homicidal. Solnit astutely points out that what was a funny anecdote to the story-teller illustrates the potentially fatal consequences of disbelieving women.

 

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith

 

Grab some peppermints, crawl out to the fire escape, and dive into this classic coming-of-age tale. The heroine, Francie Nolan, overcomes the uglier realities of life in Williamsburg through her love of books and writing. The attentive reader will love, admire, and empathize with Francie and her family. Available at any decent bookstore or library.

 

Saturday Night at the Pahala Theater -- Lois-Ann Yamanaka

 

An obscure book of colorful poetry, Saturday Night at the Pahala Theater explores the deprivations and adversities of an Asian-American girl growing up in a poor family in Hawaii. Prosaic enough to guarantee an enjoyable reading experience for the poetry skeptic, Saturday Night explores a rarely contemplated slice of Americana.

 

Rebecca Zipp is currently reading The Woman in Cabin Ten, and aspires to read the following: The Power and the Powerless; Russia and the Russians; and, When Affirmative Action was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America, all of which have been sitting on her night table for a minimum of six months. 

Tags:  books  Feminist  Friedan  Kondo  LCB  literature 

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Life Imitates Law: Feisty Boys, Hysterical Dudes

Posted By Bobbi-Jo Dobush, Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Feisty Boys, Hysterical Dudes

 

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how the words used to describe migrants – words that evoke a sense of fear, of disaster – stay with us as we learn about issues of migration and color our perception thereof. The post sparked some conversation and questions about the words typically used to describe women, including professional women, and how language choice affects each of our lives (including our careers). I’ve been doing some digging on this and I want to share these resources, which range from scholarly to smile-inducing:

 

Adult Female Humans = Women.

  • To paraphrase actress Mayim Bialik’s video, one can normally recognize a girl by the fact that she is under 18 and may live with her parents. Being CEO of a company or a mother is a decent indicator that the person in question is, in fact, a woman, not a girl. In line with my previous post, Bialik gets that “language sets expectations.” This is a fun watch. 
  • Gina M. Florio’s 2016 Bustle Article posits that calling women “girls” is infantilizing, creepy, and perpetuates an obsession with female youth. On top of that, we rarely call men “boys” and calling women “girls” prevent us from treating each other as equals. 

Feisty Boys, Hysterical Dudes. 

Gendered Language Bias in the Workplace.

  • In a study analyzing the language of hundreds of performance reviews from professional and technology services companies women were 2.5 times as likely to be called out for aggressive communication styles as men and twice as likely praised for their teamwork or collaboration than men.
  • This problem is not confined to the law: a 2016 Nature Geoscience article found that women are about half as likely as their male counterparts to be described as excellent in recommendation letters, whether the letters are written by women or men. 

Additional Resources:

Please comment and let your fellow Lawyers Club members and me know what you think: Are we perpetuating sexism by refusing to recognize it in its daily forms? Have you ever called anyone groomzilla? (I have, for the record.)   

 

Bobbi-Jo Dobush believes that sharing our diverse passions—for example the arts, the ocean, or salsa (the condiment)—can positively influence our practices. 

Tags:  art  awareness  bias  discrimination  equality  girl  language  LCB 

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Student’s Corner: For the Love of Law

Posted By Student's Corner, Tuesday, May 2, 2017

For the Love of Law 

 

When I try to describe what life is like after having stepped into my first law school course, I imagine it is similar to Sarah Jessica Parker trying to weave her way through the mean streets of New York. Like New York, law school is cynical, demanding, and leaves you prepared to multi-task like never before. In other words, you have to be savvy to survive the outlines, case briefs, and egotistical blows that await you. But once you've traversed through every borough, you will find that law school is what you make it. Every journey is about falling in love with the law, taking chances, and working as hard as you can for what you want, right? 

 

My name is Ashanti Cole and I have fallen madly in love with the law. I stay up late at night thinking of it, telling my friends about it, and obsessing over all of its characteristics. The law makes me a better person. Some more seasoned in this arena would label my feelings, "puppy love," but only time will tell. As I finish up my 1L school year, I have been challenged both mentally and physically in ways I never anticipated. Law school is preparation for life. It prepares you to do as much work as possible—with little-to-no room for excuses. It rips you apart, and puts you back together with the purpose of showing you exactly what you're made of. 

