- Ai and Interdependent Pricing: Combination Without Conspiracy?
- Big Data and Antitrust Risks In Close-up: From the Perspective of Real Cases
- Blockchain Technology: a Future Antitrust Target?
- Chair's Column
- Digital Platform Competition, Merger Control, and the Incentive To Innovate: Don't Kill the Goose That Lays the Golden Egg
- Editor's Note
- It's High Tide Again In Internet Markets
- Privacy, Pricing, and the Value of Consumer Data: the Complex Nature of the Ccpa's Non-discrimination Requirement
- The Ftaia's "Domestic Effects" Exception: Why the Ninth Circuit Got It Right
- The Simple Economics of Hybrid Marketplaces
- Fourth Annual "Celebrating Women In Competition Law In California"
FOURTH ANNUAL "CELEBRATING WOMEN IN COMPETITION LAW IN CALIFORNIA"
Women’s entry and rising representation in the legal profession is viewed by some to be one of the most remarkable, "revolutionary" changes to the legal profession. Today, more than ever before in our profession, women have become accomplished litigators, inspirational leaders, and generous mentors. Yet there is still a persistent, large, and unexplained gap between the earnings of men and women law school graduates and a perceived absence of women lawyers in top-level positions and in courtrooms. In March of this year, the Section hosted its fourth annual flagship program focusing on women practitioners in competition law and celebrated the exceptional progress women have made in the pursuit of their careers by overcoming a multitude of obstacles. The panelists shared their invaluable experience and advice about business development, mentoring, and making a difference within the legal profession. We reprise the program below.
The Honorable Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers was appointed to the United States District Court for the Northern District of California in 2011. Judge Gonzalez Rogers joined the federal bench from the superior court in Alameda County, where she had served from 2008 to 2011, presiding over both criminal and civil cases. Judge Gonzalez Rogers earned her undergraduate degree from Princeton University in 1987 and her law degree from the University of Texas in 1991. After graduating from law school, Judge Gonzalez Rogers practiced civil litigation with the law firm of Cooley Godward LLP in San Francisco from 1991 to 2003 where she was elected an equity partner, and served the superior court in several capacities including judge pro tem until her appointment to the bench in 2008. In her capacity as both a state and federal judge, she has presided over thousands of civil and criminal cases, including a number of high-profile antitrust matters and over a hundred trials.
Paula Blizzard is currently a Deputy Attorney General in the California Attorney General’s Antitrust Section. She has been with the Attorney General’s office for almost three years, and most recently led the state lawsuit to block the Sprint—Mobile merger. Previously she was at the Federal Communications Commission from 2014-2016, and a partner at Keker, Van Nest & Peters from 2004-2014. She began her legal career at the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division. Prior to becoming a lawyer, she worked for eight years as an aerospace consultant, designing communications systems and working on the space station program for NASA. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley School of Law and MIT.
Amy T. Brantly is the managing partner of Kesselman Brantly Stockinger LLP, a boutique litigation firm specializing in antitrust and unfair competition. Ms. Brantly has significant experience in a range of complex litigation cases, including antitrust, fraud, trade secrets, breach of fiduciary duty, and class actions. Before co-founding Kesselman Brantly Stockinger, Ms. Brantly was an attorney at Susman Godfrey LLP, where she worked on some of the biggest antitrust cases in the country as well as numerous class actions. Her antitrust experience includes litigating group boycott cases, exclusionary contracting practices, price fixing, and bid-rigging involving numerous markets, including cosmetics, semiconductors, medical devices, insurance, and sports.
Jackie Lem is an assistant chief in the San Francisco office of the U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division. She has worked on both criminal and civil antitrust matters. Jackie has led multiple international cartel investigations including electrolytic capacitors and aftermarket auto-lights. She has also participated in civil merger and conduct investigations. Before joining the Justice Department through the Attorney General’s Honors Program, Jackie served as a law clerk to the Honorable Marilyn Hall Patel, United States District Court for the Northern District of California. She received a JD from Stanford Law School, a PhD in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and BA and BS degrees from the University of Texas at Austin.
