Good news! Now, you don’t need to re-read your emails looking for the subtle ways you might be undermining your authority – as the saying goes, “There’s an app for that!” Called “Just Not Sorry,” the app highlights the language choices that I wrote about in an earlier blog (e.g., hedges like “I think,” intensifiers like “really,” and other qualifiers like, “just” or “actually”).
Recently, author Christina Cauterucci interviewed Tami Reiss the CEO of Cyrus Innovation, a software development consulting firm that specializes in women-led companies and tech teams, and part of the team that developed the “Just Not Sorry.” She and others referenced in the article reinforce that these language choices are not only unnecessary filler, but can also undermine the sender’s authority. As I wrote about, these language choices are so ingrained in us (particularly women), that without something or someone pointing them out, we are left unaware of the unintended consequences – hence, the app. Continue reading →
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 →
Who do I want on my jury? Men or women? Are women too emotional for this case? Are African-Americans going to be a problem for my predominantly white corporate client? I’m pretty sure the woman in the front row is a lesbian…should I be concerned? Should I have one of the female attorneys from our firm sit at the table during trial with us?
These are all very common questions that I hear from attorneys. Our society has always been strangely preoccupied with demographics. National news media are constantly flashing polls broken down by men, women, whites, African-Americans, Hispanics, etc. At times, it feels like it’s a national pastime to lump all women or African Americans together and draw hasty conclusions about “them.” As someone who devoted a lot of time to studying critical theory in college and graduate school, I wince every time the topic comes up. But that discussion is for another time. In fact, I tend to believe this rush to overgeneralize along the borders of demographics comes from a different place when we are talking about attorneys. Continue reading →