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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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Trial by Fire: "What's the issue, hun?"

Posted By Mallory Holt, Monday, July 18, 2016
Updated: Monday, July 18, 2016

 

"What's the issue, hun?"

It goes without saying that first year associates often find themselves in situations they are unsure how to handle. Some are expected, like the hesitation that comes with meeting and conferring at your first deposition. Others are not, such as finding yourself off balance because you lack the proper response—or any response at all—to an older (and presumably wiser) attorney’s disrespectful commentary. When I have encountered these scenarios, the disparity in years of practice between us complicates the situation and my ability to address the conduct.

 

During a recent phone call to opposing counsel I was repeatedly and exclusively addressed as “hun.” Having never been an “I am woman, hear me roar” type of gal, I was taken aback both by the fact that someone was addressing me in such a disrespectful manner and that it offended me as much as it did. Needless to say, I could not think of the appropriate response during that phone call.

 

To help develop an approach for addressing similar situations in the future, I reached out to strong female attorneys who have mentored me in the past. I sought their advice on whether these issues are worth addressing and, if so, how to go about it. Their guidance yielded the following considerations:

 

  • These scenarios should be addressed professionally, remembering that our legal community is very small. Do not make a scene, reprimand them in public, or become overly confrontational. Politely tell them they can address you by your last name, and similarly, never address opposing counsel by their first name unless invited to do so.
  • Keep your client’s best interest in mind at all times. Will correcting the situation put you at ease so that you can more effectively represent your client? Or, will confronting the issue distract you from the task at hand? Choose the course of conduct that will serve to advance your efforts in the case.
  • Recognize that the comment may be an attempt to bully, rather than a truly sexist remark. In an effort to assert dominance or to control a situation, disrespectful remarks may be made based on sex, age, experience, or appearance. If opposing counsel is trying to get under your skin and throw you off your game, confronting the issue may validate their efforts and encourage continued remarks.
  • There is no categorical “strong” response. Commitment to effective representation is the “strong” response. This may come in the form of addressing the remark or allowing it to roll off your back, unacknowledged. 

 

While the “appropriate” response will be a personal, case-by-case determination, I feel prepared to more confidently confront these circumstances with these tips to guide my way.


This blog post was authored by Mallory Holt

Tags:  associate  disrespect  feminism  feminist  lawyer  LCB  professionalism  trial by fire  young attorney 

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My So-Called First-World Problems: "Trials"

Posted By Rebecca Zipp, Monday, June 27, 2016
Updated: Monday, June 27, 2016

Trials


When I told my then-boss I was pregnant with my second child, he had one question for me. “How are you going to do trials with two kids?” The audacity of the question struck a nerve; I was certain that none of my male colleagues had ever been asked the same question. 

 Four years later, here’s a retrospective on how to do trials (or any other challenging professional thing) because -*gasp*- it is possible.

1. A supportive husband. Yeah, well, it’s a cliché because it is true.

I left the meeting with my boss knowing I had something to prove. So, in my first full calendar year back at work, I tried a dozen cases. My husband picked up the slack. And picked up the children. And dropped off the children. Because I was always in trial. Once, after sending a jury out to deliberate, I left the courtroom and discovered a message from daycare on my voicemail. It was the standard “sick baby, come get him” message. I was relieved my case had concluded so that I could pick up the baby for once. Thankfully, before court recessed, we had agreed to address any jury questions via conference calls. I retrieved the baby from daycare and we sat in my office and I answered jury questions over the phone. The court reporter loved the baby’s interjections!

2. Understood my own limitations. I didn’t reenter the trial world until Baby Zipp the Second was ten months old. By then, he was regularly emptying the dishwasher, in charge of cleaning the bathrooms, and generally contributing to the smooth operation of the household. His older brother was three, able to pour himself a bowl of cereal in the morning, and fold his own laundry. So life had become, in a word, seamless.

3. Gave in. I am a whole person, not a trial robot.  Once, after winning a case, I picked up my child from day care, looked at him and realized he could care less. He did not care that I won. He would not care if I lost. It’s nice to have somebody in your life who does not give a fig about your professional successes or failures. My somebodies are my kids, and I can only compartmentalize them so much. Look, you can skip the Tuesday bath, and maybe the Wednesday bath, but by Thursday, you gotta do the bath. Having to attend to the minutiae of non-work areas of our lives can help in terms of gaining a little perspective, as well as a reprieve. 


4. 
Worked sick. Generally speaking, working sick is more practical than trying to work when the child is sick. When the child is sick, someone has to stay at home.  When mom is sick, mom can power through. (Except once I had pneumonia and couldn’t work. So I didn’t – see Item 2.)

*

My boss’ question was ridiculous. If only I had had the presence of mind of former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder (D-CO), I would have told him, “I have a brain and I have a uterus and fortunately, they both work.”

This blog post was authored by Rebecca Zipp

 

Tags:  balance  blog  kids  lawyer  LCB  My So-Called First-World Problems  working mom 

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