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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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I Am Not Your "Sweetheart"

Posted By Whitney Hodges, Wednesday, October 18, 2017

I Am Not Your “Sweetheart”

 

Sometimes sexist behavior that occurs in the courtroom is as slight as a male counterpart refusing to look at a female attorney when she speaks, or as overt as a male judge or lawyer calling a female colleague “honey,” “sweetheart,” or “dear.” I distinctly remember the day the latter happened to me while arguing a motion. Prior to appearing before the judge, opposing counsel asked me if I was my partner’s secretary. I brushed that off as an intimidation tactic, but was absolutely gob smacked when the same counsel called me “sweetheart” in open court. I expectantly looked at the judge, thinking he would, in some way, reprimand opposing counsel. To my dismay, the judge just rolled his eyes and proceeded with the matter as if nothing had happened.  

 

The consequences for attorneys who undertake this despicable behavior have changed, thanks to recent revisions to the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct (ABA Model Rules) which have been adopted by over a dozen states. These changes make sexist comments and behaviors professional misconduct. Specifically, in 2016, the ABA approved revisions to Model Rule 8.4 providing that a lawyer may not engage in conduct that the lawyer knows, or ought to know, amounts to harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or socioeconomic status.

 

Linda Bray Chanow, Executive Director for the Center for Women in Law at the University of Texas, and driving force behind the revision, noted that while the entrance rate for women in law has increased over the years, there “continues to be widespread disrespect and harassment for women lawyers.” Susan B. Goldberg, director for Gender and Sexuality at Columbia Law School, noted that such disrespect and harassment can hurt a lawyers’ case. “When a lawyer is addressed in a fashion in open court – these kinds of remarks can affect the way a jury or others in the courtroom perceive the lawyer,” Goldberg said.

 

In response to ABA Model Rule 8.4, the State Bar of California’s Second Commission for the Revision of the Rules of Professional Conduct has proposed to add Rule 8.4.1 to California’s Rules, based upon existing Rule 2-400. Proposed Rule 8.4.1 expands Rule 2-400’s focus on discrimination in the context of employment and representation decisions to encompass harassment and discrimination against any person in the course of a representation. Proposed Rule 8.4.1 also recognizes a much wider range of “protected characteristics” than are recognized by Rule 2-400.

 

Unfortunately, California’s proposed Rule 8.4.1 has not received a resounding endorsement from the State Bar’s Board of Trustees. Board member Sean M. SeLegue expressed concern about, “. . . resource-allocation and institutional competence issues as well as a concern that enactment of the rule would create disappointment and disillusionment with complainants when the State Bar decides it is not the appropriate forum for a particular complaint of discrimination.”

 

The fate of proposed Rule 8.4.1 is now in the hands of the California Supreme Court. Until a decision is made, a female litigator’s primary recourse against inappropriate and sexist behavior in the courtroom may only be a terse, “I am not your sweetheart.”

 

 

Whitney Hodges wrote this for the Lawyers Club Bench Bar Committee, and works as a senior associate in the Land Use and Environmental group based in the San Diego office of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter and Hampton LLP.

Tags:  ABA Model Rules  California Rules of Professional Conduct  gender discrimination  LCB  Rule 2-400  sweetheart 

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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"

Posted By Jamie Quient, Monday, October 24, 2016

 

“Stories to Solutions”

 

Lawyers Club’s Enough is Enough campaign continues with launch of “Stories to Solutions” blog series – a safe space to share your stories and work towards solutions.


     
In response to the sexual assault and harassment allegations that emerged in the Presidential election, First Lady Michelle Obama declared “enough is enough.” Mrs. Obama’s speech struck a chord with me (along with millions of others) as she took on the issue that so many women and men face in their personal and professional lives. This discussion goes far beyond partisan politics - it strikes at the heart who we are as a country.

 

     Since its founding in 1972, Lawyers Club has led the community in the fight against sexual harassment. Forty-four years later, we are still fighting this pervasive problem through our “Enough is Enough” campaign to end sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace.

 

     We kicked off the campaign last July with a sold-out luncheon on “Stories to Solutions: A Candid Conversation About Sexual Harassment and Bullying in the Workplace.” The next step in this campaign is to give our members a safe space to tell their own stories and identify solutions through anonymous blog posts in a special blog series called “Stories to Solutions.” These blog posts can be on topics such as sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, rape culture, street harassment, bullying and/or any type of gender-based harassment or aggression.

 

     The purpose of this initiative is to empower women to speak up and to highlight the prominence of these issues in the workplace and in society. We need to remove the stigma associated with those that report these incidents and eliminate shame and self-blame that victims of harassment often feel. We can also help ensure victims are believed when they report these incidents by raising awareness of the prevalence in our community.

 

     These blog posts will also inform our efforts to develop solutions to these issues and address the larger systemic problems that continue to disrupt women’s safety and overall advancement. To that end, bloggers are encouraged to share not just their experiences, but what they learn from them, what they would do if this happened again, advice for others in similar situations, what Lawyers Club can do to address this issue and/or any other take-away you want to share.

 

     All Lawyers Club members are invited to share their personal stories anonymously (or not) by emailing them to Rhianna at Rhianna@lawyersclubsandiego.com. Rhianna will remove all names and identifying information upon receipt and then post the stories to our “Stories to Solutions” blog series. Blog posts can also be submitted by anonymously mail by sending them to Lawyers Club of San Diego, 402 West Broadway, Suite 1260, San Diego, CA 92101 Attn: Stories to Solutions.

 

It is time we all stand up and say “Enough is Enough.” So join us – share your story and be part of the solution!

 

Jamie Quient is a civil litigation attorney at Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP and President of Lawyers Club of San Diego.

Tags:  bullying  enough is enough  gender discrimination  LCB  sexual assault  sexual harassment  stories to solutions  street harassment  StS 

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