Question of the Week

Have you experienced or seen gender-based harassment from judges or opposing counsel?

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What does it take to be a trial lawyer if you're not a man? Lara Bazelon, a clinical professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law, raises the question in a recent article for the Atlantic, describing how she's felt the need to calibrate her appearance and approach at trial in a way that her male colleagues did not. Female litigators shared their stories of courtroom humiliations—one said opposing counsel filed a motion that she “preclude emotional displays” during trial, and another said a judge once slapped her on the back of her hand after she had earlier asked for a delay in proceedings.

Other lawyers have taken note of the article and shared their stories. “Once I had a judge in an outlying county humiliate me in front of other attorneys during a pretrial conference in his chambers by questioning me about my obviously pregnant state, asking me how long of maternity leave I’d be taking, and then commenting how inconvenient that would be for my firm,” Nicole Black—now a legal technology specialist at MyCase—wrote in a Facebook post referencing the article.

Washington, D.C., lawyer and blogger Carolyn Elefant responded in a comment to Black’s post that she hasn’t been harassed by judges or opposing counsel. “I’m curious to hear from practitioners in NYC or D.C. as to whether this is common or if I’ve just been very lucky,” Elefant wrote.

So this week, we’d like to ask you: Have you experienced or seen gender-based harassment from judges or opposing counsel? Were your experiences different in different jurisdictions?

Answer in the comments.

Read the answers to last week’s question: Do you have self-care routines?

Featured answer:

Posted by LegalDept: “I’m a corporate in-house attorney and mother of two small girls. When my schedule allows it, I go home at lunch and have a meal with them. Reconnecting with my kiddos in the middle of the day helps me drown out the noise from the daily ‘need this yesterday’ demands and re-energizes me to tackle the remaining items on the ever expanding to-do list. The opportunity to turn off my lawyer brain and focus 100 percent on my kids during that time really reduces my stress and helps my focus when I return to work. I’ve noticed a clear difference in my work product on days that I was able to escape the office for lunch versus days I needed to work through or attend the dreaded lunch and learn.”

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