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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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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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My So-Called First World Problems: "Good Luck With That Abortion"

Posted By Rebecca Zipp, Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Good Luck With That Abortion

 

Ohioans can breathe a sigh of relief! On December 13, pro-life Governor John Kasich vetoed Ohio’s “fetal heartbeat” bill – a bill banning all abortions after six weeks’ gestation, which is the point at which a fetal heartbeat can be detected. 


But the news is not all good. Governor Kasich did sign a 20-week abortion ban into law. As anyone who has ever received prenatal care knows, the “big” ultrasound is done at 20 weeks. That’s when you either breathe a sigh of relief because your fetus is healthy, or the technician runs out of the room to fetch a doctor to deliver sad news. Abortions past the 20-week mark are rare, (between 1% and 1.5% of all abortions occur past 20 weeks), and they are often performed in heart-wrenching situations where the parents badly wanted to have a child.


Our President has taken a flippant anti-Roe stance, dismissively saying that the issue should be left to the states. So, what options does a woman from Ohio have? I surveyed the states sharing borders with Ohio. Below, I share my findings and precious few words of comfort. 


Indiana made national news when then-Governor, now United States Vice President Mike Pence signed a law requiring that miscarried and aborted fetal remains be cremated or buried. The law is so extreme that it was opposed by pro-life women legislators. Also, you must wait for 18 hours to elapse between your state-mandated counseling session and your abortion procedure. Perhaps you can visit one of Indiana’s beautiful state parks as you mull the decision you had already made when you made interstate travel plans to carry out that decision.


Caveat: If your fetus is past 13 weeks’ gestation, travel elsewhere. As recently as early December 12, 2016, Hoosier women typically traveled to Ohio for their second-trimester abortions. They did this because Indiana law requires second-trimester abortions to be performed in a licensed surgical center or hospital – making the procedure unnecessarily, and often prohibitively, expensive. But now, abortions past 20 weeks are not available in Ohio even in cases of rape or incest. So sad, too bad.


You can always travel east to Pennsylvania. Abortion here is legal until 24 weeks of gestation. And, you can enjoy a mini-vacation, as you must spend 24 hours between your first doctor’s appointment and your abortion. Are you a minor? Bring mom or dad along, unless you can obtain a judicial bypass. The thought of involving the judiciary in my personal life is daunting for me, as an old, white, married, lady lawyer. But maybe post-millennials are bolder than my generation and this is a realistic option for Buckeye girls.


Michigan’s abortion laws are similar to Pennsylvania’s. In addition, there is state-directed “counseling” designed to discourage the patient from having an abortion. Medicaid patients will have to cover the entire cost of the procedure, unless they are rape or incest victims, or the pregnancy is life-endangering.


West Virginia would not be my first choice, as a mere .2% of American abortions occur in this state. But . . . mini-vacation! West Virginia has a 24-hour waiting period as well.

Kentucky’s public employees carry insurance policies which do not cover abortion. The waiting period is a mere 18 hours, but still requires you to be in Kentucky overnight. Also, you will need two medical doctors to determine that the abortion is “necessary.” Public hospitals may not perform an abortion unless the pregnancy endangers the mother’s life.


Angry yet? Good. Donate now to one of the local abortion funds listed here. It may take a few clicks, but you will help a woman in need.

All facts and statistics are from The Guttmacher Institute unless otherwise noted.

Rebecca Zipp is an unapologetic defender of reproductive justice and a Lawyers Club Director.

Tags:  LCB  My So-Called First-World Problems  reproductive justice 

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Stories to Solutions: “Why Jamie Quient’s Disclosure Was Important”

Posted By Hon. Cynthia Bashant, Tuesday, February 14, 2017

“Why Jamie Quient’s Disclosure Was Important”


For those of you who missed it—in February’s “LC News,” our President, Jamie Quient bravely disclosed an incident of sexual harassment that happened to her when she was a law student intern. Why is it important for people like this to speak out about past incidents of sexual harassment?

 

First, sexual harassment generally happens to young, naïve women, who are completely blindsided by the comments, and as a result, are ill-equipped to respond. Much like taking a self-defense class, during which an individual has the opportunity to think through how she or he might respond if attacked, disclosing these stories gives young women an opportunity to think through potential responses.


