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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 use 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 authors and not of Lawyers Club. All members are encouraged to participate respectfully in discussions regarding the topics posted on the blog. Guest writers are welcome.

 

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How Many Freakin’ Pronouns?

Posted By Ari Hornick, Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Last year, Laci Green posted How Many Freakin Genders, and How Many Freakin Genders, Part 2. If you’ve never thought about issues surrounding sex and gender, her videos are a good introduction. However, Green makes a common mistake when she says that biological sex has basically two options (male and female). To this point, scientific research has found that the genetic switches determinative of your biological sex are not binary like an on/off switch. They're more like dimmer switches with an infinite number of settings between extremes. How many freakin’ biological sexes? Possibly infinite.


Even if there were only one gender for each biological sex, there would be an infinite number of genders. If different genders use different pronouns, how many freakin’ pronouns? He and she don’t come close to covering infinity, so people have come up with a variety of first person, singular pronouns to fill the gap. There is some resistance to the new pronouns, but remember, we learned how to say “Ms.” We learned to say “African-American.” If a friend changes their name when they get married or divorced, we adapt to the new name. If we know a judge personally, we don’t forget to call them “your honor” in court. We can definitely learn which pronouns people use.


How do you know which pronouns a person uses? They tell you. Until then, stick with gender neutral pronouns. Perhaps the easiest path is to start with the familiar: Use “they” as a singular pronoun. “They” has been both singular and plural (like “you”) since, at least, Chaucer, and we still use it that way. (See e.g. “If a friend changes their name…”). If you don’t want to take my word for it, check out the Motivated Grammar post “Singular ‘they’” or Grammar Girl’s “Gender-Neutral Pronouns” and “Singular ‘They’.”


How do you tell someone which pronouns you use? It’s easy to insert this into your introduction, “I’m Ari—they, them—nice to meet you.” Include your pronouns in your signature block. My signature block says “Pronouns: they, them, their” right below my phone number. If someone uses an incorrect pronoun for you, just give a mild, matter of fact correction as you would if someone used an incorrect pronoun for your pet. “I use they.” If the person looks confused, follow up with “not she” or “not he” as the case may be.


What if you say the wrong pronoun by accident? Don’t freak out. Correct yourself, or accept the correction, in a mild, matter-of-fact tone, and move on. For example, “…she—I mean they—…” The key is to be respectful.


To make your pronouns known, the convention is to list them in the following order: subject, object, possessive, possessive pronoun, reflexive. “I’m Ari—they, them, their, theirs, themself.” You don’t have to list all five all the time, but do include any nonstandard parts. “I’m Ari—they, them” is sufficient, but “I’m Ari—phe, phe, phes” (pronunciation: fē, fē, fēz). I would stop there because the listener will probably assume the last two correctly (phes, pheself).


An easy way to be an ally is to include pronouns in your introduction and signature block even if you’re cisgender. This will help everyone feel more comfortable asserting their pronouns, and you’ll be less likely to use an incorrect pronoun if everyone includes them in their introductions and signature blocks. Win-win.

 

Ari Hornick, who wrote this for San Diego Lawyers Club’s LGBTQ Committee, is an ethics attorney in downtown San Diego.

 

Tags:  binary gender  cisgender  gender  introductions  LGBTQ  pronouns  signature blocks  trans 

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Inviting the outsider in | Empathy helps you help your clients

Posted By Guest Blogger Christy Heiskala , Tuesday, November 20, 2018
Updated: Monday, November 19, 2018

My experience working with lawyers and being a member of the Lawyers Club of San Diego entirely changed my perspective from the experience I had as a client. I parented my child through the experience of being a victim of crime in a criminal case, a plaintiff in a civil trial, and a fighter through two subsequent appeals. Over a period of eight years, I spent many hours talking to the Deputy District Attorney, talking to my attorneys, being deposed by defense attorneys, and sitting in the court room. Even though I had top-notch attorneys and mostly positive outcomes, I felt lost throughout the entire process. I have been a victim advocate for clients in both civil and criminal cases for three years now and want to share with lawyers what it feels like from a client’s perspective.

