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10 Male Behaviors that Drive Female Lawyers Crazy

Vivia Chen

July 26, 2016


Remember the advice I passed on to you ladies about how to be assertive, yet lovable? Well, it provoked a number of responses from readers (O.K., female readers). In a nutshell, some women said they're sick and tired about getting schooled on how they should behave.

"What about the men? asked a reader. A former associate at an Am Law 100 firm, emailed me: "I have been practicing for 36 years and have been reading this drivel about how women should behave for 40 years. It's time for male lawyers to behave professionally also."

She's absolutely correct. Why should the onus be on women to contort themselves to fit into a antiquated work culture so that men won't feel threatened or uncomfortable? Really, is it too much to ask—50 years after the modern women's movement—that men meet us at least half-way?

To help speed things along, let's give men a crash course on how they should behave. I asked a bunch of female lawyers about what bugs them in their dealings with male bosses and colleagues—and here's the top 10 things of what not to do:

1. Don’t sit back with your legs spread wide open when meeting with female attorneys.
2. Don’t start every meeting with a discussion about sports.
3. Don’t make comments about a female colleague’s looks, hair, blouse, shoes, etc. that you wouldn’t make about a male colleague.
4. Don’t talk about how “likable” or “unlikable” a female adversary is. (Or what an “unpleasant” face she has; see rule number 3.)
5. Don’t tell a female colleague to “tone it down” or otherwise complain about her “tone.”
6. Don’t take credit for a woman’s idea, particularly after dismissing it initially.
7. Don’t be dismissive of a woman’s idea in the first place.
8. Don’t equate a female lawyer with your wife or daughter when discussing career paths.
9. Don’t drink heavily at business functions and don’t judge women who prefer not to drink heavily or at all.
10. Don’t make sexually laden comments to a female colleague, even if you’re not trying to hit on her. Also, don’t hit on her. (And please don’t tell us about your sexual exploits; they’re boring.)

If you find all this pretty obvious or sensible, I say good for you. Even if you're committing some of these offenses, at least you're corrigible. But if you're puzzled by anything on this list or find it onerous, ridiculous or too "politically correct" (to borrow Donald Trump's term when he wants to justify bad behavior), then the sexes might be much further apart than I thought.

In any case, tell me what you really think.

Contact Vivia Chen at vchen@alm.com. On Twitter: @lawcareerist


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Both sides are correct. Male culture and female culture are different (naturally). Personally, I, a male, hate sports talk, every much as I despise celebrity and entertainment talk.

Empiricism leads to harmony; "political correctness" (fallacious theories) leads to confusion and friction.

Quite reasonable rules, actually, and mostly no-brainers. Years ago, I had the honor to promote the first woman to run a Coke bottling division in the US. At a dinner meeting of all the top managers I attended, she said we could talk about anything at all at the table except business and sports. The men found themselves speechless for about 10 miinutes until they started learning about each other. I loved it. It was a real management Home Run - uhh, I mean, clever tactic.

By my lights, the list is in reverse order of importance -- hope that was your intent. Frankly, Rules 1 and 2 don't bother me that much but maybe I'm numb to it by now!

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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