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Lawyers Club 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. Guidelines for writers may be found on the Leadership Resources page.

 

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Lawyers Club’s Global Reach

Posted By Elvira Cortez: A President's Perspective, 18 hours ago

Human trafficking, which includes sexual exploitation and forced labor, is a significant problem in San Diego. According to data from the FBI, San Diego is one of the 13 worst regions in the United States for sex trafficking, an underground industry worth $810 million in San Diego County.

Since 2016, Lawyers Club sponsored a committee, the Human Trafficking Collaborative (“HTC”), to address the pervasiveness of human trafficking in San Diego and collaborate with local organizations to combat human trafficking and rehabilitate survivors. More specifically, HTC engages in (1) issue education, (2) survivor services, (3) advocacy and outreach, and (4) support for non-governmental organizations. For its efforts, HTC was honored by the National Conference of Women’s Bar Associations with the prestigious national Public Service Award. In 2018, HTC also received the San Diego Law Library Foundation's Bernard E. Witkin, Esq. Award in the category of Community Change Makers.

The success of HTC has also been internationally recognized. This month, the co-chairs of the HTC, Casey French and Colette Mahon, and I will meet with nine officials from the country of Bahrain. The officials wish to learn more about HTC and the support it provides to survivors and to combat human trafficking. While we are proud of the impact HTC has on our community, we are equally honored for the opportunity to assist in helping women internationally. If you are interested in learning more about the HTC or how to contribute, I encourage you to join our collaborative.

  

Elvira Cortez practices business and commercial litigation and employment defense at Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP and is the 2019-2020 president of Lawyers Club.

 

 

Tags:  advocacy  changemaker  education  HTC  human trafficking  international  outreach  sex trafficking  survivor 

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The Gavel Gap

Posted By Elvira Cortez: A President's Perspective, Friday, November 15, 2019
Updated: Thursday, November 14, 2019
I am proud to announce that former Lawyers Club President Olga Álvarez and Lawyers Club member Judy Bae have been appointed by Governor Newsom to the Superior Court of California, San Diego. Olga Álvarez has been a member of Lawyers Club since 2003 and has co-chaired the Diverse Women’s Committee, Membership Development Committee and 50th Anniversary Committee, served on the Lawyers Club Board, and served as Lawyers Club President in 2017-2018. Judy Bae has been a member of Lawyers Club since 2013. I would also like to congratulate Judge Terrie Roberts, a court commissioner since 2008, who was also appointed to the bench and sworn in on October 28, 2019. Judge Roberts served as a speaker at Lawyers Club’s first Women of Color Reception in 2013. As leaders in the legal community and masters of their craft, these women have advanced our mission. We should all celebrate their achievements.

While we are thrilled that the three judges that Governor Newsom appointed are women, there is still much to do for women to eliminate the gavel gap. Despite comprising half the population, women only make up thirty-six percent of judges as of 2019. Likewise, the judiciary lacks a fair representation of women of color. While the Judicial Council of California does not identify demographics for judges based on a combination of gender and race, its annual judicial survey has shown that Asians comprise of 7.8%, Blacks comprise of 7.5%, and Latinos comprise 10.8% of superior court judges. Accordingly, the percentages for women of color would be lower than for those of men. As we celebrate the achievements of these women, we must continue to advocate to close the gavel gap for all women.

 

Elvira Cortez practices business and commercial litigation and employment defense at Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP and is the 2019-2020 president of Lawyers Club.

 

 

Tags:  gavel gap  judges  judiciary  Superior Court 

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Make an Impact

Posted By Elvira Cortez: A President's Perspective, Thursday, November 7, 2019
Updated: Thursday, November 7, 2019

The month of November marks the beginning of the holiday season. As we begin to prepare for the holidays, we also think about giving to our favorite charitable causes. As you think of giving, consider Lawyer’s Club charitable arm, Fund for Justice, which supports local non-profits that serve to advance the status of women in society and serve the unmet needs of women. Since its inception in 1999, Fund For Justice has made over 148 grants totaling $395,000 to 45 local organizations. Past grantees have included organizations such as Girls on the Run, Free to Thrive, Voices for Children, and Survivors of Torture.


Notably, charitable organizations that work to redress issues affecting women are severely underfunded nationwide. Only 1.6 percent of charitable donations go to organizations that address women’s issues. We are proud that Fund for Justice has been a trailblazer in charitable giving to these organizations. Help turn the tide of charitable giving by making a donation to Fund for Justice and joining us for the upcoming the Fund for Justice Luncheon. 

  

Elvira Cortez practices business and commercial litigation and employment defense at Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP and is the 2019-2020 president of Lawyers Club.