 

Clients are intimidated by you.

 
No matter how kind you are, clients are scared of you. They won’t tell you everything up front due to trauma, lack of trust, and fear of sounding stupid. People seek help from attorneys when they feel they have been wronged and their trust has been broken. Their nervous system is stuck in fight, flight, or freeze mode and they may not be thinking clearly. Help your client relax and feel more comfortable with you by letting them speak without interrupting and leave a long pause before responding. Provide helpful resources and conduct grounding exercises that will further help them.

 

Clients feel like outsiders.

 
Legalese is the equivalent of a foreign language to people outside the legal world. Every word feels like drinking from a firehose. Clients may not keep up and will be too embarrassed to say they don’t understand. Not asking for help in a foreign country can lead to costly mistakes, and the same can apply to your clients because this area is foreign to them. They may have never stepped foot into a law office or court room before, except perhaps for a day of jury duty. Your clients may have never answered interrogatories or been deposed. This adds up to a client who feels lost and unsure of themselves and can lead to misunderstandings.
You can help by losing the formalities when possible. Meeting rooms should be warm and inviting. Save the suit for court. Talk slower and lose the legalese. Instruct them about the process in a manner you would give directions to a visitor without a map.


To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.

 
You do this work daily and might be working on twenty cases at a time; but (hopefully), this is your client’s one and only case. Clients do not realize how long the process takes, how much time lapses in between the different stages of litigation, and how much work is expected of them. When court dates change, that is a normal workday for you—but your client has been planning their entire life around the court date (arranging childcare, making travel arrangements, and requesting days off work in advance). Inevitable court changes can be financially burdensome and make a client become uncooperative.


As the best lawyers know, little actions can go a long way. Help clients feel validated by being mindful not to rush them off the phone or use template correspondence. Check in with them often and offer to revisit how the process works and what the next steps will be. Make sure they know in advance that court dates can change at the last minute, acknowledge how much of an inconvenience it may be, and ask how you can help.

Christy Heiskala is co-chair of San Diego Lawyers Club’s Human Trafficking Collaborative Community Sub-Committee, she provides civil litigation victim support, and volunteers for the Center for Community Solutions as a SART advocate.

 

Tags:  client  client management  client perspective  client treatment  intimidation  lawyering  mindfulness  victim advocacy 

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Lawyers Club asks CA State Bar to adopt provisions to facilitate the practice of law by military spouse attorneys in CA

Posted By Lawyers Club of San Diego President Danna Cotman, Friday, November 9, 2018
Updated: Thursday, November 8, 2018

Lawyers Club encouraged The State Bar of California to adopt provisions so that military spouses can practice law in California without limitations that disadvantage them in the hiring process. Read our letter to the Special Admissions office.



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Tags:  career  demand equality  easelicensingburden  law  legal profession  mentorship  milspouse  milspouseJD  notanotherbarexam  provisionallicense  servicemember  StateBarCA  supportmilitaryfamilies 

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California Mandates Female Representation on Public Company Boards

Posted By Jen Rubin, Wednesday, November 7, 2018

On September 30, 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the nation’s first gender mandate for female representation on public company boards. The law requires public companies headquartered in California (as reported in the company’s 10k) to attain certain minimal gender thresholds by the end of 2019.

In his signing statement, Governor Brown noted, “given all the special privileges that corporations have enjoyed for so long, it is high time that corporate boards include the people who constitute half the persons in America.” He also copied the Senate Judiciary Committee on his signing statement, noting that recent events in Washington DC and beyond made clear that “many were not getting the message.”

Of course, the message is that given the important role women play in society, they should naturally occupy some of the highest positions available in corporate America – seats literally at the tables of public company boards.