 

My grandmother wanted to me to be an attorney since I was seven years old. She pushed me to be the first in my family to go to college, but passed away shortly after I graduated. At that point, I got busy traveling the world (as a former military spouse), and met incredible people along the way. Though I had much to be grateful for, I also had an impending regret over not pursuing my purpose. I felt lost and unfulfilled in a world where I had so much to give. Now, with a bat-wielding two year old and a heart full of the dream I've wanted for 20 years, I'm here to fulfill my purpose. I hope to share this journey with Lawyers Club and to inspire and connect with many who came before me and those who might be sharing my path.  

 

Ashanti Cole is an aspiring chess master and distinguished advocate at California Western School of Law. 

Tags:  law student  LCB  student's corner 

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Guest Blog Post: "Big Law Study Provokes Misogyny, Rebuke"

Posted By Charles Bird, Tuesday, April 25, 2017

"Big Law Study Provokes Misogyny, Rebuke"

 

The Recorder news feed last week reported a study by ALM Intelligence (ALI) titled “Where Do We Go From Here? Big Law’s Struggle With Recruiting and Retaining Female Talent.” Guess what? Female attorneys are concentrated in fields that have time flexibility and are not gladiatorial. And, achieving anything like parity in Big Law will take decades.

 

I rarely look at what gets posted in response to these articles. This time, there was one comment and I clicked on it:

 

J. Goodall, Apr 18, 2017

C’mon, please end ALM‘’s obsessive, ongoing microanalysis of gender differences already, would ya? Since the onset of humankind and till the end of time, guys and gals will be different, bringing naturally differing strengths and interests to their work and personal lives. This is true regardless of radical feminist post-deconstructionists’ efforts to convince Obammunist regulators otherwise. But even the Great Obama can‘t fight Mother Nature, ladies. So let it go and just try to be happy you don‘t live in a majority Muslim country where you‘d really have something to gripe about.

 

I couldn’t stomach that. So, for the first time in my life, I did a counter-post. I did not disguise my name. We'll see what comes of that. Here it is:

 

C. Bird, Apr 18, 2017

As a man who was a partner in a regional firm that merged into a national firm that merged into international Big Law, where I'm still a partner, the summary of the study rings true to me. Even firms that are good at diversity (and I think mine is), can do little with client demands for constant connectivity and all-hours work. Working in a score of time zones makes it worse. Courts are part of the problem when they adopt schedules advocated by male opposing counsel designedly to make life miserable for a woman on the other side. The solution for that is to accept as a valid declaration of principle, not a confession of weakness, to say "your honor, I can't meet that deadline because of my child care duties." For the former, contrary to the vitriolic comment of the guy who adopted a famous woman scientist's name, Congress and state legislatures should study extending anti-discrimination employment law to personal services contracting, and not just in the legal profession. It should take a great mind to practice great law, not testosterone and willingness to let one's children go functionally fatherless to serve the greed that has made much of our profession miserable. In major part, the solutions need to be imposed from the outside because (i) greed has too much power in law firm leadership and (ii) even some clients that take strong stands for their outside lawyers' diversity do not apply those principles when women's social inequality inconveniences the C-suite.

 

Fast-forward one week, and the ALM study has faded out of the news cycle. My comment circulated quietly among friends, several of whom spoke of the banality of misogyny and fatigue at countering it. I am not a target, and I heard and saw little of it in the legal culture of the last decade. That I hear and see it since the last U.S. presidential campaign is evidence misogyny-at-law never went away and never became banal. It is a visible and audible force. Its consequences need to be exposed, as in the ALI report. It needs to be confronted, refuted, and rebuked, which I advocate as a role for LC and members.

 

Charles Bird is an appellate lawyer at Dentons US LLC, successor to Luce Forward—and a retired, amateur rock climber.

