I like to think that I am a modern career woman and that I am not hampered by the “good ol’ boys club” — or that I can roll with them, at a minimum. In my office bubble, just working at my desk, I do not feel that I am treated differently. But when I read “What It Takes to Be a Trial Lawyer If You’re Not a Man” in The Atlantic, I realized that I do experience all of the issues facing female litigators. The article pointed out so many things that I do, know and notice about being a female commercial litigator that I just have accepted as part of my career.
Before every trial, for example, I spend so much time thinking, researching and buying the right clothes for court and making sure I look the part. I must be in a dark dress suit and in heels or wedges. I will only wear flats to and from the courthouse. I will, in the most conservative courts, wear tights or the ever-hated pantyhose. In the summer, I am a rebel and go without. I know I am pushing it, but I refuse to be that uncomfortable when millions of dollars are on the table and I need to be on my “A” game. Oddly, to me, that philosophy only applies to hosiery. (Still, I have gotten much better at shopping for items that fit the bill but are still somewhat comfortable.)
If I don’t do my wardrobe prep? I know there will be comments. Wear the wrong shoes? You’re not put together. Don’t blow out your hair? You’re disheveled. Forget to wear makeup? You look old and tired. The point is, female litigators must appear totally put together at all times. You can cry on the inside but don’t you dare show emotion on the outside.
During trial, as the author aptly stated, the female litigator has to balance a fine line between polite, emotionless and a zealous advocate. Be too aggressive and you’re a pit bill; be too nice and you’re a pushover. You feel pressured to make everyone like you, but you also have to fight. There is no question, whether intentional or not, that judges and juries treat female lawyers differently. We are still seen as the weaker sex. Have an old white guy sit next to you and everyone thinks, “How nice. He is letting her practice speaking.”
Acceptance is not the answer, but as the author states she is teaching the next generation of lawyers to do just that. If we do not accept, we will be criticized. So what do you do?
John Oliver asked viewers the same question. His response was intentionally duplicative of a 1990s-era human resources video stating the same thing: Awareness, better policies, and change in behavior. His point is that we are exactly where we were in the ’90s. (Oliver also interviewed Anita Hill. It’s very interesting to hear her comments in today’s climate.)
I am usually the only female lawyer in the courtroom and I get why there are so few of us. It’s a job for the birds. And while I do do wear pants and flats to the office and my hair has a mind of its own some days, I refuse to acknowledge any insinuation that I am less of a litigator than my male counterparts. Female litigators are just as good, if not better. Just let us show you what we can really do when we are not hampered by expected behavior. Let us wear yoga pants instead of pantyhose and we will conquer the world!
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ABOUT ANGELA PALLOZZI
Angela Pallozzi works with business owners to create policies that are beneficial to their businesses. She regularly helps her clients with transactions, negotiations, disputes, litigation, and all types of daily business matters. Ms. Pallozzi advises business owners to prevent litigation and, should litigation occur, leads them through every step of the process to reach the best resolution. She works closely with her clients to understand their challenges and resolve them in the most efficient and effective manner.
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