Tuesday, June 19, 2012


When it comes to amazing female attorneys, my dear friend and blog reader Stacy is a prime example of what it means to be exceptional.  Stacy grew up in Sacramento, and has been financially supporting herself since her undergrad days at UC Davis.  Throughout law school while the rest of us attended social events, Stacy locked herself in the law review office to pull all-nighters, trying to secure her place at her dream job.  Stacy achieved her goal, and more.  In addition to being a killer lawyer, she is also a killer athlete.  Stacy coaches gymnastics, does Crossfit 5 days per week, and is a loving mom to her kitty, Fidget.  She even competes against other Crossfit athletes state-wide!  In addition to her many talents, Stacy recently purchased her first home, reaping the rewards of her hard work, dedication, and overall badassery.  I asked Stacy 5 questions, and here are her answers: 

Q:  How do you keep such a good work-life balance?

A:  To attain work-life balance you really have to identify your priorities. I’m a single gal, so I don’t have to balance work with kids or a husband (though my cat Fidget is almost like my child). But I have decided that my fitness is my top priority outside of the workplace. I leave work every day by 5:30 pm to make sure I get into the gym and get a solid workout in. If that means I have to bring work home with me and work while I eat dinner, then so be it. Others at my firm work till 7 or 8 pm in order to stock up on hours so they can take 2 week vacations to exotic locations or spend more time with their families. Luckily for me, my gym isn’t just where I work out, it’s also where I spend time with my friends. Two birds, one stone! So if you want to find that elusive work-life balance, take the time to sit down and decide what is REALLY important to you and forget all that other junk. Work has to get done no matter what, but you have to make the time for the things that matter to you.
Q:  What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career so far, and how did you overcome it?

A:  My biggest challenge has probably been others not taking me seriously. I’m 27 years old, a female, in my second year as an attorney, 5’2’’, and definitely look 16. I’ve been called the secretary , the court reporter, and “too nice to be an attorney.” I never let comments like that change my overall attitude. Many older male attorneys try to say things like that to try to get a rise out of you, to turn you into that quintessential female attorney bitch. Never stoop to that level, brush off stupid comments and have confidence in yourself and your abilities as an attorney.
Q:  Do you have any tips for ladies in the Sacramento area that need to dress professional in summer weather?

A:  I am a firm believer in shells/conservative sleeveless shirts. Nice and summery, but easily dressed up with a jacket. And ALWAYS keep a pair of flip flops at your desk for walks to court or lunch!

Q:  As young professionals, what can we do to contribute to a more collegial atmosphere in the legal profession?

A:  I attended King Hall as a law student, and the absolute greatest part about that school is that we all supported each other. We shared notes, outlines, flash cards, and horror stories. We knew that we were stronger working together as a team than working against each other as enemies. While the real world is less warm and fuzzy, and the interactions we have with each other are inherently adversarial, that doesn’t mean we have to lose that cooperative mentality. Don’t be that jerk that everyone dreads working with. All it’s going to get you is a group of peers unwilling to grant you favors when you really need them. 

Q:  When you are not at work, you are……?

A:  Lifting heavy weights in the gym or lifting a few glasses of wine with my friends. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What To Do When Opposing Counsel Is A Real PITA

Regretfully, I have significant experience with this week's topic. At one point or another, we will all encounter it;  you get roped into a case where opposing counsel is a magnificent jerk.  There are several options at your disposal, and you have to choose one.  Do you fight fire with fire?  Do you call them out on their unsavory demeanor?  Do you go about your business as usual and try not to let them see the vein bulge out at your temple every time they open their mouth?  Oh, options.

Based on my experience, there is no "correct" answer, but there is one absolute rule:  we must always, always, ALWAYS deal with it in a professional manner.  Here are some tips for handling these scenarios, illustrated by my hilariously unfortunate experiences (anonymously, of course).  

SCENARIO ONE:  The Boundary Blaster

This case involved my third trial ever as a new lawyer.  My relationship with opposing counsel (OPC) started off in a less than delightful manner. OPC changed a hearing date the afternoon before the date it was to be scheduled by contacting the judge without my permission.  Shady.