But it isn’t just about empowering young women. We know most of the men out there are good guys who are appalled by these incidents. They too are shocked when harassment occurs, largely because women don’t speak out and share their stories. It is important for men—particularly those who are older and in positions of equal power—to be prepared to step in and squelch a sexual harasser. As they say at the airport, “If you see something, say something!” These men need the opportunity to think through how they might respond to such a situation.


Finally and unfortunately, these incidents are all too common. Recently, I was in a group of women judges and prominent women lawyers. Someone asked who in the group had faced harassment of a sexual nature as a young lawyer. Almost everyone had. Hoping maybe things had improved since we had been young lawyers, I have been surveying law clerks and other young women I come in contact with. The stories have not changed. Sexual harassers may be in the minority, but they get around! And apparently they are empowering a whole new generation in their own image.


So speak out and speak up to empower others. 


This blog post was authored by Hon. Cynthia Bashant, is a United States district judge for the United States District Court, Southern District of California. She is also a past president of Lawyers Club.

Tags:  LCB  sexual harassment  stories to solutions 

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Stories to Solutions: "Stand Up, Speak Out, Take Action"

Posted By Jamie Quient, Monday, February 13, 2017
Stand Up, Speak Out, Take Action

“What’s your sexual fantasy?” 

Not exactly the question I expected to get from a partner at a law firm where I was interning in law school. But there I was, like I deer caught in headlights, expected to answer in front of a group of colleagues at a work-sponsored function. 

I was interning at a well-respected law firm. I was getting great experience, learning a lot and really enjoying the job. Towards the end of the summer, the law firm had its annual day at the Padres game. I couldn’t tell you who they played or what the final score was. But I sure remember what happened after the game. 

After the game was over, some people went home, but most of the firm’s attorneys and staff were still going strong. The remaining group migrated to the Tilted Kilt. If you haven’t been there, it’s basically an Irish-themed Hooters with scantily-clad waitresses in crop tops and mini-skirt kilts. 

Soon after we arrived, a partner ordered a round of tequila shots for everyone there. I politely handed my shot to someone else. Needless to say, the tequila shots took the group to another level. And that’s when it happened. The same partner that ordered the tequila shots asked me and the other two female interns – in front of the entire group – to share our sexual fantasy. I tried several times to change the subject and do whatever I could to avoid answering, but he wouldn’t let it go. I finally answered curtly and briefly and he let me off the hook. 

Mortified does not begin to describe how I felt at that moment. I had worked so hard to be there, getting good grades, getting onto Law Review and doing an assortment of extracurricular activities. At that moment, none of that mattered. I was nothing more than a sexual object there for the entertainment and pleasure of others. 

This is just one experience, among others, I have faced in my legal career where I was treated in a manner that would not have happened if I was a man. It’s not just individuals we work with – it’s everyone around us – opposing counsel, witnesses, and clients. 

When we face these encounters, most of the time we simply brush it off and keep it to ourselves. We don’t report it. We don’t tell anyone. We just suck it up and move on. There are many reasons women choose not to speak up. The biggest reason is fear of retaliation or wrongful termination. 

There’s also the fear that if you speak up, you will not be believed. Too often it takes several people to report misconduct by the same individual before the allegations are viewed as “legitimate.”  Worse yet, the individual reporting mistreatment can face further harm in the response which can amount to “victim-blaming” and “slut-shaming” – essentially pointing the finger at the victim saying that she somehow brought this upon herself. Sometimes, it’s easier to leave the job, should you have that luxury, than to speak up and risk not only that job, but your professional reputation and ability to attain future employment. 

In my case, I was just starting out my legal career and knew that if I said anything it could negatively impact my legal career. So rather than report the incident or confront my harasser, I kept it to myself. Even now, despite the fact that I do not work at this firm, I am still uncomfortable sharing it. 

These experiences have made me keenly aware that despite all of the gains women in the legal field and other professions, we are still far from equal. Women in the workplace still experience sexual harassment, sexism, bullying, and gender discrimination every day. Each of these gender issues involves a different form of behavior. The common link is that they are all a means through which women are treated less than equal from their male counterparts. 