Judith A. Zahid is Managing Partner of the San Francisco office of Zelle LLP and is co-chair of the firm’s Antitrust group. Judith’s practice is focused on assessing complex antitrust claims and pursuing recoveries on behalf of both individual corporate clients and class plaintiffs in many different industries. She has represented plaintiffs in numerous high-stakes price-fixing and monopolization cases, with recoveries from those cases totaling well over $2 billion. While Judith is involved in all aspects of the cases she litigates, she places particular emphasis on her work with industry and damages experts.
JUDGE YVONNE GONZALEZ ROGERS:
Good evening, everyone. I’m delighted to be here. I too, like some of us in this room, am currently in trial and managing lots of different things.
But it occurred to me what would be a good evening for all of you. So here’s a thought. If you can leave this room with one practical tool for doing things better and leave with one card—I was going to say card, but I don’t know these days with Facebook and other stuff where it’s all electronic—so some new contact, and feeling energized, then tonight’s a good night. And I too want to thank all the sponsors and especially the panelists who are going to share with you. That’s the goal.
This is an issue that is very near and dear to my heart. Anytime someone asks me to do these kinds of panels I do, because I think it is so important. When I was at the firm, I was the first Latina ever hired. We have come a long way but there is a long way still to go.
Those of us and those around this table who have succeeded have lots of great tips for you. And I certainly feel like my role on the bench is to push the envelope. And I have, as I think people can attest.
In the Batteries case, when I got nothing but men up at the podium and I finally was kind of tired of it, I said, "Where are the women?" Now, many judges won’t do that. But I did. And I tell you, the next hearing I only had women at the podium. And it was great.
So I’m glad to push the envelope. Because if we don’t, and we don’t support each other, and if we don’t teach each other, and if we don’t hire each other, then things won’t change. So it’s all within our power. So I’m so excited to be here.
We have decided not to do too much in terms of formality. We really want to get to the substance of all of this. So I’m going to ask each of the panelists to introduce themselves. But rather than just kind of giving us the basics, tell us something about your leadership style, or maybe something that you’re really proud of that you did. So Judith, can you start us off?
Sure. I’m Judith Zahid. I’m the managing partner at Zelle LLP in San Francisco. I grew up in the plaintiffs’ antitrust bar. Something that I’m proud of is that we had a changing of the guard at our firm and there was a lot of space left when our senior partners moved on. I sort of filled the space with hesitation and feeling I was too young to be doing it. I just sort of buckled down and said, "I’m just going to do what I’ve got to do each day. And I can always jump ship and go somewhere else and beg someone for a job." But I’m just like, why not? Just do it. And I thought, if I just do this I’ll improve myself. If I just do that I’ll improve myself.
And finally I woke up one day, and whether it was worth it or not, I just was like, I don’t have to prove myself anymore. It’s not that I reached some maximum place. It was just I was exhausted from the desperation of having to prove myself. And so for those who still feel like they are doing that every single day, it’s just to let that go, I think, has been a proud moment for me to realize that I have.
JUDGE GONZALEZ ROGERS:
Very important. By the way, judges feel that way, too.
Hi, I’m Amy Brantly. I’m the managing partner of a small firm. We have about ten lawyers, five partners. And I’m the only female partner in my firm. We only have one other woman litigator. So I come from a male-dominated firm, like most of you probably do, too.
I guess a problem for me, because I’m a trial litigator, is we were hired to do an appeal before the Hawaii Supreme Court. The trial court had kicked the case out on summary judgment and the court of appeal affirmed. And I was really intimidated by this assignment because I’m not an appellate lawyer.
But I loved it. The Hawaii Supreme Court allowed 20 minutes for argument. I got to argue before them. It was against the NCAA, so no small adversary on the other side. We won unanimously and the case was remanded for trial. And I will be lead trial counsel, or co-lead trial counsel. We’ll see how that goes. It was a good confidence boost to remind ourselves that we can do things that are new and different, and we should keep challenging ourselves.
JUDGE GONZALEZ ROGERS:
Thanks, Amy. Jacklin?
Hi, I’m Jackie Lem. I’m an assistant chief at the Department of Justice Antitrust Division here in the San Francisco office. I’m really happy to see a lot of familiar faces— old friends and new friends that are about to join our office.
A proud moment for me—I have a little bit of a different background. Before I went to law school, I actually had this dream of being an academic economist. So I went to grad school and got a Ph.D. in economics. And earlier this year Esther Duflo won a Nobel Prize for some really important work she’s done in studying and thinking about why people are poor and what can be done to lift them up. She’s the youngest person to ever win a Nobel Prize in economics and only the second woman to do that.