The new law is not without challenges. Categorizing individuals based on protected characteristics, such as gender, must withstand the “strict scrutiny” constitutional test which requires the government to demonstrate that no other method is readily available to address a social harm and the law is as narrowly tailored as possible to remedy that harm. Whether this law will pass constitutional muster remains to be seen.

The quotas inherent in the new law have also triggered debate regarding whether legislation is the best (or only) solution to the board representation problem that appears to plague corporate America. But the reality is that women may not be considered for board positions because the recruiters for those positions may not look in places that produce female candidates. The law requires public company boards to look harder for qualified candidates.

Another debatable aspect of the new law is its impact on shareholders’ decisions concerning who runs their companies. But, that argument underscores the existence of de facto institutionalized prejudice. Candidates for board seats on public companies are expected to possess operational experience (in business and finance), real-world company leadership experience at an elevated level, and a special or unique industry expertise that will enhance the business’ value. With so many opportunities to obtain that kind of experience historically foreclosed to women, someone had to make the first move because the problem wasn’t solving itself.

Here, again, #MeToo may have tipped the scales. It is common knowledge that gender-diverse boards (and management teams) have a salutary impact on professional and civil behavior in workplaces, which in turn result in lower incidents of harassment and other sexually-based workplace behaviors. Other data suggests that boards with gender diversity make companies both more productive and profitable.

Whether California’s legislative solution to the lack of gender diversity on public company boards will survive legal challenge remains to be seen. In the meantime, the gender mandate for boards is an important attempt to craft a legislative solution to this issue.


Jen Rubin co-chairs San Diego Lawyers Club’s Sexual Harassment Task Force, she is a partner with Mintz practicing employment law, and she advises boards of directors on a variety of employment and gender-related issues.

 

Tags:  California  corporate boards  gender mandate  Governor Jerry Brown  MeToo  public company boards 

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#WhyIDidntReport

Posted By Jenn French, Tuesday, October 30, 2018

A few weeks ago, the President of the United States mocked Dr. Christine Blasey Ford on his Twitter feed. In response, women throughout the country began to share their #WhyIDidntReport stories. Padma Lakshmi courageously shared her story in the New York Times. I shared mine too, on Twitter and Instagram. And nearly every single woman I know chimed in with #MeToo, with stories ranging from sexual assault to gender discrimination. I wish I could tell you this was my only #MeToo experience.

In the early months of 1999, I had just returned back to campus after winter break. I was newly single, having just broke up with my first “real” boyfriend in college, and the first person with whom I’d had sexual intercourse. I was briefly living in what we called a “single double” - my roommate had moved out the previous semester and my new roommate had not yet moved in. Ironically, I lived next door to the resident advisor.

I don’t remember much about that night. I know it was cold, and I’m pretty sure there was snow on the ground. I remember walking across campus to a fraternity house with two male friends. I know that I drank a lot that night. I was trying to hang with the guys, and my newly-single-self wanted to have fun. I’d met my ex-boyfriend in the first few weeks of college, so this was the first time I felt like I could really let loose. I was a “high functioning drinker” – I didn’t slur my words and stayed reasonably coherent, which meant that my friends often didn’t realize how drunk I really was.

One of the guys I was with that night was not drinking at the party. I had met him a few times but didn’t know him well. Due to the passage of time, and the alcohol I had consumed, I am hazy on the details. (This is a blessing and a curse.) What I do know is that he walked me back to my dorm room, just the two of us. I remember snapshots of what happened next. The blasting heat in my Wisconsin dorm room in sharp contrast to the cold winter air blowing in from the slightly open window. Trying to explain that I didn’t want to have sex. That I’d only done it with one person. I remember him telling me that it was okay. Everything was okay. He was a nice guy. We were friends. We were just having fun. What I don’t remember is whether he used a condom. I hate that I can’t remember this detail.