 

 

Tags:  charitable organizations  charity  fund for justice  holiday  luncheon  non-profit 

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Gun Laws Affect Women

Posted By Elvira Cortez: A President's Perspective, Tuesday, November 5, 2019

As a mother, I can think of few situations more scary then having a child experience a school shooting. Unfortunately, too many mothers have experienced that horror. Indeed, too many sisters, aunts, daughters, and wives have lost a loved one to gun violence. I have experienced the loss of a friend to gun violence and know someone who was assaulted with a gun by an abusive husband.

I used to think that gun violence was not that prevalent. However, the recent mass shooting in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio remind us of the horrors of gun violence and the failure of legislatures to enact meaningful gun restrictions. Indeed, despite having experienced over 300 mass shootings since the beginning of the year, no federal legislation and few state laws have been enacted to reduce gun violence. As the media and politicians have debated assault weapon bans and red flag laws, the conversation has missed the devastating toll gun violence has on women and the strong correlation between gun violence and domestic violence.

Research has shown that over 50% of mass shootings were related to domestic violence. Women are five times more likely to be murdered by a domestic abuser if there’s a gun at home. Women are twenty-one times more likely to be shot and killed than women in other developed nations.

There are many examples of perpetrators of mass shootings having a history of domestic violence. The shooter who perpetrated the shooting at the Annapolis Capital Gazette was known to have threatened a former female classmate. The Marjory Stoneham Douglas shooter was abusive to his ex-girlfriend, and threatened and stalked female classmates. The shooter at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas had been convicted of domestic violence against his wife.

Given these statistics, the solution seems deceptively simple – just prohibit the possession of guns by someone convicted of domestic violence. Since 2001, federal law, under the Lautenberg Amendment, has prohibited convicted individuals from possessing guns. However, significant loopholes to gun ownership by domestic abusers exist.

For example, while federal law prohibits perpetrators convicted of domestic violence from purchasing guns, thirty-six states lack confiscation policies. In other words, nothing prevents convicted offenders from using guns already in their possession.

Federal law also does not apply to abusive dating partners or convicted stalkers. Women are as likely to be killed by dating partners as by spouses. In an average month, at least 52 American women are shot and killed by an intimate partner, and many more are injured. Nearly 1 million women in the country alive today have been shot, or shot at, by an intimate partner. Moreover, 85 percent of attempted homicides of women were preceded by a stalking incident by the perpetrator.

In addition, background check requirements do not apply to gun purchases from unlicensed, private sellers. From January 2009 to December 2016, 34% of mass shootings were committed by shooters prohibited from owning guns. Background checks should be required for all purchases, including gun shows and private sellers, to keep guns out of the hands of domestic violence perpetrators and others prohibited persons.

As Lawyers Club advocates for laws to better the lives of women in society, common sense gun restrictions are necessary not only to prevent mass shootings but to prevent violence against women in general. Enacting protective gun measures will not only help keep our communities safer but also our homes.

 

-Article first published in LC News, November 2019

 

Elvira Cortez practices business and commercial litigation and employment defense at Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP and is the 2019-2020 president of Lawyers Club.

 

 

Tags:  background checks  domestic violence  gun safety  gun violence  Lautenberg Amendment  loopholes  mass shootings 

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Women Must Network

Posted By Elvira Cortez: A President's Perspective, Thursday, October 31, 2019

Networking skills play an integral role in women’s advancement in the legal profession. While many find networking to be tedious and awkward, networking can lead to referrals sources, new job opportunities, or even a promotion. Although women may generally be seen as more social than men, according to a 2018 Women in the Workplace report by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org, women network less than men. Instead of making networking a chore or an awkward attempt to obtain business from strangers, women should work on making connections and building relationships with people. To make the experience more engaging, find something in common with the other person that is interesting to talk about (not the law).


Networking is not just for private practice -- women in public agencies benefit as well. The same Women in Workplace report found that employees who interact regularly with leaders within their workplace are more likely to ask for and receive promotions, stay at their organizations, and aspire to be leaders. Since all attorneys benefit, JOIN US and put your networking skills to work at the Taste of North County Networking Mixer.

 

Elvira Cortez practices business and commercial litigation and employment defense at Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP and is the 2019-2020 president of Lawyers Club.

 

 

Tags:  advancement  book of business  connections  job opportunities  leaders  Lean In  legal profession  networking  promotions  referral challenge  referrals  women  workplace 

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Shaping the River

Posted By Elvira Cortez: A President's Perspective, Thursday, October 24, 2019
Updated: Thursday, October 24, 2019

At our leadership luncheon, panelist Andrea Guerrero explained that women attorneys have the power to “shape the river” or use their tools of advocacy to effect change in laws and policy to better society. Another way to shape the river is to ensure that the pipeline for women attorneys remains strong by inspiring the next generation.