I think in the legal profession we’ve made great strides in diversity and inclusion and women. The economics profession is still a little bit behind. I was stunned at the statistic: only 30 percent of undergraduates—economics majors—are women. I was stunned by that.
So I was just very particularly proud that day that this is happening. I know it’s not the legal profession but given the antitrust bar, we know economists. And so seeing Esther Duflo win that prize was an incredibly proud moment for me.
JUDGE GONZALEZ ROGERS:
I’m Paula Blizzard. I’m with the California Attorney General’s office. And one of the things that I’m most proud of is I just led the trial team where the states sued to block the merger of Sprint and T-Mobile. Everybody was against us. I not only had a lead role at trial, I really had a lead role in trial strategy, in deciding whether in hiring outside counsel in holding the 15 states together or not. And I am extremely proud of the way that trial went. I’m extremely proud of the way the evidence went in, the way everything worked out. But as everybody in this room probably knows, we lost.
And so when I was thinking about this and what to say, I think women worry constantly that they’re going to lose. That they’re going to be wrong. That, "Oh, I don’t want to stand up," or "Oh, I don’t want to do this." Or, "I’m going to ask for a raise and what if he says no? What if I don’t get it?"
And we need to get over that. It’s hard. It’s an easy thing to say, "Oh, I’m not afraid to lose." It’s a hard thing to do. And it’s a hard thing to actually take that step. Because you take the step, and it doesn’t go the way you wanted. And you still have to be proud of yourself. And you still have to say, "Yeah, but I did it." Or say, "Yeah, but I asked for the raise." Or "I made the comment in the meeting." Or "I asked the partner for the better role."
And so the next time you’re sitting there and you’re thinking, oh, I don’t know if I can do it. Or I’m going to go do some more research before I tell anybody my theory. No. It’s good enough. And you should think of me coming here and telling you that I am really proud of that case. And that is one of the biggest antitrust cases of the year, and we lost, and I’m still proud.
JUDGE GONZALEZ ROGERS:
So let’s jump right into business development. We’ve got a mix of both associates and partners and in-house in the room. I think it’s really difficult for women to find business, right? Not everybody’s out there on the golf course. I’m not sure that the golf course is the place anymore, since I don’t look for business. In fact, I’m always pushing business away. [laughter]
But if we could start there. Judith, maybe you can give your tips for strategy for business development and any thoughts about the women versus men approach.
So one thing, and I saw it firsthand, so you can all just take my word for it. But I went to a conference, a local one, were there were about 10 GCs or heads of litigation from local corporations sitting in a row talking to a women attorney audience. There were men and women on the panel, and they all went down the line to say who’s calling them all the time, for coffees, meetings, stop-bys. What are you doing right now? All that.
And they all went down the line and said it’s 95 percent men calling us. And I remember just watching the visual of them all nodding and like, "Yeah, it’s all guys! It’s men calling us!" And that has totally stuck with me.
Because whether you’re calling a man or a woman but you’re looking for something—you’re trying to find that in or that opportunity. Or you’re calling whoever it is where you feel like you’re imposing. In the past, I used to think those were impositions. I don’t think that way anymore. I’ve removed "impose" from my vocabulary.
And at this point now, I just call. Because if I don’t call, there are 12 other guys who just did or are about to. And I don’t begrudge them for doing it. I would begrudge myself for holding myself back. And so that is something I have absolutely changed.
I’ve got one other tip on this, because sometimes we want to make business ideas or engage with friends, or women friends, or any friends. I’ve found that that also is really hard for women to do, that they’re talking to a friend and they’re like, "Can we stop talking about kids and whatever and start talking about work?"
So I will actually set up a meeting or a lunch by saying, "I have something I want to talk to you about business and I really want to have lunch with you." Every time I’ve ever done that, before the salad is done the person will be like, "What was that business thing you want to talk about?" Because they want to know, too. We’re not all business-immune people. And so I just get it out there.
JUDGE GONZALEZ ROGERS:
What do you think, Amy?
