Women Judges: Tips from the Bench

On October 19, 2016, the ACBA hosted an MCLE in which four women judges (Judges Winifred Smith, Ioana Petrou, and Tara Flanagan of the Alameda County Superior Court, and Hon. Lynn Duryee (Ret.), formerly of the Marin County Superior Court, and now with JAMS) shared their perspectives and judicial tips on women lawyers and litigation. As a former litigator, I found their comments fascinating. This panel inspired the following three-part series on Tips From the Bench. Here are some of the points that they made, and issues they raised. 

PART I: Judical Tips

Writing

Be concise. If you can say it in 10 pages, you can say it in 5 pages. There’s never been a motion that was too short. A good way to shorten your motion is to start with the “elevator pitch” of what you want and what the case is about, and go from there. Take the writing seriously, though – judges do read everything that you write.

Learn from your colleagues

Go to court as often as possible, you can learn a lot by observing your colleagues. Make sure you introduce yourself to judges if you sit in, tell them you are watching in order to learn. This gives you a great “in” and they are likely to remember your initiative.

Stay engaged with an organization that exposes you to lots of lawyers. Other attorneys can be great support. Use these connections to find something you love in the profession and do that. Don’t burn out on something you’re not passionate about! To learn more about how you can be more involved in the ACBA, check out our website: www.acbanet.org.

Mentors

Find a mentor. Right now – we’ll wait. But seriously, a good mentor can be there to provide advice on a tricky case, give examples of problems they’ve encountered, and open doors to new opportunities. If you need help finding a mentor, the ACBA can help! Our Barristers Mentorship Program makes pairings twice a year. Contact Hadassah Hayashi at Hadassah@acbanet.org for more information.

Keep an eye out for the second and third parts of the Tips From the Bench Series: Presentation in Court, and How to Get Settlements.

Tiela Chalmers is the CEO and General Counsel of the Alameda County Bar Association the Volunteer Legal Services Corporation. Tiela has been a consultant in the fields of legal services and pro bono. Prior to that she was the Executive Director of Volunteer Legal Services Program (now JDC) in San Francisco. Tiela started her career as an attorney at Farella, Braun + Martel in San Francisco.