Tags:  ALM  big law  LCB  recruit  retain  study 

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Life Imitates Law: Words Can Convey or Destroy Dignity

Posted By Bobbi-Jo Dobush, Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Life Imitates Law: Words Can Convey or Destroy Dignity

 

Bombastic litigators, craftsman brief writers, and shrewd contract drafters all stake their clients’ best interests on choosing the right words in the search for just outcomes. So, as much or more than to anyone else, lawyers should care how we refer to other humans, especially those most vulnerable.

 

Flood, wave, swarm – these words evoke a sense of fear, of disaster. Reading headlines with such words, I struggle to remember if should get under the desk or into a door-jam.  But these aren’t headlines about tsunamis, earthquakes, or hurricanes. Instead, a quick news search of articles in recent months comes up with titles like “Flood of Illegal Immigrants Continues at Texas Border,” “Illegals Pour Across Border Before Trump's Inauguration,” and “Illegals Swarm in.” After reading those, who wouldn’t be scared of migrants?

 

Helen Zaltzman, that’s who. Zaltzman fearlessly confronts language on a bi-weekly basis in her word-nerd podcast The Allusionist, Small Adventures in Language. (Catch me on my morning commute soaking in some etymology.) Allusionist Episode 53, The Away Team, is all about how terms used to describe migrants have become increasingly negative over time. The episode focuses on Britain, but is equally applicable to our side of the Atlantic. 

 

Zaltman and I are both offended by the misuse of words in the migration context. Many of us refer to fellow humans by category (refugee, asylee, unaccompanied minor). Propaganda and migration specialist Emma Briant opined that doing so gives “preference [for] how officials are sorting [people] over their very basic humanity.” To make matters worse, terms that were once neutral have become negative. Since when do “refugees” or “asylum seekers” (people who are, by definition, escaping persecution) invoke skepticism and not sympathy? Also—and this should really trouble us as lawyers—the term illegal gets tossed about lightly in this context. Most migrants have broken no laws, and even those who have are not “illegal” because, to quote Briant again, “people cannot be illegal.” 

 

Zaltzman, interviewing novelist and editor Nikesh Shukla, further highlights how often migration status is used as a proxy for race. All over the English-speaking world, wealthy or middle class whites who have chosen to live abroad are “expats” not “immigrants.” We never talk about a “swarm” of wealthy white people (well, maybe talking about Coachella, but that’s a conversation for another time.)

 

The Away Team ends with a reminder that most words in the English language are themselves immigrants (French, Latin, Germanic, Greek, and Scandinavian). Zaltzman warns that without such immigrant words, “you lose at least 60% of modern English plus most scientific and technological vocabulary.”   

Many Allusionist episodes are about fun stuff like sex (Episodes 50-51, Under the Covers) or manners on either side of the Atlantic (Episode 33, Please); however, there are other great listens with a focus on equality like Episode 12, Pride, or Episode 52, Sanctuary.

Bobbi-Jo Dobush believes that sharing our diverse passions—for example the arts, the ocean, or salsa (the condiment)—can positively influence our practices. 

 

Tags:  art  awareness  bias  discrimination  equality  immigration  language  LCB  podcasts  word choice 

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My So-Called First World Problems: "Wooly"

Posted By Rebecca Zipp, Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Wooly

 

Here is how I experienced my grandpa’s last week of life and the first days after his death:

 

On Monday, staff at his New Jersey retirement home called him an ambulance. He was admitted to the hospital that afternoon. On Tuesday night, I booked a red-eye, and flew to Newark. I cabbed it straight from the airport to the hospital, where I settled in for the terrible waiting. When he drew his final breaths late Friday night, I was at his side. On Sunday, we buried him. I stayed with my mom for several days as she sat shiva, the traditional Jewish weeklong mourning period.

 

I missed six days of work—unplanned! When I returned to my day-to-day life, I realized something amazing: I had had no compunction about peacing-out of my professional life for an entire week. I had no concerns that my colleagues, (who pitched in to cover my cases), would judge me as uncommitted or unreliable. I wasted no energy on these kinds of thoughts. Instead, I was fully present with my grandpa for his last days. And when he died, I mourned.

