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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. The opinions outlined in content published on the Lawyers Club of San Diego blog are those of the author and not Lawyers Club. All members are encouraged to respectfully participate in discussions regarding the topics posted on the blog, and guest writers are welcome.

 

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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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Off the Beaten Partner Track: "If Only We All Could Have Gender-Neutral Names "

Posted By Jillian Fairchild, Thursday, March 23, 2017
Updated: Friday, March 24, 2017

If Only We All Could Have Gender-Neutral Names

 

There is an interesting story going viral about a man and a woman who switched names on their email when interacting with clients. This experiment began when Martin Schneider noticed he was having a difficult time interacting with a client. This client was being impossible, rude, dismissive, and ignoring his questions. Schneider could not understand the reason for this treatment until he realized he was signing his email with his female colleague’s name, Nicole Hallberg. Schneider then reintroduced himself and the client’s demeanor immediately changed. He was thanking him for his suggestions, responding promptly, and became the model client. As noted by Schneider, “My technique and advice never changed. The only difference was that I had a man’s name now.”

 

Schneider and Hallberg decided to switch names for a week. He signed on as “Nicole” and she ended her emails with the name “Martin.” At the end of the week, Schneider stated that, “it f---ing sucked,” and he, “was in hell.” Everything he asked or suggested was questioned. Clients he could work with in his sleep were condescending. One even asked if he was single. On the other hand, Hallberg had one of the easiest weeks of her professional life.

 

Schneider realized that Hallberg was taking longer with clients because she had to convince them to respect her. Efficiency was an obsession for their boss, so this was a critical issue in their workplace. When Hallberg and Schneider told their boss what happened, he was dismissive. Their supervisor said there could be, “a thousand reasons why the clients could have reacted differently that way. I could be the work performance . . . you have no way of knowing.” Hallberg wondered, “What did my boss have to gain by refusing to believe that sexism exists?” Perhaps that’s a question for my next blog.

 

Female attorneys will not be surprised by Hallberg’s experience during the email experiment. We often notice that we are treated differently from our male colleagues. There have been many examples mentioned by Lawyers Club bloggers and Above the Law has provided several examples of disparate treatment. We frequently sense we have experiences that our male colleagues do not, but the treatment is so subtle that it is hard to describe and even more difficult to prove.

 

Recently, I was berated and bullied by male opposing counsels during depositions. One such attorney tried to bully me into not stating my objections prior to my client’s responses and would not agree to let my client take a break. In another case, I attempted to ask a wrongful death plaintiff about who she thought was responsible for her husband’s death. Plaintiff’s counsel escorted his client out to berate me about my lack of sensitivity, while telling me to “rein it in!” I wonder if such treatment would occur if I were male. Similar to Hallberg’s supervisor, my male colleagues have been dismissive of my experiences.

 

I would love to hear if anyone else has these types of experiences. Do you also suspect you have experiences that your male colleagues do not encounter? How do you handle these types of situations?

 

Jillian Fairchild is a full-time litigator and full-time mom who spends her work life negotiating with plaintiff attorneys and her home life negotiating with a toddler.  

Tags:  bullying  email  gender discrimination  LCB  Nicole Hallberg  Off the Beaten Partner Track  sexism  stories to solutions  women in the workplace 

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Stories to Solutions: "4 Practical Tips for Dealing with Creeps in the Workplace – Part II"

Posted By Chelsea Chatsworth, Tuesday, March 14, 2017

4 Practical Tips for Dealing with Creeps in the Workplace – Part II

 

I’m sure many of you have experienced similar (or worse) situations to the one described in "What’s a Girl Boss to do When It’s Not Just Lunch?" Here are four practical tips I wish I had the self-confidence and courage to use at the time.

1. Stop Caring What Other People Think

Obsessing over what other people think about you is completely exhausting and unproductive. You simply can’t control other people. Focus on what you can control–your behavior. I call it the “do you” plan. You might be worried about hurting Mark’s* feelings or about him thinking less of you if you say something. Keep in mind that Mark is a jerk who only cares about parading around with a beautiful 20-something, which is pathetic. Also, don’t worry what your coworkers in the lobby think. They probably fixate on other people to deflect attention away from their unhappy lives. You know the truth. The sooner you’ve mastered this tip the sooner you can truly enjoy life. 

meyouimage

2. Keep Your Inner Circle Tight

You know that old saying, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer?” Well why in the f*ck would you want to do that? I prefer to keep my enemies way the f*ck away from me. My mantra is, “If you’re not 110% in my corner, then I don’t need you in my life.” My circle is super tight and it’s comprised of kind, nonjudgmental, loyal people who provide honest feedback when I need it (and I do the same for them). If something like this happens to you, tell someone in your inner circle. She (or he) will be a much needed sounding board, giving you the courage to handle the matter in a way that works for you.