As the case continued along, I found that OPC was not only shady, but also lacked any discernible boundaries.  I received a non-urgent call from OPC on my personal cell phone, on a SUNDAY.  Not to mention the flood of emails in my work in-box all weekend long.  As a hard-working professional specializing in an emotionally charged area of law, boundaries are crucial for me.  Needless to say, this contact pushed me over the edge.  So, here is how I dealt with the Boundary Blaster:  I made OPC conform to MY timeline.

First, I informed reception to always take a message or send the call to voicemail when this OPC called.  That way, I could handle issues as they arose within my work hours only.  OPC called at 7:00 p.m.?  Too bad, straight to voicemail.  Second, I had a frank but respectful discussion with OPC.  I told OPC that I do not, under any circumstances, take work calls on my personal cell phone unless it is an unequivocal emergency.  Second, I informed OPC that I will not negotiate or work on weekends unless I plan to do so in advance.  Clients can't agree on something?  Unless it is a matter of immediate personal safety, it can wait until Monday.  Third, I treated OPC as I would like to be treated.  I did not place calls or send faxes after hours, I did not call OPC's personal phone.  And when OPC referred to my client using nasty language, I simply said, "let's keep it professional, shall we?"  I also extended to OPC every professional courtesy I could, sending OPC the message that I was not willing to be petty over our initial bad encounter. 

None of these techniques changed OPC, but they kept me sane, and that was the important part.

SCENARIO TWO:  The Misogynist

The Misogynist was a real piece of work.  This OPC's offenses included calling me "dear," telling me that I, "was young and pretty and new, and would learn how this works when I got older,"  and informing my male co-worker that the only reason OPC refused to accept a settlement offer from me was because I was new and I needed to "learn that I can't just bat my lashes and get my way."  What a peach.  

On this one, I knew I had to take a stand and fight fire with fire.  Professionally, of course.  I know I would have other cases against this OPC, and I had to stand my ground.  I worked over the weekend, but on Monday at our first day in our trial department, I slammed OPC a 45 page trial brief.  It settled. 

My sincerest hope is that none of my readers have these experiences, but the longer we stay in this business, the more likely we will encounter a bad opposing counsel.  Above all, my advice is to stand your ground, stay polite, and stay professional.  You cannot force people to change, but you CAN keep your boundaries, sanity, and professional reputation.

READERS:  Similar Experience?  Share your story and solutions in the comments! 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Weekend Wardrobe Watch

I hope everyone is taking advantage of this gorgeous day!  This weekend's WWW focuses on the massive sale that Bloomingdale's has going on.  Now is a great time to find items that transition well to fall on sale, because most stores are clearing out to make room for the fall fashions that are just around the corner.  (Can you BELIEVE we are already only 3 months away from Vogue September issue?!)

My top choice are these blue cropped Calvin Klein pants.  These are great for summer with some wedges and a white shirt (I LOVE the zipper on the legs!), and will transition right into fall with knee high boots and that lime green sweater that we all thought was such a good idea at the time.  Break it out!  Also be sure to check the sale prices on shoes.  At $55, this deal is unbeatable!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Marital Status and the Workplace

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen!  This week's topic is something I know my friends struggled with during the job hunt and during their employment:  marital status.  I will be discussing this from both the male and female POV.  After talking to several of my dude friends, I learned how marital status can shape how others view them at work.  I recognize that most employers are way too progressive to pull stunts like this, so the focus is on those few that cling to stereotypes.  Essentially, it comes down to this:  while some professional employers who adhere to stereotypical gender views prefer women who are single, they prefer men who are married or close to it.

First, the ladies.  During law school, most of my friends spent a good amount of time interviewing for summer associate positions in an effort to secure employment before graduation.  One night during a monthly girl's night, we started talking about our experiences in those interviews.  My friend brought up an intriguing question of strategy:  whether or not she should wear her wedding rings to interviews.  It never occurred to me before that moment, but it was then I realized it mattered.  OK, so we all know employers are not allowed to ask us if we are married, single, etc.  But if you wear a ring, they don't need to ask.  Sexist as it may be, the reality is that there are employers out there that will look at a woman with a wedding ring as a negative factor.  This goes back to traditional notions of family.  As progressive as we think we are, employers very well could look at that ring on a lady's finger, especially women in their mid and late twenty's, and assume that you want to have children and eventually leave your job because of it.  Now, you know as well as I do that women are more than capable of doing it all.  We can raise kids AND work!  Imagine that!  Doing more than one thing at once!

