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!