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Sex matters. And how! That was the thesis of a recent symposium in Manhattan called “Women on the Move,” sponsored by the New York State Bar Association. The half-day program drew a standing-room-only crowd at the Southgate Tower Hotel. Lawyers being lawyers, several panelists spoke not only of valuing gender differences but of their tactical utility, especially in litigation procedure. “Men, by their dress and manner, are much more circumscribed,” said Lesley Friedman Rosenthal, a senior litigation associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. “There are incredible advantages to being a woman lawyer. I can play the role of Mrs. Viper, or I can be Shirley Temple.” Rosenthal, a 1989 graduate of Harvard Law School, spoke at a panel titled “Managing People for Maximum Performance” and subtitled “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” — an homage to the namesake 1992 best-selling book by marriage counselor John Gray, who encouraged Americans to consign the term “unisex” to the land of oxymorons. As Rosenthal’s fellow panelist Kathryn Grant Madigan put it, “Although we [men and women] think we’re speaking the same language, and although we think we’re coming from the same culture — we’re really not.” Madigan, a partner in the Binghamton, N.Y., firm Levene, Gouldin & Thompson, made note of scientific tests that demonstrate how men and women use different parts of their brains to perform the same functions. “So, just be aware of the differences,” said Madigan. Broadly speaking, she added, “Men are more solution-oriented, whereas women are more relational. “There is not a right way or a wrong way. We just take different paths.” Pearl Zuchlewski, a name partner at Goodman & Zuchlewski, had two pieces of advice for young women in the audience. The first was an acronym of her invention — BITCH, for “Babe In Total Control of Herself” — and the second was to be ecumenical, sexually speaking. “Remember, men are not necessarily the enemy,” said Zuchlewski. “It’s great to have women mentors, but it’s not bad to have good male mentors, too. “We do have [male] allies out there,” she added. “Let me tell you, men get in trouble a lot in the securities industry. About 85 percent of my clients are men. Men don’t have a problem writing checks to women lawyers.” In an interview following the symposium, Richard L. Spinogatti took some issue with what the women panelists said about substantive gender differences. “For all the talk and articles I’ve read, I’ve not seen generally that women think one way and men think another way,” said Spinogatti, a senior counsel at Proskauer Rose who often assembles litigation teams for his firm. “I have not seen that in terms of their approach to litigation problems.” At the first-year associate level, however, Spinogatti said there seems to be at least one marked difference between young men and young women who come to large firms directly after law school as opposed to those who clerk in court for a year or two after graduation. “There seems to be a greater level of maturity among the women than the men,” he said. “This manifests itself in lots of ways: balancing things, dealing with the hours, supervising staff, developing leadership skills. I don’t know why this is so, but I will say that after a couple of years it seems to balance out.” In choosing litigation team members, Spinogatti said gender differences, whether marked or subtle, do not enter into his calculations. “That’s not something I let influence my selection process, certainly not consciously,” he said. If, however, a particular task calls for frequent interaction with client personnel or opposing counsel, Spinogatti added, “I will look to the [associate] who is more mature, more personable, the one who is a little bit of an extrovert. That might be a man, it might be a woman. But I don’t sit here and say, ‘I gotta have a woman on this.’” Spinogatti acknowledged the luxury of not having to think about mixing up litigation teams in terms of gender, or in any other terms. “If you take a look at the array of Proskauer’s litigation associates, you’ll see enormous diversity of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and ethnic origin,” he said. “To some extent, my thinking in this regard has already been done for me.” Jennifer L. Kroman, a newly minted partner at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton who likewise assembles litigation teams for her firm, said she agreed with Spinogatti — to a point. “Unless it’s a two-person team, you’d actually have to go out of your way to put together a group that wasn’t balanced by gender,” she said. “Most firms are like ours, in terms of the first-years — about 50-50 men and women.” With that divide comes “a whole range of styles, including the pound-the-table style we think of as quintessentially male, and the consensus-building style we think of as female,” said Kroman, 33, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School. “Whether you’re a man or a woman,” she advised, “get comfortable with your style. Nothing is less effective than trying to develop a style that’s not your own.” On the matter of ineffectiveness, and in pressing her point that women are innately more adaptable than men, Rosenthal last week offered a droll but cautionary tale to her audience. She spoke of a long-ago male mentor who claimed the ability to alternate at will between a mild-mannered type and a persona he called “Mr. A-Hole.” “He was half right,” said Rosenthal. Carla M. Miller, an intellectual property associate at Proskauer, said that while male-female style differences may not be conscious factors in selecting a litigation team, they are clearly evident factors in the business of moving through the litigation process. “Time and time again, two men will become entrenched in opposite points of view,” said Miller, 38, a graduate of the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. “On the other hand, I and the other women [on opposing teams] are always trying to say, ‘OK, here’s where we are, and x constitutes the middle ground and so what do we have to do to go in that direction?’” She added, “If you’re absolutely convinced that a particular point of view is the only way to go — sure. But a lot of times, that’s not the case, and conciliation is right.”

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