American Bar Association 

It’s the year 2000 and I am an eager, young attorney fresh out of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, now working for a prominent criminal defense attorney. I am in federal court in the Southern District of New York representing my client at his arraignment. He, along with eight of his alleged co-conspirators, are accused of selling a controlled substance. As I look around the courtroom, there is no question that I am the odd “man” out. Specifically, the eight attorneys representing the other defendants are all white men of the same age group (over the age of fifty). This experience was unlike the DA’s office where the ratio of male to female lawyers (including prosecutors and legal aid attorneys/public defenders alike) was roughly 50/50. As a result, I remember feeling quite intimidated. Nonetheless, I acted like I belonged, even seeking bail at my client’s request, knowing that the request would be denied (I could feel the eye rolls behind me by the other lawyers as I made the request). However the denial of bail is not what sticks with me (nor the eye rolls), but rather the composition of the attorneys in the courtroom. Why was I the only woman – over or under the age of 50 – there that day? And this is just one extreme example of many since my foray into the private sector where I have been the only women among a field of men in a courtroom/hearing room. Why the disparity?

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