Women Judges Advise, “Woman Up”

by Angela N. Johnson

Lose the "bow ties to look like men."

According to a panel of women judges at the ABA’s Women in Law Leadership Academy in May 2010, one of the distinctions between men and women lawyers is that “women in general lack the confidence that men seem to have in the courtroom” (Passarella 2010).  U.S. District Judge Norma Shapiro advised the group of 500 attendees that women must exude confidence even if it means faking it.  Shapiro further said that “if the attorney doesn’t have confidence in herself, neither will the judge or jury” This means women litigators must take any trace of fear out of their voices and speak so they can be heard, “You have to ‘woman up’ when those moments happen”said U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of Texas Barbara M.G. Lynn.

Former New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye recalled “enduring” 21 years of private practice before taking the bench.  According to Judge Kaye, the secret is “agonizing privately.”

As far as appropriate courtroom attire for women lawyers, the panelists unanimously agreed that women often go wrong with clothing that is too short or too low cut, “The goal isn’t to be noticed by your outfit but for your argument” said Judge Lynn.  But it doesn’t have to be like the days when “women would wear these bow ties to try to look like men” adds moderator Fernande “Nan” Duffy, an associate justice of the Massachusetts Appeals Court.

Source Citation: Passarella, Gina. “Judges Give Perspective on Female Litigators.” The Legal Intelligencer, May 3, 2010.

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