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Maybe it was inevitable that the #MeToo movement would come back to bite women.

On one hand, women seem more powerful than ever. It’s not just mighty titans like Harvey Weinstein or Les Moonves who’ve fallen because of allegations of sexual harassment, but hardworking stiffs of the legal profession like former Mayer Brown partner James Tanenbaum and that mystery partner from Baker McKenzie’s London office (whose identity most of us know), among others.

The fallout is that some male lawyers are so fearful of being tainted with sexual harassment charges that they’re running for the hills, dodging close working relationships with women. They might not be as blatant as Mike Pence about avoiding female company (he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife, nor does he go to events that serve alcohol without her), but they’re drawing a line, nonetheless.

“It’s a genuine fear,” says a young female partner at an Am Law 100 firm in New York. “I’ve talked to men—well-meaning ones—who say they’re scared of being taken the wrong way by women, who don’t know how they should interact with female associates and colleagues. I’m afraid this will mean men will exclude us even more from relationship-building opportunities. If there’s a case that entails travel, they might think it’s safer to pick a male colleague than me.”

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Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen is a senior columnist at The American Lawyer and the creator of The Careerist blog.

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