Our Halloween Read-In is a great opportunity to reach out to young girls from underserved communities who have never met a women attorney. Studies have shown that early contact with professionals can have a positive influence on students, and female students in particular. In this way, female students can imagine themselves as professionals. This is where shaping the river needs to begin so that there will be women in the future to advocate for women’s rights.


This year our read-in will be at Central Elementary School. Central Elementary School is a year-round school serving Pre-K through fifth grade, which serves some of the poorest children in San Diego. Please JOIN US at the read-in. If you are unable to attend the read-in, please consider donating supplies listed on Central Elementary’s Wish List.

 

Elvira Cortez practices business and commercial litigation and employment defense at Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP and is the 2019-2020 president of Lawyers Club.

 

 

Tags:  Central Elementary  Community Outreach Committee  Halloween  mentorship  read-in  role model 

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Thank You

Posted By Elvira Cortez: A President's Perspective, Thursday, October 17, 2019

This year Lawyers Club celebrates its 47th anniversary of advancing the status of women in the law and society through advocacy and activism. Since its establishment, Lawyers Club has received numerous awards and accolades for its informative programming and advocacy for policies to advance the status of women. Our charitable arm, the Lawyers Club Fund for Justice, has awarded more than $400,000 to 45 organizations since its inception in 1997. Lawyers Club has also put on engaging dinner programs, featuring distinguished speakers, such as former Attorney General and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (Ret.), U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe, Professor Anita Hill, and former United States Attorney General Hon. Loretta Lynch. Lawyers Club could not have achieved all of its success without the generous support of its sponsors. On behalf of Lawyers Club, I would like to THANK our sponsors for their support and commitment to advancing our mission. We are excited to have recently released our new sponsorship booklet. I encourage our sponsors, and anyone interesting in becoming a sponsor, to review the booklet to learn of our sponsorship opportunitiesand reach out to Tracy Schimelfenig with questions.

 

Elvira Cortez practices business and commercial litigation and employment defense at Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP and is the 2019-2020 president of Lawyers Club.

 

  

Tags:  activism  advocacy  gratitude  legal profession  sponsorship  success  support 

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Unconventional Paths to Leadership

Posted By Elvira Cortez: A President's Perspective, Thursday, October 10, 2019

Even before law school, I knew I wanted to be a civil litigator. Life, however, put me on a different path. I graduated in the middle of the Great Recession -- offers were rescinded, layoffs were at unprecedented levels, and it was extremely difficult for a recent graduate to find a job as an attorney.

Fortunately, I found an opportunity at a small firm focusing on insurance coverage. Although I had no interest in that practice area, it was a foot in the door. When an opportunity arose, I moved on to another firm, where I was able to gain the tools I needed to be a civil litigator. Now, I practice in an area that complements my skills, challenges me, and brings me pleasure.

My story is not unique. There are many women I know that had to take different paths to succeed. Reflecting back on my journey, I would have benefitted from advice and guidance from an experienced attorney. For those of you who want to consider other paths in the legal field or how to navigate through uninspiring legal work, this month’s luncheon will focus on unconventional paths to success. The luncheon will allow our members to learn from panelists who will share their insight on how each used creativity and ingenuity to excel in the practice of law and in the community. Register

 

Elvira Cortez practices business and commercial litigation and employment defense at Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP and is the 2019-2020 president of Lawyers Club.

 

  

Tags:  career  lawyers  leadership development  legal profession 

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You Can’t Make People Be Nice – But You Can Ask Them to Be Accountable: The Workplace Equity & Civility Initiative

Posted By Guest blogger Jen Rubin, Tuesday, September 17, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, September 17, 2019

We cannot make people be nice, but we can certainly ask people to be accountable for trying to do better. If we make that commitment, we will make our workplaces better. These are the principles underlying the San Diego Lawyers Club Workplace Equity & Civility Initiative (“WE & CI”).


It occurred to me, early on in the WE & CI’s development, that we were simply asking employees and employers to follow the law. But naturally, it is more than that. The WE & CI is
an important step in rejecting the alarming but growing trend of normalizing bad behavior. The WE & CI provides a path to state, in positive and affirmative terms, that we will try to do better and hold ourselves and all employers accountable for our collective efforts to make our workplaces better.


The WE & CI has two simple components: First, pledge to do one’s best as an employer (and as an employee) to commit to better behavior in the workplace by adopting and enforcing certain policies that will naturally result in a more equitable workplace. The adoption of the WE & CI Commitment is an easy first step in this process. Second, commit to having at least half of an employer’s workforce attend National Conflict Resolution Center-developed training that promotes learning about civility in the workplace.