That’s great advice. I’ve had lunch with a GC before where we’ve just chitchatted through the whole lunch. And then at the end she’s like, "Are you going to ask me for work?" [laughter] "I’m about to pay the bill." And it was a good lesson that I too feel like I’m imposing.
I think that trying to work past implicit bias is sometimes hard for women. If you look even just at the Democratic primary, we had Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren. They were super-qualified and great candidates, but they never really got the traction that you would think they should have deserved. I know a lot of people are asking is that because they’re women?
I do think that we see judges as older white-haired men, and we see lead counsel as a man, and we see a president as a man. And I’m hoping that we can get past that. And I do think that in-house people make a huge difference in that regard. You really have the power to create diverse teams and effectuate that kind of change. And I’ve seen it happen now that more women are getting involved. I think that’s really exciting and it’s very encouraging for me.
JUDGE GONZALEZ ROGERS:
Give one tip for them about how you’ve been successful in getting business.
The best tip I can give is to stay at it—be consistent—and to not spread yourself thin by random lunching, which I used to do and is not helpful. Really focus on your strategy and who you can work for who has the work that you do. And then stay in touch with those people and constantly remain in contact with them.
JUDGE GONZALEZ ROGERS:
I would say too, everybody should remember that jurors care. It matters to jurors. I spoke at the patent bar’s conference. I was making pitch for more diversity. And it finally occurred to me, I kind of saw a lot of blank faces out there with these patent litigators. And I finally said to them, "You know what? You may not care, but jurors care." And I’ve had jurors literally say, "Well, you know, that side, you saw they were all white guys. I mean, why would I trust them?" Women on a jury say that.
So it is something you can use to your advantage. And if they’re litigating in the Bay Area, are you kidding me? You don’t have a diverse trial team in the Bay Area, one of the most diverse areas in the nation? That may be fine in Texas. It doesn’t work in California.
And so you need to be part of that and say, I can do this. I can help the team. And by the way, they know if you’re just sitting there versus actually doing something. Jurors are very smart. They actually get this.
The other thing that I’ve heard GCs say—and you can tell me if you think this is true—all of you—is that, remember that you build up with your peer group. And so stay in touch. Right now, you’re very young. Some of you are young. [laughter]
You may not be convincing Paul Grewal to hire you. But he was once a lowly guy, too. And so those around you may be GCs, so have you connected? Are you staying connected? Women, I think, are pretty good with relationships. Stay in touch. If someone needs help, give them help. You don’t have to necessarily bill. But they remember those little things. That’s what I’ve heard GCs say, that you’re not always kind of nickel and diming them. But if you could help them, they remember and they want to give back. It’s kind of a holistic approach, I think, to some of these topics.
How about having a female voice in the room? Either in government or in the firms. Jackie, what do you think about having a female voice in the room for your kind of work?
Yeah. I don’t have any private sector experience. I went straight from a clerkship to the DOJ. So I’m kind of guessing a little bit. But I do truly believe in the government especially. It’s very much a meritocracy. And I think that reflects in, our office just had some really great victories in a recent trial. And I think about teams that have been outward facing in the courtroom, and they’re strong women.
JUDGE GONZALEZ ROGERS:
Does it matter if women are on those trial teams on the government side versus not?
I think it does. And this picks up on the point you made about jury trials especially, right? We’re all lawyers and we have a very narrow experience, a very common experience. The jurors are not us. The jurors have a very diverse experience.
It was Michael Anderson in the Eastern District of California, AUSA, the best advice I ever got was, You are bringing those life experiences with you. And you’re making certain inferences based on the evidence you have. And you’re saying this fact means this, and that’s what you’re going to argue to the jury. But you’re not realizing that your jurors may have a completely different life experience and the same set of facts. That’s a completely different inference for them.
And he had a great example that just clicked in my mind about a family who had to move out of their home very, very quickly. I won’t bore you with the details. But I think it really, really does matter. You put together a diverse team, a diverse team with different experiences. They’re going to react to the evidence differently. And you need that kind of diverse perspective to put together a stronger trial team.
I absolutely think it makes a huge difference in a jury trial. And I also think it makes a difference in a bench trial. Like our judge here is saying, I have had other judges say the same thing and look out and go, "Where are the women?"