The next day I woke up confused and sore. I couldn’t understand why I would have had sex with him. It wasn’t in my character, but I was so drunk. I barely remembered the walk back to my dorm room. I don’t remember using my key to open the door. I don’t remember ever consenting, and I know today that I was too drunk to be legally capable of consent.

I went to a very small school, and within twenty-four hours, everyone knew what had happened. A “friend” I had met through my ex-boyfriend started rumors about me. She told everyone about what happened with this man and called me a slut. I was mortified and ashamed. But the worst part is that I believed her. I thought it was my fault. I was drunk. No one forced me to drink. We went to a party together. I assumed that I let him into my room, although I didn’t remember.

I didn’t tell a soul about what really happened. I ended up transferring to a different school and becoming a bartender, which opened me up to a whole other world of sexual harassment and assault. In late 2002, I finally sought therapy. I am forever grateful to my counselor, Lynn, for helping me see, for the first time, that it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t consent.

I was raped.

Why didn’t I report what happened to me? Surely this is a rhetorical question after the confirmation of sexual predator Brett Kavanaugh to our nation’s highest court. I was drunk, he was sober. I didn’t remember the details. I couldn’t tell you the exact date that it happened. I don’t even remember his last name. People saw us leave together and “I seemed fine.” And before I had a chance to think about reporting, everyone already heard a different version of the story: that I was a slut who wanted it to happen.

Why didn’t I report what happened to me? I knew that no one would believe me.

When I shared my story on social media, a well-meaning male friend commented that I could still report; even though the statute of limitations had run out, at least the man who raped me would have that on his record. This is something I never would have considered before Dr. Ford’s testimony, and something that I would never consider after the hearing. I went to college in a small town in Wisconsin. I can only imagine the jeering questions I’d get calling from California to report a 19-year-old sexual assault.

Like many women, I am shaking with anger at the outcome of this nomination process. I am outraged by the women, like Senator Susan Collins, who continue to prop up the patriarchy. These women enable sexual predators by saying things like, “boys will be boys” and “she must be confused, poor thing.” I am furious that 50 senators voted yes for a man who lied under oath, who was credibly accused of assaulting several women, whose demeanor revealed that he is objectively unfit to hold judicial office. And I am furious that those in power pushed this nomination through in record time with the specific intent to circumvent the November 6th election and to prevent Americans from weighing in on this crucial nomination—especially after what happened with Chief Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination. The hypocrisy is astounding and infuriating.

Here’s one thing I know for sure: I’m glad that I finally shared my story. I’m not sorry that I did so, even though it didn’t prevent the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh. I feel free, I feel lighter. And I feel solidarity with so many of my sisters who shared their stories and all those who are still too afraid to do so. I know that our conversations are not in vain, and I hope that, through these conversations, we can change this culture of toxic masculinity so that our daughters can say #NotMe, instead of #MeToo.

To my fellow survivors: I see you. I hear you. I believe you. You are not alone. And we will take back our government from those who believe that women’s lives are not as valuable as men’s lives. Please make sure that you are registered to vote, and vote for pro-choice candidates who will fight for equality on November 6, 2018. And after you’ve taken the time for self-care, please join us as we Demand Equality. The Women’s Advocacy and Reproductive Justice Committees provide excellent opportunities to channel your rage and disappointment into action.

Jenn French owns her own practice focused on civil litigation and handles pro-bono asylum cases through Casa Cornelia Law Center and co-chairs San Diego Lawyers Club’s Reproductive Justice Committee with Brigid Campo.

 

Tags:  Christine Blasey Ford  demand equality  Kavanaugh  MeToo  rape  reporting  reproductive justice  senate  sexual assault  Supreme Court  survivor  whyIdidntreport  women’s advocacy 

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Lawyers Club Demands Equality on the Bench

Posted By Lawyers Club of San Diego, Friday, October 19, 2018
Updated: Friday, October 19, 2018

On September 30th, Governor Brown signed a bill written by San Diego Congresswoman and California's Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins {hyperlink to http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-governor-women-corporate-boards-20180930-story.html} that requires corporate boards of directors to include women. We've lodged our own demand from San Diego in the form of a demand for equality on the bench. Please see this letter we sent to Governor Jerry Brown last month, and consider how you are joining us in demanding equality! 

