After practicing for more than 25 years as an insurance coverage litigator, I have experienced my fair share of trials by fire taking depositions, arguing motions and negotiating complex settlement structures. Along the way, I’ve noticed that I have often confronted unique challenges because I have been the only woman in the room. I’ve also noticed that women adversaries have encountered similar issues, particularly when we are the most junior attorney involved with a matter. There is no place for bullying in the legal profession, and it will come to an end only when we speak to and empower our junior women attorneys to overcome these challenges. No gesture is too small to provide a junior attorney with the strength and resilience she needs to bounce back.
I remember the first time I was bullied. I was too inexperienced to understand that my gender played a role. A few months after I joined a new firm, I was involved in a discovery dispute. My adversary, a male attorney about 10 years my senior, moved to compel and sought sanctions against me and my new firm. I was absolutely terrified and was convinced I would immediately be fired. Instead, a senior partner came with me to argue the motion and told me he would intervene only if the court entertained the specious sanctions request. When we appeared for the motion, the male judge refused to acknowledge my presence at any point during the argument. The partner repeatedly told the judge that I was arguing the discovery aspect of the motion, and yet the judge refused to hear from me.