Lawyers Club launched the #EnoughisEnough campaign in July 2016 to find solutions to these issues. While there is no silver bullet to ending the mistreatment of women in the workplace, what is clear is that as leaders in the feminist movement, we can be part of the solution if we speak up, speak out, and take action!

Stand Up
I decided to share my story because we have to. The more I have spoken up about these issues, the more apparent it is that many people simply do not realize how often these things happen. This is true among men and women alike, but more often it is those in positions of power that are the most surprised when they learn this is happening. They typically do not see it happen, and if no one speaks up, how could they know? 

We also need to speak up to protect those that follow us from the same mistreatment. As we have learned from the stories of career-sexual harassers in the media, if we leave without saying something, they will continue to harass others. I hope that sharing my story helps others have more courage than I had to speak up and call out the behavior. While hindsight is 20/20, in retrospect, I would have approached my harasser after the incident and told him that his question made me feel like a sexual object, not a lawyer. I would have said, “if you wouldn’t say or do something to a man, then please don’t say or do it to me. I want to be treated with the same dignity and respect as you treat my male counterparts.” Period.

Speak Out
We must also speak out when we see others face these issues. Looking back at my experience at the Tilted Kilt, I can’t help but wonder why no one else spoke up. I was a law clerk – I was not comfortable calling out this behavior – and not quick enough on my feet to think of a better response. Someone else in a position of power could have chimed in and found a tactful or funny way to deflect the question. I do not know if anyone said anything after the fact, but I highly doubt it. We all need to be there to stand up for our colleagues and speak truth to power. We also have a legal duty to report sexual harassment when we observe it or learn of it.

Take Action
The only way we will be able to create an environment where those who experience sexual harassment or other unequal treatment to speak up or get others to speak out on their behalf is if those in a position of power take action when these issues arise. Employers must ensure their employees feel safe to come forward without fear of retaliation and that their report will be taken seriously. If an employee has the courage to report an incident and the employer fails to take adequate measures to address this issue, it is worse than if they had never reported it.

As we move forward with the #EnoughisEnough campaign, we will continue to speak up, speak out, and take action. This campaign will continue with our Stories to Solutions Blog Series, “Solutions Summit” in the spring and will culminate at the Lawyers Club Annual Dinner on June 1, 2017 themed “Speak Up, Speak Out, Take Action.” 


This blog is authored by Jamie Quient, President of Lawyers Club of San Diego, and was originally published as the President's Message in the February 2017 Newsletter.

Tags:  enough is enough  LCB  sexual harassment  stories to solutions 

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Guest Blog: "The Passing of Judge Vaino Hassan Spencer; a Trailblazer for African American Women in the Judiciary"

Posted By Shanly Hopkins, Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Passing of Judge Vaino Hassan Spencer; a Trailblazer for African American Women in the Judiciary

 

Today, we remember the legacy of Judge Vaino Hassan Spencer who has passed away on October 25, 2016 at the age of 96, and recognize her as an individual who broke barriers in the legal field. Judge Spencer was the first African-American woman appointed to a judgeship in California and co-founded the Black Women Lawyers Association and the National Association of Women Judges. Her passing reminds us to recognize, honor, and thank, not only Judge Spencer, but also all African-American and minority women for their contributions to the legal community.

 

Judge Vaino Hassan Spencer has been a trailblazer since the beginning of her career. At the age of 32 she became the third African American woman to be admitted to the California State Bar.  She worked as a general practice attorney and served on various appointive boards and commissions. On her journey to make a difference in the legal profession, Judge Spencer became involved in state politics.  She was a member of the California Democratic Central Committee from 1958 to 1960. 

 

In 1961, Governor Pat Brown appointed her Municipal Court judge for the Los Angeles Judicial District. This made Judge Spencer the first African American woman to serve on the bench in California, and the third black female judge in the history of the United States.

 

Judge Spencer had a passion for legal and civil rights and devoted much of her time to endeavors supporting those rights in the 1960s. Some of her endeavors included serving on the California Attorney General’s Committee on Constitutional Rights, serving on the board of directors of the National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing, and becoming a member of the life membership committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in order to help advance their mission.