 


Tags:  appointments  bench  equality  Governor Brown  judge 

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Now, More Than Ever – Diversity and Women’s Leadership in the Law

Posted By Marni von Wilpert, Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The mission of the Diverse Women’s Committee is to discuss how women as attorneys, particularly women of color, can become leaders and utilize their legal position to support human rights and demand equality and inclusivity for all. The keynote speaker for this year’s Diverse Women’s Committee luncheon is Mona Pasquil, an incredible woman who has spent her career in public service, most recently as California Governor Jerry Brown’s Appointments Secretary since 2011.

Today’s headlines highlight the discrimination women continue to face, especially women of color, as we attempt to gain an equal foothold in our workplaces and the economy. Stories abound of sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, and gender pay inequality from Walmart to Wall Street. And those are only examples of gender-based discrimination; women of color also face implicit and sometimes overt racism and bias in the workplace daily. Despite facing these challenges, women of color continue to lead the charge toward greater equality. Indeed, in 2015, years before the national conversation on the “MeToo” hashtag emerged, a courageous group of Latina women started a movement that paved the way to a new California law targeting sexual harassment and assault in the janitorial industry. Indeed, the coining of the term “MeToo” to help survivors of sexual assault find support was created by an African-American woman nearly a decade ago.

In the current political climate and the U.S. Senate’s judicial confirmation hearings for nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, I’ve often heard it said that diversity and women’s equality matters “now more than ever.” Maybe in this moment society is listening to women more than ever, but the leadership and diverse voices of women have always mattered in the fight for human rights, equality, and inclusivity for all. It mattered just as much in 1955, when Dolores Huerta began her career as an organizer, eventually co-founding with Cesar Chavez what would become the United Farm Workers’ Union to advocate for the economic and social rights of farm workers. It mattered just as much in 1964, when Fannie Lou Hamer helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, challenged the state’s all-white delegation, and unmasked racial segregation and voter suppression in her speeches at the National Democratic Convention. It mattered just as much in 1991, when Anita Hill testified before the U.S. Senate, detailing her experiences of sexual harassment by Clarence Thomas when he oversaw her work at the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. And it mattered just as much in 2009, when Mona Pasquil became California’s first Asian, first Filipina, and first female lieutenant governor.       

Please join the Diverse Women’s Committee for our luncheon on Thursday, October 18, 2018, as we continue our conversation to identify, confront, and address particular challenges that women of color, as double minorities, continue to face in the legal profession and society. Mona Pasquil is an incredible speaker and is a woman using her voice and leadership to promote equal access to opportunity for all. Everyone is welcome and we hope to see you there – register now

Marni von Wilpert is a Deputy City Attorney in the Civil Litigation Unit of the San Diego City Attorney's Office, and wrote this for San Diego Lawyers Club's Diverse Women's Committee.




 

Tags:  appointments secretary  diversity  Dolores Huerta  equality  Fannie Lou  Filipina  Jerry Brown  luncheon  Mona Pasquil 

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Flashback to October 1991 | Lawyers Club Opposes Thomas Nomination

Posted By Lawyers Club, Tuesday, October 2, 2018
Lawyers Club News, October 1991, Page 3:

Lawyers Club Opposes Thomas Nomination
 
At its regular meeting on September 9, 1991, the Lawyers Club Board of Directors approved a statement of opposition to the appointment of Judge Clarence Thomas to be an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Copies of the statement were sent to various media and to California's two U.S. Senators. The following is the text of the statement opposing appointment of Clarence Thomas to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court:
 
Lawyers Club strongly opposes appointment of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court. The evidence is overwhelming that he does not support the right to abortion and opposes affirmative action programs that benefit women and minorities. He has made his views known in his speeches, by his record as Chairman of the EEOC, and by membership in the professional and social organizations in which he participates.