It can come down from the top like that, but I want to encourage all of you to also bubble it up. And this comes back to what we were saying about being 60 percent good enough or 90 percent good enough. You’re good enough right now to do that direct or that cross, or stand up in that courtroom and argue that motion. You may not think you are but you need to do that. And then you need to just ask. And they’re going to say no a bunch of times. It’s okay. Ask again. And keep asking. And you can do it.
We had a very diverse trial team in Sprint T-Mobile on both sides, actually. But I’ll say one thing that was annoying was, there wasn’t any media or cameras in the courtroom, only the old-fashioned sketch artists. I swear, even though the women had put on the CEOs and crossed the CEOs, everything else, all the sketches were the men. I was so annoyed! I was like, "Oh yeah, I guess that’s my hair in the background. Seriously?" [laughter] So it still happens sometimes.
One other quick thing about women in the room. I was in private practice. I was at Keker for 10 years. And then I went back into government to the Federal Communications Commission to do net neutrality and so forth in Washington, D.C. And communications law is so different than antitrust, and so different than trial lawyers. I would even say it’s female dominated. There are so many female lawyers. I would be sitting in a room working on something, and I’d have the representatives from AT&T, Comcast, whatever—all these big companies—they’d all be women. I had so many meetings and discussions where maybe there was one guy in the room. And that just never happens in antitrust.
I also discovered communications lawyers are paid a lot less than antitrust lawyers or trial lawyers. But it was very different. And it was a different approach. I’ve tried to put my finger on it and I’m not sure what it is. I’m not sure if everybody waits and lets the other person finish speaking. Whether it’s that everybody tries to get everybody’s opinion. It is different to be in a room—to deal with very serious, important topics or whatever—but to have all women in there. So I think it’s super important.
JUDGE GONZALEZ ROGERS:
Does it matter to have women in the room either, let’s say, in firm committees or maybe in depositions? Or in mediations? Does that matter?
I could talk for an hour about this topic. But I will try to be quick.
I’m at a place where for a while I was the only senior woman partner in our firm. So I was invited onto every single management committee because there was no one else to pick. And I found—and this is something I was thinking about last night, and there’s no one more senior than me from my firm here, so it’s all good.
What I’m trying to do is influence the chatter that happens among the highest ranking and most influential men in the firm. And I mean that in the smoothest ways. Not head right at them, but I’ve become really close with the CFO in my firm. We’re friends. When something sort of bad happens to us as women litigators, we could easily moan to our friends. They’d get it. They’re like, "Oh, that happened? He called you out on the phone? That judge passed you over?" Whatever it is.
But when you call your CFO, who’s a man with grown daughters and high up in the firm, and you go, "Frank, do you believe this? The judge asked everyone at the table something but me." I’ll do it just like, "Huh! Isn’t that crazy? That that happened?" And he’s like, "That happened to you? Huh!" "This kind of stuff happens all the time, man!" And I’m trying to just get it in there or they’re talking about male applicants or male partners and they’re like, "Yeah, he’s a real adult." And I’m like, "What does that mean? What do you guys say about me? Do you call me an adult?" And I do it in like subtle, little like chitchat. Just pushing it a little bit. Because for me, I feel that’s the most effective way to effectuate change in my firm. Because I’m not on every phone call or in every meeting.
JUDGE GONZALEZ ROGERS:
Let me just piggyback on a little thing you said there. For you, that works. I think it is really important to figure out who you are in your own skin and do it your way, because it’s hard to fake it forever. I mean, you can’t do that.
So part of this is figuring out how do I work. And then just being comfortable in it and going with it. And perhaps that means you sit around and have a glass of wine with your buddies. You try things out. How does this work for you or how does that work for you? When you’re in a deposition, this is what happened to me. Well, how am I going to respond? Some women will put it right back in their face. Other women will use humor. Other women will create the best absolute record so that they can go and get sanctions. There are lots of different approaches.
And the question is, what is your approach going to be? Because I think we lose women as litigators after a while because sometimes it’s just too tough. It’s too hard. And you get tired. But if you’re doing it in your own skin and getting comfortable with that, then you’ll last longer, I think.
What do you think about, in the room?
I’m one of five partners. There are no committees at my firm. And I’m very close with my partners of the same age as me. Many of you know them. They’re all male feminists. They’re great. But I think sometimes they don’t notice when there’s some subtle discriminatory behavior going on. And I can just go right out and tell them because we’re the same level and we’re the same age, and they get it. But sometimes they still don’t notice it.