 

I owe this privilege to a couple of factors: One, I am lucky to work in a large governmental office, so I am more professionally fungible than most. Two, I never faced the terrifying prospect of losing my job because I took time to care for a family member . . . and that, I have learned, is a privilege not afforded many American workers.

 

Why was I able to truly be present with my grandpa, but when my 18-month-old had pneumonia, I felt stressed and guilty about missing work to care for him? When I leave work early to take my boys for their annual check-ups, why the self-censure? Why do I slink into the office after attending a school play? I am embarrassed to admit that I once hired a complete stranger off of care.com to baby-sit due to the inadvisable “trial—travelling husband—sick toddler” trifecta.

 

Why did I feel okay taking the time to be a daughter and a granddaughter, but I almost never feel justified taking the time to be a mother during the holy hours of 8-5? The time with my grandpa at the end of his life was very special. Participating in his funeral was incredibly meaningful and mourning with my family was essential. So, too, is building happy memories with my children and participating in their lives with my whole being.  

 

 

Rebecca Zipp is a deputy district attorney and mother of two who has spotted wild black bears during day hikes in six different states.

Tags:  family  grandparents  LCB  mourning  My So-Called First World Problems  parenting  time off  work-life balance 

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Guest Blog Post: "The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same..."

Posted By George Brewster, Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same . . .


I was on the Lawyers Club Board when, on September 9, 1991, we approved a statement written by then President Rebecca Prater that opposed the appointment of Judge Clarence Thomas to Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Testimony regarding his appointment was scheduled to begin the next day and Anita Hill testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee a month later.


I remember Hill’s testimony, and I remember the outrage, and I remember that the next year was the “Year of the Woman.” And here we are in 2017, with greater outrage. Any complacency that existed with respect to Lawyers Club’s mission to advance women in the law and in society has been trumped by renewed energy and angry motivation.


But thinking back to 1991, what I don’t remember was the Board debate about why, pre-Hill, we voted to oppose Thomas. The Board minutes reflect that we met for an hour and a half and discussed multiple topics. By counting lines devoted to any one topic in the minutes, we apparently spent the most time on the upcoming Wine and Cheese Reception (18 lines) and the least amount of time on my Treasurer’s Report (3 lines). The Thomas statement took up 4 lines.


The October Lawyers Club News was put together before the Hill testimony, so that issue does not reflect the ensuing firestorm. Prater’s statement, passed by the Board, was included. The basis for our opposition pre-Hill was several fold: (1) He did not support the right to choose, (2) He opposed affirmative action programs that benefited women and minorities, and (3) His performance as Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reflected an arrogant lack of respect for established laws, policies, and legal doctrines. 


Those significant concerns later took a back seat to the explosive testimony of Anita Hill who described Thomas’ sexually explicit comments to her while she worked with him at the EEOC. The television reports of that testimony cannot be shaken. Recent events have only brought that anger back to life, and then some.


George W. Brewster, Jr., is a Chief Deputy County Counsel for San Diego County, he has served as a Lawyers Club Board Member for more years than any other male, and he wrote this for the History and Archives Committee.


Editor’s Note: Archived Lawyers Club News issues are available, click here to view. 

Tags:  Anita Hill  Clarence Thomas  History and Archives Committee  LCB  Rebecca Prater  sexual harassment  United States Supreme Court  US Supreme Court 

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Stories to Solutions: "A Damn Good Lawyer and Her Bully, a Story Years in the Making"

Posted By Amanda Allen, Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Damn Good Lawyer and Her Bully, a Story Years in the Making


I am a two-time NCAA champion softball player. My coach used to yell at me. I persevered. I got better. She raised me up and told me I was greatness in the making. She told me that if I came to the field every single day and gave 100%, I would help our team. I would be the best I was capable of being. That is all she asked of each of us, every single day. We took responsibility for our actions and controlled only the things we could control, letting everything else go. That is how we became champions.