3.
 Say Something (the Sooner the Better)

Trust me, Mark can take it. He probably knows he’s being inappropriate, but he has gotten away with it for so long he sees no reason to stop. If something makes you feel uncomfortable, address it as soon as possible. Keep it simple and straight forward (i.e. “When you do X it makes me feel uncomfortable because X. Please stop.”). I know this can be difficult, especially when you’re caught off guard like I was, but it’s more difficult to have your boundaries pushed over and over again because you didn’t speak up initially.

4. 
Get Your Game Face On

getyourgamefaceon


If you’ve ever been in a position similar to mine, it’s easy to wonder where you went wrong. These thoughts are normal. You can explore them with someone in your inner circle, but quickly move on. Do something to make yourself feel better (go for a run, spoon your dog, eat a pizza--no judgment here), then reset and get your head back in the game. Don’t let someone else’s bad behavior make you doubt yourself. Put on your power suit and march back into your office with your head held high.


XO,

CC


What are your tips for dealing with awkward encounters at work? Leave them in the comments below!


*Name changed to protect the not-so-innocent.


“Chelsea Chatsworth” is more than just a pretty face and a pen name, and she can be reached at chelseachatsworth@gmail.com. 

Tags:  boundaries  confidence  LCB  self-blame  stories to solutions  strategy  tips 

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Stories to Solutions: "What’s a Girl Boss to do When It’s Not Just Lunch? – Part I"

Posted By Chelsea Chatsworth, Wednesday, March 8, 2017

What’s a Girl Boss to do When It’s Not Just Lunch? – Part I

 

I endured various forms of sexual harassment during the early part of my career. I have decided to share one such incident here with you. 

 

I was a bright-eyed first year associate at a California law firm. Early on, the partners poured me a giant glass of Kool-Aid and I happily drank it down. The sweet beverage hit the spot. I could afford my student loans as well as excessive amounts of retail therapy (which is a good thing because I needed a lot of it)! I worked long hours and had dreams of making partner at said firm. At the time, I was too innocent to suspect the depravity that lingered just below the firm’s good marketing. However, I soon learned that the main ingredient in the Kool-Aid wasn’t electrolytes as advertised. It was poison that would slowly dampen my sweet soul. (Sorry to be all doomsday from the get-go, but stick with me.)

 

One day, I got an email from a partner named Mark* who I’d seen around the office from time to time. He was in his late 50’s (old enough to be my father), an expert in a complex area of law, powerful, rich (just ask him), and brilliant (again, just ask him). The email simply read, “Can I take you to lunch?” Mark was in luck because if my schedule allowed, I would always yes to those who outranked me. Such is life in the deferential world of law firms.

 

I viewed the email as a good opportunity given that I was in the market for a powerful advocate to facilitate my rise through the firm’s ranks. Perhaps Mark had heard good things about my work and wanted to be my mentor. Before our lunch, I studied Mark’s online bio like it was a job interview, tucking away smart questions for the inevitable lulls in our conversation. Example: “How did you land [insert Fortune 500 company] as your client? That’s so impressive [and so on and so forth, blah, blah, blah, just shoot me already].

 

I made my way to the lobby where our coworkers milled about like ants in a particularly high performing colony. I spotted Mark and extended my hand to greet him. To my surprise, he said, “Hi, sweetie.” Before I knew it, his face was getting closer to mine. Caught off-guard, I turned my cheek ever-so-slightly at the last second. His lips grazed the corner of my mouth and I stood stunned, thoughts racing through my mind. Why would he think it was ok to do that? Did he misread my body language? Can I gracefully bow out now? No, that would be too awkward.

 

Determined to turn the encounter around, I pressed onward. But before exiting the lobby, I noticed a few associates shooting disgusted glances my way. I can only imagine what they were thinking. Look at her, trying to sleep her way to the top. Then, I was stunned to see a partner in his 60’s wink at Mark, who in response, smiled slyly and placed his hand firmly on the small of my back.

 

We walked a block to a tiny restaurant filled with more coworkers. I prayed the next 50 minutes would fly by uneventfully. The lobby incident was mortifying and I couldn’t stomach much more unwelcome touching from this self-serving freak. The hostess showed us to a small table in the middle of the restaurant and I mentally cursed her for not taking pity on me and putting us in the back. Mark pulled out my chair, but I gently told him, “Thanks, but I’ve got it. I need to take my jacket off before I sit down.”

He replied, “Oh, I’ll help you with that.”