 

In 1976, Governor Jerry Brown appointed Judge Spencer to the Los Angeles County Superior Court. At the time Judge Spencer became a Superior Court Judge, 15 states did not have a single woman judge. Furthermore, there were only 28 female judges in the federal court system. Seeing the lack of female representation in the judiciary, Judge Spencer helped established the National Association of Women Judges in 1979.  The mission of the National Association of Women Judges was to increase the number of women in state and federal judiciaries. This organization catapulted Judge Spencer into becoming a pioneer for women on the bench, and people of color on the bench.

 

Judge Spencer ended her career by serving as Presiding Judge of the Division One California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, which she began in 1980. After holding this position for over 20 years, she retired in September of 2007. Judge Spencer served the judiciary in California for a total of 46 years.

 

Judge Spencer won many honors for her work, a few of which are: the Trailblazer Award from the National Association of Business and Professional Women, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Bar Association in 1991, and a honorary Doctor of Law degree from Southwestern Law School.

 

Everything that Judge Spencer has accomplished highlights the importance of challenging ingrained stereotypes and providing support to other women. Despite dealing with the daily stresses of working in the legal field and supporting families, minority women have to also overcome many more obstacles and stereotypes than the ordinary attorney or judge. In addition to these obstacles, self-imposed barriers are often presented for women who are trying to advance their careers, which is why supporting other minority women is so essential to the individual success of our group as a whole.

 

In this time of unrest, Judge Vaino Hassan Spencer’s passion of promoting gender and racial equality should inspire us to continue down her path to better our future and the future of our children. 

 

Shanly Hopkins is a business and real estate attorney at Aguirre Allen Law, and wrote this on behalf of Lawyers Club’s Diverse Women’s Committee.

Tags:  Black Women Lawyers Association  guest blogger  Judge Spencer  LCB  National Association of Women Judges  Shanly Hopkins  Superior Court  the color of justice  Trailblazer Award 

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Chasing the Last Wave: "Now More Than Ever"

Posted By Molly T. Tami , Monday, January 30, 2017

Now More Than Ever

 

Shortly after last year’s presidential election, The American Lawyer featured an article in which well-known lawyer David Boies reflected on the election results. He offered many interesting observations, but one stood out for me and continues to give me pause. As “bad news,” he noted the fact that women are not as invested in their own progress as other groups that have suffered discrimination. Because women are in the majority, he thinks they may have a sense of complacency and remain subject to environmental influences like tradition, marriage, and the views of their husbands. I don’t find his complacency observation accurate with respect to women lawyers I know, particularly those in Lawyers Club! But, does his observation ring true for women as a whole in this country? I’m not sure.

 

What I am sure about, is that environmental influences, social norms, and structural barriers prevent women, (lawyers and others), from achieving gender equality in our society. This notion was underscored at the recent Lawyers Club luncheon where the results of the Annual Equality Survey were released and discussed. While there was some good news in the survey, the data confirmed the bad news we already knew: women are not being treated equally in the legal community. The panel discussion at the luncheon addressed a number of strategies and solutions devised by law firms and public sector agencies to address gender inequality in San Diego’s legal community.

 

The strategy that got the biggest applause was an employer-paid nanny for two women associates at a small law firm. While I also applaud this employer’s effort, it reminded me that childcare policies in this country, (or the lack thereof), create a huge structural barrier that exacerbates gender discrimination in the workplace. Unlike in many western-European countries, childcare in the U.S. is a purely private concern to be addressed by parents, and most often by mothers. Making childcare a collective responsibility should be a crucial initiative in the quest for gender equality.  Ensuring that day care is available to families (of all incomes) will ensure that women can equally participate in the workplace and advance to their full potential. Asking women to compensate for the biases of tradition or social norms should no longer be acceptable.  

 

Although the current political winds may not be with us on these issues, we must nevertheless commit ourselves to increasing awareness of these barriers and continuing the dialogue for eventual solutions. Now, more than ever, we need to chase the last wave of feminism.         

    

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:  Chasing the Last Wave  childcare  discrimination  equality  feminism  feminist  gender  LCB  legal profession  now more than ever  structural barriers  women 

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