As a first-year attorney at a firm, I tried to apply my championship mentality to the workplace. When the bully threw paper at me from the doorway of my office, I picked them up and was determined to write a better motion, to be a better lawyer. When he put his hand in my face and stopped me mid-sentence in front of my colleagues saying, “Stop, stop talking,” I let it go, because I cannot control his actions and time spent on that was time spent not getting better at being a lawyer. When on a conference call with a client, I dared to speak to the client about the TRO motion I was drafting . . . he rolled back in his chair, flailed his arms around and ran his pointer finger across his throat to silently, yet loudly, admonish me for speaking during the call. After the call, in the calmest and most condescending voice he could muster, he said a phrase I will never forget, “Amanda, sweetheart, darling, you only speak on a conference call when I tell you to speak.” The male colleague in the room was disgusted, but said nothing. He said nothing. Barely in my third year, I was reaching my threshold. He became more hostile when his clients began to prefer to call me, when I started working on my own cases, and when he messed up a case and I refused to take the blame.


The daily aggressions were a thousand tiny paper cuts. One afternoon, he greeted me with a light-hearted, jovial, “What’s up bitch?!”. I thought about rolling with it, but instead of shrugging it off, I said to him, “You will not talk to me like that. I will leave and come back and we will try this again.” I came back and he responded with, “It was just a joke. You know – what’s up homie?” I was tough. They thought I was a perfect match to handle his combativeness. They were wrong.

 

After more than four long years of this treatment, I had had enough. By then, I had started to work on my own cases, and I realized I was a damn good lawyer and he was jackass. My repeated complaints fell on deaf ears or resulted in meaningless conferences where the bully apologized and got a slap on the wrist. Then he behaved for a couple more months, but he was a bully and he was not going to change. Despite anger management classes and many half-hearted attempts by the powers-that-be to reign him in, he was never going to change.


When I left to go out on my own, the firm asked me why I was leaving and I told them to pursue different clients, make more money, and control my life. All true statements. I did not tell them that after working for the bully, I could not imagine being partners with attorneys that kept someone like that as their partner. Yes, they were great lawyers who taught me a lot. But they messed up when they put up with him. I probably would have stayed for many more years, but their refusal to put integrity above their bottom line was no longer something that could be overlooked. 


After the Lawyers Club July 2016 Luncheon on Sexual Harassment and Bullying, I was inspired to put “ideas into action.” After nearly 3 years, I scheduled a meeting with the managing partners of my old firm and told them a more complete version of why I left. I thought that if I could help one other woman avoid what I went through, it could make a difference–and it was a difficult conversation, to say the least. I practiced my first few lines, much in the way you would practice for oral argument at a hearing. At first, they seemed to make excuses by stating that they removed the bully. Eventually, they acknowledged that it took them four years to let him go. In fact, they had complaints about him before I even arrived to the firm. In that moment at the table, I realized that these lawyers sincerely lack the consciousness and tools to act differently. I can only hope that, they have a greater awareness and that all of this will spare some new “tough” attorney years of tiny paper cuts.


What I did not anticipate from the conversation with my former colleagues was the gift I gave to myself by standing up and speaking out. There is a confidence and power I have gained from running my own successful practice for three years that laid the groundwork for having that conversation. I finally forgave myself for not speaking up earlier, and for not fighting back while I was at the firm. The truth is, I was not ready at that moment in time. I did the best I could at that moment, by stopping the bleeding and focusing all my energy on my new firm.


Be kind to yourself when you are being bullied or harassed. You are doing the best you can. Just know that at some point in the future the opportunity will arise for you to speak out for yourself or someone else, to stand up for yourself or someone else, and to take action. Maybe that time will be next month, or years from now, but the time will come and you will be ready.



Amanda Allen is the managing attorney at Aguirre Allen Law, APC where she practice business, real estate, and craft beer law and she is the founder of Enrich, a co-working community for lawyers where they focus on providing solo and small firm lawyers the support they need to achieve success personally, professionally, and financially. #lawyerhardlivewell 

Tags:  bitch  bullying  enrich  firm  ideas into action  LCB  new attorney  Stories to solutions  Sts  young attorney 

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