I had a situation where three of us were on a case and we were co-counsel with another firm who had no antitrust experience. And so they brought us in to handle the antitrust part of the case. I wrote a brief, and they knew I wrote the brief. And we ended up winning on the papers. Our co-counsel sent an email to my male partners and copied me, and thanked them by name for doing such a great job. I was like, okay. And they always started every email, "Hello, gents." Or "Hey, boys."
And so I said to them once, "What is with these people? I just don’t get it." And they were both like, "Oh, yeah." They didn’t even notice that that was happening. And so I think that now that they know that, they will make sure it doesn’t happen again. And they will speak up on my behalf. Often other women speak up for other women in a meeting or a room, but it’s good to get the men on board, too.
JUDGE GONZALEZ ROGERS:
Let me jump over to Paula. How about bigger firms? Thoughts?
Well, Keker’s not that big.
It is important to find your own style, whatever that is. And a wide variety of styles can work. I am kind of a more in-your-face person. Just recently, some of this sort of subtle stuff where there would be some email from opposing counsel and gosh, they wouldn’t copy me. I nipped that in the bud and hit the roof and was very upset.
One time one of my counsel said, "Oh yeah, I’ll check with a guy and some others." I’m like, "No, no, no. I’m not an other. You’re not checking with the boys and an other." And so for me, I’ll go right at them.
Now, that being said, I don’t find it productive to go at them in a group. Nine times out of ten, when you bring it to someone’s attention they will be mortified. The guy who referred to me as an other thought he would die. He was just so aghast and didn’t realize that he had said that phrase, or that he didn’t mean it that way. Of course they didn’t mean it that way.
And so I do do this—it’s like, okay, let it go. The next day I say, "Hey, can I talk to you for a minute?" And just the two of us. "You said this. And do you know how I felt when you referred to me as ‘other’?" And I find a direct confrontation but one on one aside, not maybe right in the moment. And just explain. And I often explain in terms of how it made me feel. I say, "I’m sure you didn’t mean it. I’m sure it was a slip of the tongue. But wow, it felt horrible." Like, "You said this thing." Or "You did this thing." Or "There was this whole email chain and I wasn’t on it. And I’m kind of a decision-maker, so that was wrong."
And so I try to be a little more confrontational, but I try and pull people aside one on one. And I always give them the absolute benefit of the doubt. Nine times out of ten they are just going with the manners, the words we use every day, the "hey guys." Right? That’s things people say. And they don’t realize it can be exclusionary. And if you tell them, sometimes they’re just grateful. And they will work on it. So that’s my style. But I also know it’s not going to work for everyone.
Can I add something? There’s "Hey, guys." There are just some words and phrases we use. The other one I hate is, you were talking about jury addresses or like how do we put together our complicated antitrust case for a jury. And it’s like, "Oh, try to do it so you’re explaining it to your mother." I hate that one. [laughter]
And I’ve heard that so many times from so many people in different contexts. And I don’t wait to do a one-on-one. I try to just do it very nicely. I’m like, "Or your brother. Or your father. Or your grandfather." Because I’ve heard it so many times. And that one, I just do that right away. Because it’s just an expression that comes from kind of these biases. But it’s something that we just pick up.
Can I jump in, too? Something Paula said. One thing also is I think that you get left off emails and you stew about it, and then you let it go. Or you react as these people have.
But one thing I noticed, where I was once left off an email coming from outside our firm that had to with money. And I had been part of every discussion. And then the email that transmitted the final number left me off. And I was like, "Are you kidding me?" Because if you think about it—and I’m not some crazy egomaniac—but that email gets forwarded to the firm or the executive committee. That person who forwarded it, who was just as equal to me in the discussion, he now is associated with that income.
These are things that affect us. And you have to stop and go, "Why did that drive me so nuts? And I put the pieces together. And if we keep letting ourselves not get associated with greatness or goodness, and just being like, "Oh, it’s okay. I’ll just . . ."