But all jokes aside, this can be reality.  One of my friends was threatened with termination if she got knocked up.  I noticed several county legal employers (who will remain nameless) looking at my left hand in interviews.  It is unfortunate that a symbol of your love and commitment to your partner may mean much more to a potential employer. 

But ladies, we are not alone in this.  I mentioned this problem while enjoying an evening with my gentlemen friends, and they were quick to point out that women are not the only ones to face this kind of stereotyping, they just get stereotyped in the complete opposite way.  From what I discussed with my male friends, employers desire male employees to be married.

For the gentlemen, it seems to work like this;  a married man is a settled, responsible, stable man.  A stable man means a stable employee who is not likely to leave.  Why?  Because unlike with women, employers may assume that a man will stick with his job to support his wife and/or children.  See how that works?  Same coin, different side.

The reality is that not all married women want children, and not all married men are the sole providers for their families.  I know several stay at home dads who are doing an excellent job.  For women who do want children, employers should have a little faith that we can handle balancing work and home.  And, as a family law attorney I will be the first to tell you that marriage does NOT automatically equate with stability.  

READERS:  I have questions for you.  Have you experienced this kind of stereotyping in an interview, whether it was explicit or not?  How did you handle it?  And last but most important, how can we as young professionals, female and male, help each other be viewed in terms of our professional capabilities  to those few who make the assumptions discussed?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Weekend Wardrobe Watch

Happy Sunday everyone!  This week in WWW, you can take an additional 25% off regularly priced items at Gap.com!  My personal fav is this terry moto jacket.  Part blazer, part sweatshirt, part motorcycle jacket, this looks great for jamming around San Francisco on foot, or for those unfortunate Saturdays at the office.

My apologies for going dark this week.  My awesome mom had a birthday party Saturday evening, and a fair amount of planning was required on my end.  Back to normal this week!  :)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Weekend Wardrobe Watch

If you know me well, you know I love a good sale!  I will be on the hunt for great weekend deals in an effort to assist us in building our professional wardrobes!

THIS WEEK:  Ann Taylor

This weekend, Ann Taylor is having an online sale. Use the code APRIL40 at checkout to take an additional 40% off of items already on sale. 

Also if you know me well, you know I love a good wrap dress.  I recommend the Graphic Print Wrap Dress.  At an additional 40% off the sale price, you can't go wrong!  Wear it to work with heels, or to a weekend BBQ with gladiator sandals and a big hat. 

Happy shopping! 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

And now..... we wait.....

  Today, oral argument season at SCOTUS came to a close as the Justices (minus Keagan) entertained argument regarding Arizona's controversial SB1070.  Even during argument, the Justices seemed to indicate preference for Arizona's position within the narrow question before the court:  whether SB1070 attempts to regulate immigration and therefore is preempted by Federal Law.  One intriguing aspect of this case is the potential effect of Keagan's recusal; will the court evenly divide 4-4, leaving the law suspended by the decision of the lower court? 

The second undeniable aspect of this case is what it DOESN'T purport to consider:  whether the law as applied in practice is racially discriminatory, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.  Immigration has been a hot-button issue in our political arena, and in an election year, the decision rendered by SCOTUS in June will have a significant impact on the presidential race.  Also on deck, their decision regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. 

On SB1070, the Justices will have to ignore the elephant in the room, looming largely in the shadows of the issue of federal preemption.  They will decide this case, this term, this time, without considering the Equal Protection implications of the AZ law.  While powerful, this is a prime example of the limitations of the Court:  they are called upon to provide an answer to the question asked of them.  Not the question they think should be asked, and not the question they want to be asked, but simply the question presented.  That SCOTUS manages to accomplish this task regularly in cases of such controversy is nothing short of remarkable.  The Justices must strip away their personal objections to the law on all other grounds, tune out the protests outside on the steps to the Court, and block out political influences. 

So, my questions to our readers are:  Do you think SB1070 will make its way back to SCOTUS via the Equal Protection Clause?  Will the Justices ever allow their decision in this case to stalemate at 4-4?  How can this SCOTUS term as a whole impact the presidential race?