Clarence Thomas has indicated that he would deprive women of the fundamental right to control their reproduction based upon his belief that the U.S. Constitution requires the criminalization of abortion. His belief in the "constitutional right to life" of a fetus greatly increases the likelihood that the court will overturn Roe v. Wade and return us to a time where women, especially those of low economic status, would be forced once again to resort to self-induced or back alley abortions.

We also oppose Clarence Thomas because of his views relating to protection of the civil rights of classes of individuals who have historically suffered from discrimination. He believes that affirmative action diminishes the motivation of the women and minorities who benefit from these programs. His rigid opposition to group rights will adversely affect the hard-won gains that women, minorities, and others who have been discriminated against have made in the quest to achieve social and economic equality.

Clarence Thomas' performance at the EEOC reflected an arrogant lack of respect for established laws, policies and legal doctrines. It would therefore be foolish, at best, to place him in the position of interpreting and enforcing laws. At worst, giving him supreme judicial power would wreak havoc on the rights which women and minorities have managed to wrest for themselves thus far.

The Justices of the U.S Supreme Court are charged with the responsibility of enforcing all laws and doing justice for all people of this land. Women and people of color are an integral part of the make up of this country and their rights must be protected vigorously and vigilantly.

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Tags:  Clarence Thomas  equality  feminism  LCB  reproductive justice  SCOTUS 

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Lawyers Club urges Senate to delay vote on Judge Kavanaugh

Posted By Lawyers Club of San Diego, by Danna Cotman, President, Thursday, September 27, 2018

One, then two, now three and four accusers. As Shakespeare said, truth will out; however, bringing that truth to the light sooner than later is worth demanding. See the most recent way Lawyers Club demands equality in connection with nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court. How are you demanding equality?


Read our letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee below and here.

 
 

Tags:  equality  justice  LCB  metoo  SCOTUS 

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Advancing the Rights of the LGBTQ Community: Expansion of Gender-Neutral Restrooms

Posted By Brenda Lopez, Tuesday, September 25, 2018

On March 1, 2017, California required single-occupancy restrooms in businesses, government buildings, and places of public accommodation. These single-occupancy restrooms can include up to one flush toilet and one urinal and must be identified by gender-neutral signage. I am a firm supporter of gender-neutral restrooms and the ideals supporting this equitable advancement. No longer will transgender and gender nonconforming individuals feel the anxiety that comes with choosing a restroom of a specific gender in a public place and being questioned, or worse, being told they are entering the “wrong” restroom.

This change in California’s laws regarding public restrooms reminds me of the dismantling of Jim Crow-era laws, when I think of the impact it has likely had on those advocating for the change. Yet, the first time I entered a gender-neutral restroom, I complained about having to endure a smelly urinal when I do not need a urinal to use the restroom. I was grossed out by the smelly urinal plastered against the wall. I felt very uncomfortable with this unfamiliar look and smell. I remember trying to hold my breath and running in and out of the restroom as fast as I possibly could. As a heterosexual woman, it was the first time I had seen a urinal in person.

I recognized my selfishness immediately and wondered how many others had similar experiences and thoughts. Having been in many gender-neutral restrooms since then, I have grown accustomed to it and embraced it as a new norm. If my temporary discomfort plays a small part in LGBTQ community advancement towards equality and minimizes fear and anxiety for that community, it is happily endured.

Brenda Lopez is a Certified Family Law Specialist working at Antonyan Miranda, LLP, the current Family Law Chair for the SDCBA, and wrote this for San Diego Lawyers Club’s LGBTQ Committee.



Tags:  discomfort  equality  gender-neutral  gender-neutral restrooms  Jim Crow  LGBTQ  urinal 

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Co-sponsored Event: TJSL Women and the Law Conference 2019

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