So yesterday at my hearing, when I finally found the place it was being held, an older man spotted me as I was attempting to figure out how to get my luggage cart with two full boxes of documents down a narrow flight of stairs (no elevator – public hearing – think of access much? Who the hell picked this place?).  He says, “Are you the stenographer?” To which I politely reply, no, I am the attorney for thus & so.  He introduces himself as one of the hearing board panelists.

This is not the first time this has happened.  Nor will it be the last.  When I mentioned this to mr. jolt in an aside last evening he was mildly surprised.  He asked if it had ever happened before.  I told him similar things had occurred many times although I couldn’t recall a specific instance.  

I couldn’t recall a specific instance, in part, because this is a common event as a female lawyer, even in this day and age.  Women attorneys are still not the norm, rather we are assumed to be filling some subordinate role whether it be stenographer, paralegal, or what have you.*  This is probably particularly true here in a state more conservative than where I first entered the profession.

And, at the moment, as irritated as I was at the question – he never would have asked that question of a guy – I could not show it.  The question came from one of the people who would be deciding the case either in favor of or against my client.  So I smiled (that ultimate female response of yes, I’m wearing a pantsuit and have a law degree, but really, I’m a very nice person, not one of those scary lady attorneys) and shook hands and lugged my boxes down the stairs.

I’m not even sure where to begin describing my reaction to this exchange.  Resignation? Chagrin? A lot of press has been given over the last few days to women leaving the profession, which focuses mainly on the hours and difficulties of managing childcare issues, all of which I hope to post about at some point.  At the moment, that topic is very draining to think about since I am one of many who chose to step off the partnership track of private practice and my reasons are complex, but inevitably rely greatly on the factors listed in the article.

Nonetheless, the daily digs, whether legal-oriented or just the usual markings of privilege in any workplace wear you down bit by bit and should not be discounted when considering why women leave the legal profession, or any male dominated profession.

*To be clear, both of those positions are critical to attorneys & the various legal systems and should not be undervalued, but that’s not the point of this post.

UPDATE: My sense of chagrin stems from not the comment itself (hello clueless older man, they let ladies in now, you doofus) but the fact that I could not respond in any fashion that I would have liked because of the power differential: me, supplicant on behalf of my client; he, “wise” old man who gets to sit on these panels a couple of times a month to perk up his pension and his retired life.   I’m just really, really tired of making excuses in my head for these old guys who remain totally oblivious to women in the profession (the younger guys I don’t make excuses for, they’re just idjuts who should know better, the fuckers).

Update 2: And of course, I’ve been thinking of those signifier posts by AWB and thinking: “Dude, I was wearing a black pinstriped suit, not a short sleeved suit with a fluffy blouse.”  Needless to say, when the stenographer appeared, she was in a pastel outfit.  I believe it may have had flowers on it.

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