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BigLaw lawyer's public-speaking tips for women (lose the quirky mannerisms, don't giggle) cause stir

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A memo filled with public-speaking tips for women was recently distributed to female associates at the U.S. offices of Clifford Chance, but some of the outraged recipients have given the advice more widespread distribution.

Above the Law got a copy of the tips, which the blog dubs possibly “one of the most sexist BigLaw memos we’ve ever seen.” The tips, distributed by a member of the Women’s Committee, included advice ranging from proper sartorial choices to the need to avoid Valley Girl speak.

An associate told Above the Law that female associates are upset about the rudimentary nature of the advice, as well as the suggestion that the tips should apply only to women.

The advice includes:

Lose the quirky mannerisms that are so charming to those who do know you.

“Like” you’ve got to lose “um” and “uh,” “you know,” “OK,” and “like.” Pretend you’re in moot court, not the high school cafeteria.

Lose the extra waffle words.

Practice hard words. Where you falter; alter.

Don’t hedge …, don’t giggle, don’t squirm, don’t tilt your head, don’t wave your arms.

Don’t take your purse up to the podium.

Your voice is higher than you hear. … Think Lauren Bacall, not Marilyn Monroe.

Business casual is not casual. Wear a jacket, not a sweater. Wear a suit, not your party outfit. … No one heard Hillary the day she showed cleavage. Don’t dress like a mortician; if wearing a black suit, wear something bright. Make sure you can stand in your heels, not trip, don’t rock back on them. … If wearing a skirt, make sure audience can’t see up it while sitting on the dais.”

Above the Law has the entire memo here.

Clifford Chance issued this statement to the ABA Journal: “The original presentation and associated tips represented a personal perspective, shared with a group of colleagues, some just starting out in their careers. The more than 150 points are based on what this individual has found helpful as a public speaker in a broad range of business environments. While much of what is covered is common sense, we believe that it is important that women as well as men are given access to a range of different viewpoints and approaches; there is no Clifford Chance template on how people should present. The offense caused by a small percentage of the suggestions in the tip sheet was entirely unintentional.”

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