 

In the airiest possible tone I could muster, I said, “That’s ok, I prefer to do it myself.” He didn’t take no for an answer and stepped behind me, slipping my jacket over my shoulders and down my back, resting it on my chair. Oh. My. Gawd. Does he think this is a date? How could he have overlooked my sizeable wedding ring (as well as his own)?

 

The rest of the lunch was thankfully a bore, but the damage was done. Again, he guided me through the lobby with his hand in the small of my back. I frantically pushed the “up” button in the elevator, hurried off at my floor, and thanked him (for what, I wasn’t quite sure). I was flooded with anxiety. What weird signal was I giving off that made him try to kiss me on the mouth, touch me, call me “sweetie,” and take off an article of my clothing?

 

So began a two-year endeavor to avoid Mark. When I couldn’t avoid him, I was attempting to make the “friendship” work because he was so powerful. If I turned him down for too many lunches his feelings might get hurt, or worse, he might get mad and retaliate against me.

 

Hindsight being 20/20, I realized the only thing Mark found promising about me was my breasts. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the only powerful man at the firm who would try to make himself look better by having me attached to his side. I never reported their behavior for fear that lodging a complaint would negatively affect my career. Would it be easier for the firm to get rid of the junior “complainer” associate or the harassing senior partners who brought boatloads of capital into the firm? Exactly.

 

I was a young associate ill-equipped to deal with this situation, but I hope you can learn from my naiveté. Check back next week to read Part II, the solutions to this story, “4 Practical Tips for Dealing with Creeps in the Workplace.”

 

XO,

CC

 

Do you think this type of bad behavior is decreasing or increasing? Let me know why you feel that way in the comments.

 

*Name changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

 

“Chelsea Chatsworth” is more than just a pretty face and a pen name, and she can be reached at chelseachatsworth@gmail.com.

Tags:  associate  firm  harassment  hostile work environment  LCB  partner  quid pro quo  stories to solutions  Sts 

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Chasing the Last Wave: "Taking Networking to the Mat!"

Posted By Molly T. Tami , Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Taking Networking to the Mat!  

 

Do you play golf? Personally, I am not a fan of the sport for several reasons that I will address below. I recognize, however, that many people enjoy golf, and some find themselves obsessed with it. Most of those people are unquestionably men. Should more women be encouraged to “hit the links?”

 

Lawyers and other professionals often cite golf as the best networking opportunity out there. For that reason, women lawyers are urged to take up the game. In a commentary on why more women should play golf, the CEO of the Executive Women’s Golf Association states: “Golf has been deemed the sport of business. Few, if any, activities can duplicate the power of golf to boost one’s career regardless of gender. The game provides unmatchable networking time with clients, prospects and colleagues, including coveted access to senior management.” Recognizing this, the Lawyers Club and other professional women’s organizations have facilitated golf lessons for their members.

 

Perhaps golf is great for business, but there are good reasons why women don’t play this male dominated sport and frankly, don’t want to. Firstly, many women never had the opportunity to learn to play the sport while growing up, and thus, never developed the skills or the interest. Moreover, most women who have children or other family commitments do not have the time or inclination to spend hours on the golf course on weekends or evenings. I have witnessed many marriages severely strained by the husband’s obsession with his weekend golf game while his wife stayed home to take care of the children and oversee the family’s weekend activities. (I hope this phenomenon was more prevalent with my age group of the baby boomers, than it is with younger couples.)  Finally, I know many women who would rather be pursuing other activities for exercise, enjoyment, networking, and connecting in a meaningful way with other people.

 

For example, let’s consider yoga. It’s hugely popular these days given its many health benefits and accessibility.Yoga for Everyone, a recent New York Times piece, extolls the virtues of a yoga practice. Yoga really is for everyone, and both men and women can practice together in a variety of settings. And in my experience, great connections can be forged before, during and after a yoga class!  

 

So here’s my idea. As we chase the last wave of feminism and work to advance women in the legal profession, I propose that we strive to make yoga the sport of business and networking. I would argue that the non-judgmental and reflective nature of yoga aligns well with the goals of making meaning connections and reaching agreement with others. If others came to recognize this, then perhaps we would see great interest in participating in yoga retreats, not just in golf outings.

 

Networking and making connections is an important part of my job, but don’t look for me on the golf course. Instead, you will find me sitting on my yoga mat breathing, stretching and connecting with my fellow yogis. Why not join us and help make it a movement!   

 

Molly Tami, who serves as the Assistant Dean for Career & Professional Development at USD School of Law, is passionate about advancing women in the legal profession.              

Tags:  business  Chasing the Last Wave  connections  equality  feminism  feminist  gender  golf  LCB  legal profession  networking  women  yoga 

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