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President's Message - May 2017
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“Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Bullying through Storytelling"
Jamie Quient, Lawyers Club President 2016-2017
At last year’s annual dinner, I vowed to confront sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace head on. Based on my own personal experience and after learning that so many women in our legal community face similar obstacles, I felt it was important to prioritize this issue. During the year we themed ideas into action, I endeavored to identify concrete solutions to eliminate sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace.
It turned out to be quite prescient – as this issue has been at the heart of a national conversation this past year thanks to numerous high-profile sexual harassment cases – Roger Ailes, Bill O’ Reilly, Uber, Tesla, and the former Dean of Berkeley Law School, Sujit Choudhry to name just a few. The media attention paid to sexual harassment over the past year also covered the persistent sexual harassment in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (“STEM”) fields, the military, and the legal profession. The publicity surrounding allegations of sexual harassment against former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly spurred droves of women to share their own experiences with workplace sexual harassment on social media using the hashtag #droporeilly.
Here in San Diego, we did our part to add to this conversation. We initiated the dialogue at our July 2016 luncheon entitled “Stories to Solutions: A Candid Conversation about Sexual Harassment and Bullying in the Workplace.” The vision behind this program was that, in order to address the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace, we must first understand the extent to which it exists. One of the most telling moments of the luncheon was when one of the panelists commented that she was not aware that these issues were still so pervasive until she spoke with a number of younger attorneys who shared their own stories of harassment and bullying.
We continued that conversation through our “Stories to Solutions” blog series where we gave our members a space to share their stories of sexual harassment and bullying. In the months that followed, many of our members bravely came forward to share their experiences. One member shared the story of inappropriate comments made to her by her male boss when she was working for a solo practitioner during law school. Another member shared the story of a partner who took her out to a lunch that seemed more like a first date. And yet another member shared the story of a male boss who bullied her for four years with no action taken by her firm despite her repeated complaints. I also shared my own story about a wildly inappropriate question I was asked by a partner at a firm where I clerked in law school. 
The purpose of sharing our stories was to use them as a catalyst to identify solutions. It has become clear that these stories themselves are a critical component of the solution. Sharing our stories sheds a light on an issue that we rarely speak about publicly. It garnered support from others with shared experiences. It also personalized this issue by giving an identity and a voice to those who have faced this in their own lives.
The stories shared by our members, however, do not reveal the full extent of the issue of sexual harassment and bullying in the legal community. For every story, there are far more that remain untold. I spoke with a number of women who confided in me that, while they too have stories, they are not comfortable sharing them publicly, even anonymously. One woman I spoke with left her job several years ago after being bullied by her boss. Even though she no longer works there, she still fears her ex-boss will retaliate against her if she shares her story. This is understandable given that retaliation can take many forms – harassers often try to protect their own reputation by attempting to discredit those who report them. Until we live in a society where we refuse to tolerate this form of retaliation – victim blaming – many of those who experience sexual harassment or bullying will not feel safe to come forward.
There were also a number of public attorneys who did not feel comfortable coming forward. As I learned, it is particularly challenging to report sexual harassment within government agencies. If you report it and nothing happens, there is little you can do. If you keep pushing, you risk negatively impacting your advancement within your agency. Many public attorneys will spend their entire career at a particular agency, and if they want to keep their jobs and advance, they are left with little choice but to endure the harassment or bullying.
Lawyers Club has been working on eliminating sexual harassment for decades. We have seen progress over the years, but change has been painfully slow. We will continue to drive this conversation and work toward finding solutions. While it won’t be easy, we learned this year that each of us has the power to stand up, speak out, and take action – and in doing so, we all can be a critical part of the solution.
Jamie Quient, President of Lawyers Club practices insurance coverage and intellectual property litigation at Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP.
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The Ask Workshop: 3 Secrets to Asking for More (and Getting It)

LC Golf Lessons

2018 Annual Dinner

General Counsel Luncheon

26th Annual Golf Tournament

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