So I actually wrote the person and said, "You will not do that again." He wasn’t even in my firm; I just did it. And I did it very nicely and politely. And one other little tip. I gave it five minutes. He wrote immediately back apologizing, because they act like they don’t realize it. And I did not respond. I don’t need to make him feel like I’m okay. So that was very empowering. You don’t have to always respond. That was like, take that away. [laughter]
JUDGE GONZALEZ ROGERS:
I want to get to mentoring. This is an important topic as well. We’re getting kind of close to the top of the hour. If each of you could give folks some mentoring tips, either on the receiving or the giving of it, depending on perspective.
I do think that distinction is important. I think it can be hard in the legal profession to get honest feedback. And I don’t mean just sort of the edits and the "You did a crappy memo" or whatever kind of nonsense. But to somebody to give you, "Yeah, you know, that didn’t really go well." Or "Yeah, that was awesome and that’s the springboard to this next thing."
And so I think it’s important to find somebody you can talk to that will give you honest feedback. And that may or may not be the person assigned at your firm to be your mentor. It may not even be anybody that much senior to you. It can just be somebody who’s in the room with you. And you can say, "How did that go?" And try and get some honest feedback.
And then again, you have to take it and be grateful for it and not feel like, oh, I’m a lousy person. Or oh, I did it all wrong. It should feel like, wow, I am really learning, and next time I’m arguing that motion, leading that trial team, negotiating that settlement, whatever it is. So you should really take the feedback as an opportunity to grow, and try and find someone who will give you that type of feedback from which you can do things. And it can be hard, but keep looking.
I had the exact same point, but from the other end. So it’s important to take feedback. But I think as women it’s also very important to give feedback. And this is something I am still struggling with and learning how to do. But give feedback in a way that’s going to be meaningful for that person, is not going to put that person on the defensive. And that takes knowing that person, having a relationship with that person, knowing what motivates that person.
The most effective feedback I have gotten has been said in a way that really appealed to me. And it was said, it was like a lightbulb went off. And I’m like, "Yeah, you’re right!" So giving feedback is really important, too, because I think often you don’t want to rock the boat, you don’t want to make this person feel bad, you don’t know how it’s going to come across, and you feel awkward, too. So, thinking about how to give feedback depending on who you’re talking to, I think it’s an important skill to develop and sort of pay it forward.
I agree with all of that. One thing I’ll add, for what it’s worth, is I really think it’s important to be a cheerleader for somebody. I think in this profession we work really hard. You get kind of down. And sometimes I’m like, I need to tell this associate—I just need to tell them how great they’re doing. I just need to give them that pep talk. Because we’re working, we’re serious, I’m giving feedback, whatever. But it’s important to take that time, I think, to be someone’s cheerleader. And I really appreciate when people do the same for me.
I’m going to leave with one phrase that I’ve said one other time at a plaintiff women’s event, but I just love it and live by it. When our firm was kind of changing of the guard, suddenly there were some younger men in charge of the firm. And at a partner meeting, one of them said, "Let’s drive it like it’s stolen." I love that phrase, because I think about like our lives are so—they’re not permanent. People are at a firm one day and then the firm’s gone, and then they’re at the government, and then they’re at a client. There’s so much change around us that if every moment you’re just like, "I’m on this platform. What can I do with it this moment? Because I might not have the platform tomorrow. Or I might not want that platform tomorrow." So what I try to do with people in my firm and outside is just say, "Just use it." You don’t know how long you’re cruising around in that car.
JUDGE GONZALEZ ROGERS:
We wanted to leave some time for questions. And then after the formal session, we’ve got time to for people to connect and talk, and build that network.
So, are there any questions? And I can repeat it. Okay, there you go. The only guy in the audience.
Hence the question. Which is, you look at the statistics, right? Seventy percent or whatever—equity partners, judges. So the question that I have is, what can men do? Because a lot of the conversation—sponsorship, mentorship—that is a very—women helping women, which is obviously critically important. But what can men who care about this as well do to help?
JUDGE GONZALEZ ROGERS:
I actually don’t think sponsorship is just women. Sponsorship is men. And I can tell you, I would not be here but for numerous mentors and sponsors of mine who were men. And they did care. And so I did get placed as the lead person in smaller litigation, and then the key person on bigger company deals. And they did let me argue. And they did send me to depositions. And they did throw me out there to learn.
And when I put my name in for judge, they were on the front making the case. Because I had taken time off to be with my kids. And I didn’t think that this was going to happen. It was a huge group, many of whom were men, making this happen. So men, I think, are critical to the process.