As these topics can be controversial, let's keep it classy and respectful.  (Hence my narrowly targeted questions)

Monday, April 23, 2012

All right my legal ladies, I am pleased to post this entry as our very first Objective Four Discussion Topic!  I will share my own tips for leading a well balanced lifestyle, but I want to hear from our readers!  I don't have a family or kids yet, so input from those of us who are super lawyers AND super moms is crucial! 

Amanda S. wants to discuss:

"Objective Four: How to balance work life with a meaningful family life, without sacrificing success, pay grades, or respect from our male counterparts."

Ah.  The ever-elusive work-life balance.  In a society where women are encouraged to "have it all," we often find ourselves over-committed and under-caffeinated.  As smart, successful women, it's likely we all have smart, successful partners in our lives as well.  This is a great foundation for a relationship, but demanding work schedules, the needs of our kids, and mandatory errands can make it feel like we are just co-existing separately during the week.  So, how do we find balance, and more immediately, how do we prevent ourselves from keeling over from exhaustion? 

The following are three of my work-life balance secrets that have served me well. 

First, I make sure I allot time for a transition from work to home.  For me, this means going from work to the gym, and processing the day while I jam out to my favorite tunes on the treadmill.  Doing this daily during the work week is super important for me, because I need that time to decompress.  If I go straight to the gym for a workout, I get to mull over the highs and lows of my day, what I accomplished, and what I need to look our for tomorrow.  By the time I am done working out, I have a good idea of where I have been that day at work, and where I need to go the next day.  If I go home without this transition, random thoughts pop up throughout the evening while I am cooking, watching TV, and worst of all, trying to get to sleep.  For example, I skipped the gym one day last week and had NIGHTMARES about drafting briefs.  SO. WRONG.  I get that the gym isn't for everyone, especially not in downtown Oakland in rush hour.  So, do what works for you!  Grab your dog and go for a walk, run a errand you kind of like to run, grab a cup of tea on the way home, have a seat in a nearby park for 15 minutes and just enjoy the day.  If you allow yourself time to process the day, the quality of time you spend at home with family and friends will dramatically improve.  

Second, I keep good boundaries and I am regular about it.  I recently transitioned to the private sector, which means I also transitioned into more required hours.  Before I started, I figured out a plan and made sure my employer was totally cool with it.  I opt to go into work at 7:15 a.m. everyday, but the upside is that I am always out the door of the office no later than 5:30 p.m.  I put in the same number of hours as everyone else and get the same amount of work done, so I maintain the respect of my co-workers.  Another benefit of the early bird work schedule?  You would be amazed at how much you can accomplish without the phones ringing and your email pop-up pinging incessantly!  Sure, there are times when we have trial and I can't keep this schedule, but those days are the exception and not the rule.  On the weekend, I avoid work unless it is necessary, but I always carve out one day during the weekend to focus quality time on family and friends.  Not only do they appreciate it, they deserve it for being so wonderful to me!

Third, I try to do the best I can to take good care my myself.  I cook healthy food for myself, I make sure I get at least enough sleep to function, and I carve out a little time to do things like get a brow wax or paint my nails.  When I feel good inside and out, I am more productive at work, and more positive at home.

Well ladies, I hope my tips can help you, and I can't wait to put together a blog containing all of YOUR advice!

Please post your key tips for maintaining a healthy work-life balance in the comments, and I will assemble a mega-list for us all in a blog post!    :)

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Hello Readers! 

My name is Christie, and I am your resident blog facilitator here at Ms. Esquire.  You can see the sidebar for a bit more information about me personally, but that is not the focus of this introduction.  My experiences and observations as a female attorney led me here, to the first post on this new blog.  What makes this not EXACTLY the same as Ms. JD or Corporette (both of which I LOVE and read religiously)?  Well, two things:  first, I intend this blog to be a collective, with me as a mere facilitator.  Second, the scope of it is much more broad.  Each experience serves as inspiration for an objective of this blog.  So, what where those experiences and observations, you ask?

