As a Federal District Court judge in New York, I often encountered this courtroom scene: A senior partner in a large law firm would be arguing a motion. I would ask a tough question. He (and it was usually a man) would turn to the young lawyer seated next to him (often a woman). After he conferred with her repeatedly, I would ask myself why she wasn’t doing the arguing, since she knew the case cold.
In the 22 years I spent on the federal bench before stepping down last year, not much changed when it came to listening to lawyers. The talking was almost always done by white men. Women often sat at counsel table, but were usually junior and silent. It was a rare day when a woman had a lead role — even though women have made up about half of law school graduates since the early 1990s.
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