By Jill D. Schmid, Ph.D.
A tweet from Bloomberg Law caught my eye: “#Gender gap persists Among Lead Trial Counsel.” The tweet was a reference to a recently released report titled, “First Chairs at Trial: More Women Need Seats at the Table.” The report was prepared by the ABA’s Commission on Women in the Profession and the American Bar Foundation (authors Stephanie Scharf and Roberta Liebenberg). The report is an excellent analysis of the lack of women in lead trial roles and what can be done about it. I urge anyone involved in the legal profession –law schools, corporations, firms – to read the report and look for ways to encourage diversity within trial teams.
While gender (as well as racial) diversity is optimal for a number of reasons, I hesitate to make this kind of statement without a quick follow-up: too often people think that means that the trial team simply needs to “add a woman.” That is absolutely not the answer – adding a “token” woman to the team to “appeal to women on the jury,” does not work. I would say the same thing if someone asked, “Do we need a man?” or “Do we need a minority?” or “Do we need a handicapped person?” I add that last one since we had a client ask us once if they should find a disabled expert since the plaintiff had a disabled expert. For all of these, the answer is “no.” (To be fair, I’d tell someone in a deposition to be quite careful using an unequivocal no….there can be exceptions. So go ahead and ask the question, but the answer is likely: “Still no.”) Continue reading