When I was in law school, I didn't experience much chauvinism from my classmates.  Overall, I went to law school with some pretty amazing individuals, male and female alike.  When I began my career as a public interest attorney, I worked largely with women, and also found antiquated views of women as attorneys were few and far between.  Then I embarked on a brief foray:  landlord-tenant litigation.  This is an area of law dominated by a Good Old Boy's Club of older, male, private attorneys.  Not that there is anything wrong with that IF they are polite and respectful.  But oh, no, they were not.  They purposefully gave me a hard time, and one of them even told my male co-worker that it was his intent to do so for the sport of it.  Another flat out sexually harassed me DURING settlement negotiations.  A true professional (SARCASM).  Working in this area of law opened my eyes.  While women make fabulous lawyers and are generally well respected by the gentlemen of our own generation, there is still a large percentage of lawyers who believe women don't belong in their club, ESPECIALLY young ones.  So how do we handle this, ladies?  Do we whine about how unfair it is?  No!  We abide by the first objective:

OBJECTIVE ONE:  share our experience with this sort of disrespect (whether it comes from men OR other women), and advice on how to handle it and establish professional respect in our communities by supporting one another.  

Working in this profession, I met many incredible lawyers, male and female.  Some work for top law firms, some for superb non-profit legal organizations, some for government agencies, and on and on.  They have inspired me to become a better person and a better advocate for my clients, while showing me the value of having women in all areas of the legal profession.  This leads me to objective two:

OBJECTIVE TWO:  Spotlight one amazing reader, MALE OR FEMALE, every month (with their permission, of course) so we can get to know one another better, and inspire each other, rather than allowing the competitive nature of the business to serve as an excuse for tearing one another down.  While this blog is substantially geared towards women, I think readers would agree that we welcome respectful gentlemen to participate if they feel so inclined.  Gentlemen, your support in our endeavor here is encouraged and appreciated!

The inspiration for our third objective stems from pain, misery, and frustration:  finding professional looking AND well fitting, stylish suits and professional wear WITHOUT having to buy different stock size pants and jackets or embark on a 15 store suit safari.   Yesterday, I accompanied a gentlemen to Brooks Brothers in San Francisco so he could buy a new suit.  Like me, my gentlemen in a lawyer.  He walked in, and at his disposal were 3 sales associates, 2 tailors, and racks of all different suits organized by actual body measurements.  The entire ordeal took 15 minutes.  Being a lady, I decided I would peruse the women's section of the very same store.  Can you guess how many WOMEN'S suits Brooks Brothers carries?  The answer is TWO.  Don't get me wrong, companies like Ann Taylor are a savior for professional women, especially women who are pint-sized like myself.  Yet, the ease and selection that is afforded to the male suiting process doesn't exist for women.  I realize there are some excellent online custom suit manufacturers for women.  That being said, I don't know a woman in her right mind who will pay $600 for something she has never been able to try on.  Women can't just walk into a store and have a tailor and a sales associate assist them by trying an endless variety of suits based on their actual body measurements.  We are left to our own devices, sifting through arbitrary sizes, such as "2", "12", "10Long," etc.  This kind of sizing and limited selection often produces one of two results:  either women get discouraged because there is not a single suit in "their size" that fits them and they leave with nothing, OR they end up buying an ill-fitting suit because they need it for court on Monday and it's the best of what is there. Without undue delay.....

OBJECTIVE THREE:  This is actually a two part objective.  First, exchange ideas and advice about who has the best selections of suits, shoes, dress pants, etc., where to find the best tailors, and for those of us brave enough to venture into online custom suiting, whether those experiences are successful. Second, we will be proactive by talking to retailers and companies, and encourage them to offer real, professional suit selections AND onsite tailoring for women based on actual body measurements.  The idea is, if we show these companies and manufacturers just ho big the market is for these services, they will acquiesce to our requests.  (Gentlemen readers, you can benefit from this as well!  If you need a lady's fashion perspective, feel free to solicit advice in the Comments, or suggest your fashion conundrum as an open post topic!)

Finally, the last of my experiences indicates that I hold no magical authority to come up with interesting objectives on my own.  So onto the fourth, and final:

OBJECTIVE FOUR:  The free-for-all.  I want to hear from readers.  I want to talk about what is interesting and helpful to YOU!  Whether it's maintaining healthy relationships while working in a busy profession, managing stress and anxiety, fast workouts that blast calories, good locations for business lunches, political climates, ANYTHING!  

Well, that is all I have for today.  I look forward to your participation, and what we can achieve together.