When I saw the title of the recent article in The Atlantic by Lara Bazelon, “What It Takes To Be a Trial Lawyer, If You’re Not a Man,” I couldn’t wait to read it. I’m a trial lawyer. I’m also a woman. Everyone loves to read about themselves, right?
Bravo to Bazelon for taking on a tough and seldom-covered topic.
My excitement, however, turned to dismay when I read the article. Bazelon’s thesis is that “the courtroom [is] merely another place where the advancement of women has been checked.”
That hasn’t been my experience, and I’ve tried cases across the country for the last 15 or so years. I’ve found courtrooms to be the great equalizer.
Do Clothes Matter?
Bazelon’s first argument is that female trial lawyers’ clothing is an issue. She posits:
Women’s clothing choices, by contrast [to men’s], were the subject of intense scrutiny from judges, clerks, marshals, jurors, other lawyers, witnesses, and clients. I had to be attractive, but not in a provocative way.
Every day I’m in trial, I wake up, pick either a dull dress and jacket or dull pants and a jacket, and start worrying about the stuff that really matters like my examinations. The only comment I ever received on my clothing was from one client who thought my clothing choices were “too boring” and urged me to wear some bright colors. I didn’t take offense, and I didn’t change my wardrobe to suit him.
We won the trial.