I’ve heard stories sometimes of guys who are really supportive of women who will— there was going to be a client pitch. And the woman totally could do it on her own. But of course the client didn’t want to just trust the woman. And so, oh my gosh, ten minutes before the meeting, he couldn’t make it. And so she had to go in on her own and sold it.
There are things that you can do, I think, that are very strategic about putting them there, and giving the client the comfort to trust your colleagues who are female. I feel very strongly about that; hence the reason I jumped in. I don’t know if any of you guys think, what else can men do?
I have a suggestion too, or a couple of thoughts. One is, things you’ve been saying and doing for 20 or 30 years, it doesn’t mean they’re okay. Just because we’ve been saying, "Hey, guys" the whole time. So, think about things.
And then I wanted to tell another story about empowerment. John Keker at Keker & Van Nest was one of my mentors. But I was a relatively young lawyer. And I was prepping the CEO—I think it was Visa. It was a massive CEO for depo, and I was doing it. But of course the client had to have him there. So I’ve done all the work. He’s letting me do it. He’s like, "Yeah, here’s Paula." And I was doing all the stuff. And at a certain point John just looks over, and he realizes my coffee cup is empty. And John Keker gets up and gets me coffee. "Paula, how do you want your coffee?" And he does this in front of the CEO, in front of a whole table full of men. And he gets me some coffee and brings it back. Because he’s signaling, I’m the assistant. I don’t need to be here. I came because the client wanted me but I am telling all of you, she’s the one you’re supposed to be paying attention to so I’m going to get her some coffee.
I’ve told John that story before. And I was very grateful for that, and that is how he acts in a lot of circumstances. He’s a great mentor to have.
And so for guys, take opportunities like that if you, first of all, notice that the woman may not be getting the respect or the attention she deserves. And then do something subtle, or sit back. The women can lean in; you sit back. So little things like that can really change the dynamics in a room, and it’s helpful.
JUDGE GONZALEZ ROGERS:
Thank you so much for this wonderful event and for the speeches. It’s really empowering.
My question is about when it comes to gender or race. When you question this type of behavior, what happens usually to the victim is they gaslight them, right? They make you question your sanity, or you weren’t assuming the best. "No, no, that’s not how it happened. This is how it happened." "No, that’s not what I meant." That’s usually the abuser’s behavior. And also, they try to use that to advance their agenda. And in that fight, powerful women have that bravery to step up and advocate for themselves. So what would you suggest for when people start gaslighting them, when they start questioning them? What do you suggest? What should be the strategy?
I think one thing, sort of like how you said you didn’t respond. Sometimes when people are acting inappropriately in a deposition, or opposing counsel on the phone, or whatever, sometimes I’ll just take a step back and be quiet and stare at them, and let them sort of ruminate in their ickiness until they realize that they’ve been inappropriate.
There was an instance recently where there were three of us on the same side on a call. And one of the men who was on our side—not at my firm but on our side—made an inappropriate remark. And he thought it was funny. And nobody laughed. We were all on his side, but we’re not going to laugh at that.
And I think when people hear that silence, it makes them realize. And not apologize. Don’t apologize when you have nothing to apologize for. Women are so calm. I do it all the time and I try so hard not to say, "We’re sorry."
JUDGE GONZALEZ ROGERS:
Sometimes you’re not going to convince everyone.
How do you handle a situation—and I think we’ve all been in this situation—where you’re in a meeting, maybe it’s two or three or even a larger group of men and you. And the eye contact is only with the men. And that recently happened to me, actually. Someone from my company was there, and I mentioned it to him. He said, "I didn’t notice that." I wonder if the panelists have any advice on how to handle this type of situation.
JUDGE GONZALEZ ROGERS:
I was going to say, I think as uncomfortable as it may feel, you have to assert yourself. If you don’t in those situations, you just sort of fade into the background more. I know that’s uncomfortable for some people, and that’s not them being authentic. But I don’t know how else to participate in a conversation that I’m excluded from other than participate. As uncomfortable as that may feel. You do have to get in the mix. One tip I heard when I was younger was step on the sentence. So someone can do it here. But if someone takes a breath, then—you jump in. And you do jump in and you engage. I mean, you do have to put yourself out there a little bit and get into the mix.