Print Page   |   Sign In   |   Register
Lawyers Club Blog
Blog Home All Blogs
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.

 

Search all posts for:   

 

Top tags: LCB  legal profession  equality  feminist  feminism  guest blogger  gender  reproductive justice  women  Chasing the Last Wave  stories to solutions  discrimination  LGBTQ  sexual harassment  career  Off the Beaten Partner Track  Balance  diversity  MeToo  My So-Called First-World Problems  reproductive justice committee  reproductive rights  working mom  networking  perfection in the imperfection  Supreme Court  activism  advocacy  Art  awareness 

Guest Blog: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Posted By Sandra Morris, Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Guest Blog: The more things change, the more they stay the same. 

 

I belong to a family law listserv that includes others besides members of the family law legal community. The other day, a professional preparing a vocational evaluation inquired as to whether any of the attorneys on the listserv would hire as a paralegal a woman who had a 30 year-old paralegal certificate and had not worked as a paralegal since 4 months after receiving it. This resulting question and answer brought me up short:

 

A male attorney answered, “If she’s Scarlett Johannsen [sic], yes. Or Jennifer Lawrence.”

 

A female attorney responded, “So . . . if she was good looking eye candy, her actual skills wouldn’t matter? What is this, 1950?”

 

1950 indeed. Insuring we were not in a time warp, the female responding attorney was told that the male attorney was just joking.

 

I privately thanked the woman for speaking out, but as I thought about this exchange, it seemed to me that we were in a teachable moment. We used to call it consciousness raising. I thought about black face make-up. I thought about Polish jokes. I thought about “there was a car crash with a Rabbi, a Priest, and a Minister…” I thought about blonde jokes. I thought about how many times the subject of the joke was told to suck it up, laugh it off, or be considered humorless by the joke teller and audience. I thought about all the times an audience sucked it up and laughed it off, even when they didn’t like it, rather than appear humorless or non-collegial. And so, I wrote:

 

“I have read the emails with some interest. It is easiest to say nothing, but I believe that it is more important to speak up regarding the issue that has been created, than to remain silent and lose the opportunity for some consciousness raising. 

 

Persons who are not white, male or protestant, or heterosexual, have long been subjected to jokes that are painful to them, but as to which they are told they should pass if off, have some humor, or not make a big deal of it. Not speaking out to say that the comment or joke was hurtful, creates the impression that there was nothing offensive in the remarks, or that whoever did speak out was overly sensitive. Silence is the price paid to not be subjected to further repercussions. 

 

Women have fought really hard to have a seat at the table as equals with men; to have pay as equals for the same work; to progress up the corporate or law firm ladders equally with men. They are not there yet. They need jobs just as much as men. Sometimes, given the number of households headed by a single woman, they need them more than men. When employed, they are often subjected to inappropriate comments and behavior, and risk losing their advancement or even their jobs by reporting it. It is not funny to suggest that all they need to be hired is a pretty face or body.

 

To quote the Supreme Court of Minnesota, which in 1984 quoted Plutarch in censuring a judge in Minnesota for comments made towards a woman prosecutor that were claimed by the judge to be made in good humor, “‘Tho’ boys thro’ stones at frogs in sport, the frogs do not die in sport, but in earnest.’”

 

I received thanks from a number of people, and a couple of angry responses from male attorneys. One disputed there was a glass ceiling and accused me of grinding men under my feet based on a false narrative.  

 

The more things change . . .

 

Sandra, a "Founding Mother" of Lawyers Club, has been in practice since 1970, is a past president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, and is of counsel at Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek.

Tags:  founding mother  guest blogger  jokes  joking  listserv  Minnesota  Plutarch  sexism  vocational evaluation 

Share |
PermalinkComments (1)
 

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 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

My So-Called First-World Problems: "WASH YOUR VAGINA"

Posted By Rebecca Zipp, Tuesday, November 29, 2016

WASH YOUR VAGINA!

            I know. It’s so … crass.

 
Well, here’s the story. I was in court for a sentencing calendar. The same white male heterosexual defense attorney who had once suggested I stand on my head (I was wearing a skirt suit that day, ha-ha) was limping due to an injury. I held the door for him and his white male legal intern on my way out.

           
“Thanks,” he said. “It’s been difficult getting around.” I made some sort of sympathetic sound. I probably nodded and inquired about his injury. 

           
He explained how he’d been injured and how long recovery was expected to take. “But you know,” he told me, “I’ve been limping around the office, and a colleague finally told me to stop feeling sorry for myself, wash my vagina, and get back to court!”

           
This particular man self-identifies as a progressive, a committed civil libertarian, and as someone who works tirelessly on behalf of his clients—who are, almost without exception poor, and, often as not, people of color. He truly cares about his clients, about due process and equal protection. But I guess he didn’t realize his comment, in addition to its sheer vulgarity, belied some of his closely held beliefs about half of all people: the ones with the vaginas.


It would have been easy to march back to my office and fume in silence. Instead, I spit out, “When you say things like that, you demean women. You make us out to be less than men.”


Stammering, he apologized. He did look contrite. “Don’t say it again,” I cautioned him. As I walked down the long hallway of the Superior Court, I wondered, Why d
oes he equate female genitalia with weakness? Why does he equate women with weakness?  Why did he feel comfortable making that comment to me? In front of his intern? 

 

I didn’t seek out this opportunity to educate a colleague on his unconscious bias. But the occasion presented itself, and despite the obvious discomfort, I am pleased that I spoke, and that he seemingly listened. Maybe he kept on saying things like that; maybe he kept on believing that women are subordinate to men. Dirtier than men. Weaker and more cowardly than men. But perhaps he left court that day a little bit enlightened, and I hope he stops and thinks before using crass, gender-specific and demeaning phrases, particularly in a professional setting.

 

This blog post was authored by Rebecca Zipp who is a deputy district attorney in San Diego.

Tags:  gender  lawyers  LCB  male privilege  men  my so-called first world problems  sexism  stories to solutions  women 

Share |
PermalinkComments (1)
 
more Calendar

12/11/2019
Fund For Justice Luncheon

3/5/2020
2020 Red, White & Brew

Lawyers Club of San Diego

402 West Broadway, Suite 1260
San Diego CA 92101
619-595-0650

Association Management Software Powered by YourMembership  ::  Legal