Colonial lawyers didn’t know what to make of Margaret Brent when she arrived in the New World in 1638, the first woman in their midst. Over the next decade, she worked on more than a hundred court cases and served as counsel to the governor of Maryland.

As creative as they may have been in court, Brent’s male colleagues couldn’t figure out how to address her, so they settled on “Gentleman Margaret Brent” in person and in court records. Four centuries later, male litigators have suppressed the instinct to impose masculine titles on their female counterparts, but some might say they’re still not entirely comfortable with women in the trial life.

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