As an employment lawyer, I am frequently asked to advise clients about the legal implications of bad behavior in the workplace. The concept of “bad behavior” in the bullying, boorish and ill-mannered sense generally carries no legal consequences because “actionable” bad behavior must be grounded in a legal violation. In other words, a nasty supervisor who equally bullies people without regard to gender, race, sexual orientation or any other protected category, does not necessarily create legal risk for the employer. (Though, frequently they do create risk because of the natural insensitivity that accompanies those behaviors.) Bad behavior clearly impacts morale and productivity, but being a jerk does not always carry legal implications.


With that said, state and federal law unambiguously prohibit workplace discrimination (of which sexual harassment is only a subset). Here in California, beginning in 2020, employers of at least five or more employees must provide training – including anti-bullying training –to supervisors and non-supervisory employees. This robust training mandate does not create additional legal liability for engaging in offensive behavior nor does it insulate an employer from liability for such behavior.


We hope that accountability, together with formal group introspection and education, will lead to changes that elude legislation. Peer pressure motivates people to change their behavior. If business leaders set an example and make it clear that they will hold themselves and their employees accountable, then real change will transpire. It is our aim to promote full participation in the WE & CI from our regional employers with the  natural outcome of a civil, productive workplace. That workplace will lead to natural equity without legislation. Or, as we might say, a nicer workplace.

 


Jen Rubin is an employment partner with Mintz, and co-Chairs the San Diego Lawyers Club Workplace Equity & Civility Initiative with immediate past president of Lawyers Club Danna Cotman.

 

 

 

Tags:  bullying  civility  discrimination  employment law  equity  harassment  National Conflict Resolution Center  NCRC  respect  risk  training  Workplace Equity & Civility Initiative 

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Stonewall at 50 – Building on the Legacy of Pride and Freedom

Posted By Kim Ahrens for Lawyers Club's LGBTQ Committee, Monday, July 8, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, July 9, 2019

 

Like too many, I lived my entire law school career plus the first part of my professional career suppressing part of my identity in fear that my orientation, instead of my skill, would define me and distract prospective employers, or worse, clients. So, while I developed my knowledge of the law and sharpened my litigation skills, I also became an expert at avoiding questions that revealed the gender of my partner. 

Around the same time, I attended my first Lawyers Club event where a room full of successful women greeted me and opened my eyes to the possibilities available for female attorneys in the San Diego legal community. It’s hard to put into words the impact that 2005 mentor-mentee reception had on me and how it affected the trajectory of my career, but without a doubt it decreased my concern that my gender would be an insurmountable obstacle. However, it did nothing to thwart my fear of the professional consequences of revealing my orientation.

At the time, Lawyers Club did not have an LGBTQ Committee, and I did not learn about the Tom Homann LGBT Law Association until years later. I continued to be an active member, and even a leader, in Lawyers Club. And I continued to be closeted.

This status quo remained until opponents of same-sex marriage put a proposition on the ballot to amend the California constitution to exclude same-sex marriage. For me, Prop 8 opened my eyes to the importance of being an open lesbian in my professional career, gave me motivation to hit the streets to oppose the discriminatory proposition, and propelled me into being an activist in the LGBTQ rights movement. It was my personal tipping point.

I now appreciate how fortunate I am to have the freedom to use my voice, especially compared to LGBTQ people across the U.S. and world who risk far more than potential professional obstacles if they reveal their authentic selves. With this in mind, one can imagine the intensity of oppression and violence it took to trigger Stonewallers to rebel against police in the early morning of June 28, 1969. 

This year, I traveled to New York and visited the now National Historic Landmark. As I stood outside Stonewall Inn, I took a moment to acknowledge the historical significance of the Stonewall uprising. Fifty years ago, the aftermath of Stonewall opened the door to the first LGBTQ rights and activist organizations, and the first pride parade kicked off one year later. I also reflected on how much we accomplished during this first year of San Diego Lawyers Club’s LGBTQ Committee and the pride that overwhelmed me when I heard the Lawyers Club mission statement blasted to the audience as the very first Lawyers Club contingent passed in the 2018 San Diego Pride parade. 


My thoughts then turned to the theme of this year’s San Diego Pride, Stonewall 50: A Legacy of Liberation, and my heart filled with pride as I took a moment to acknowledge Lawyers Club is building on the legacy passed down by so many trailblazers, including the Stonewallers.


 With all this in mind, I could not be more excited to invite you to march with Lawyers Club in San Diego’s Pride Parade on Saturday, July 13, 2019 (register here to join us). 


Kimberly Ahrens wrote this for the San Diego Lawyers Club LGBTQ Committee, she is the founder of Ahrens Law, APC, and a Director of Lawyers Club of San Diego.

 

 

 

Tags:  civil rights  closet  LGBTQ  Mentee  Mentor  National Historic Monument  New York  parade  Pride  Stonewall Inn  Stonewallers 

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more Calendar

12/11/2019
Fund For Justice Luncheon

3/5/2020
2020 Red, White & Brew

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