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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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Breaking Bread with Judge Vallera Johnson

Posted By Valerie Garcia Hong for Lawyers Club's Diverse Women's Committee, Tuesday, February 4, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, February 4, 2020

 

It was a crisp Sunday afternoon in Coronado. Everyone was dressed in their “Sunday best” like we’d just sang “Hallelujah” hours earlier. Only, it wasn’t church. It was one of the first Women of Color in Law lunches.

As a new lawyer who had recently moved from Chicago to San Diego, I did not have a community of colleagues, friends, or mentors early on in my career. I was “winging it.” I attended one of these lunches hoping to meet someone who could guide me. That afternoon, I sat down next to a woman with a warm smile and contagious energy. Over bread (because all good discussions start with bread), I later learned that the woman seated next to me was Judge Vallera Johnson, one of the founders of Women of Color in Law. Judge Johnson, along with Judge Lillian Lim, began to organize informal lunches where law students and lawyers could get together to share their stories navigating a legal career in San Diego.

Five years after that Sunday afternoon, Judge Johnson invited me to join the Board of Directors for Women of Color in Law. I was a mother of two young girls under the age of 4 and a young partner at a law firm balancing business development and lawyering. Judge Johnson asked me to join a panel with Judge Tamila Ipema, Stacie East, Sabina Clorfeine, and Katy Goshtasbi to talk about Sheryl Sandburg’s book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. I told Judge Johnson that I could barely manage a shower that morning and did not know if I was the right person to talk about “leaning in.” Judge Johnson told me that this was exactly why I was the right person to join the panel. Reflecting on her own life as a working mother, Judge Johnson gave me the permission (or authority that I assume only a judge can offer) to pause, tap out, and lean in when I was ready. This is the kind of experience and reflection that I value in my friendship and mentorship with Judge Johnson.

It is no surprise that the Lawyers Club of San Diego’s Diverse Women Committee will be honoring Judge Johnson with a reception on February 13, 2020register here. Judge Johnson has been an Administrative Law Judge with the State of California’s Office for Administrative Hearings since 1990. She’s been recognized for her commitment to diversity from several organizations including the California Lawyers Association and Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association. Throughout her career, Judge Johnson has been instrumental in diversifying the bench and developing a pipeline of qualified candidates.

Women of Color in Law has been “breaking bread” in larger luncheons and smaller intimate meetups with law students and lawyers for over a decade. California Judicial Appointments Secretary, Justice Martin J. Jenkins, will discuss the process of judicial appointments with Governor Newsom at Women of Color in Law’s “Find Your Seat on the Bench” lunch on February 16, 2020register here.

Valerie Garcia Hong is the Founder of Garcia Hong Law, is always willing to break bread and share stories, and wrote this for Lawyers Club of San Diego’s Diverse Women’s Committee.

 

 

 

 

Tags:  advancement  attrition  bias  diverse  diversity  Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association  Governor Newsom  implicit bias  inclusion  judicial appointment  lean in  Martin J. Jenkins  mentors  mentorship  minority  retention  Sheryl Sandberg  Women of Color in Law 

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Off the Beaten Partner Track: "Sit at the Table"

Posted By Jillian Fairchild, Monday, August 15, 2016
Sit at the Table

One of the things that Sheryl Sandberg encourages women to do in her book Lean In is to “sit at the table.” She tells a story about high-ranking women that visited the Facebook offices with an international diplomat. The women had just as much right to engage in the discussion as the men, but they continued to sit off to the side even after Ms. Sandberg offered them a seat at the table. She argues that it is important for women to literally and figuratively sit at the table. 

 

Ms. Sandberg notes that part of the reason that women fail to engage and “sit at the table” is a lack of confidence. Compared to men, women generally underestimate their abilities, predict they will do worse on tests and do not consider themselves as ready for promotions. Several studies show that when men are successful, they attribute this success to their ability and intelligence. When women are successful, they attribute it to luck, someone else’s help, or hard work. Generally, men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. 

 

Confidence can affect promotions and can even be more important than competence in some situations. When asked about this, senior partners at law firms recognize this confidence gap is a problem. Some female associates are extraordinarily competent as attorneys, but do not speak up at client meetings. For this reason, partners have identified this as a reason they are not confident the female associate can handle the client’s account. This confidence gap is hurting women’s ability to get promotions at law firms.

 

This is something that I have struggled with in my practice as well. I have a memory of a client meeting where I sat off to the side with the paralegals and not at the table with the partner. Needless to say, I did not actively participate in that meeting. Should the partner have introduced me to the client as the associate on the file and encouraged me to sit next to him? Yes. But I should have also had enough confidence in my abilities and intelligence to engage in the meeting and sit at the table. Moreover, if I had the courage to sit the table, then the partner would have been more likely to introduce me.

 

During the past couple of years I have found the confidence to speak up. I try to make sure that I contribute verbally to all meetings. I do this not only to share my ideas, which is important. I also try to voice my opinions in order to appear confident in my abilities.

 

Have any of you had experiences where you did not participate at meetings for lack of confidence? Have you found ways to overcome this confidence gap? I would love to hear from you regarding your success stories for overcoming fear of contributing at meetings.

This blog was authored by Jillian Fairchild


Tags:  Confidence Gap  off the beaten partner track  Sheryl Sandberg  Sit at the Table 

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more Calendar

2/20/2020
Bench Bar Luncheon-- SOLD OUT--call for waitlist options

2/28/2020
COC's Spring Read-In

3/5/2020
2020 Red, White & Brew

3/13/2020
International Women's Day Luncheon

3/19/2020
GOOD Guys MCLE and Networking Happy Hour

5/14/2020
Save the Date! Lawyers Club Annual Dinner: Tickets go on sale 2/20/2020!

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