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  • InsideTrack
  • May 01, 2019

    #MeToo: Changing the Legal Culture

    May 1, 2019 – Everyone has a role to play in eliminating sexual harassment from the workplace, and men play an important role as allies in changing the culture, according to panelists at a recent program discussing issues facing women in the legal profession.

    “I think the role of men on these topics cannot be overstated,” said attorney Nicole Marklein Bacher, a program panelist at the recent Tenth Annual Young Lawyers Conference, hosted by the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Young Lawyers Division (YLD).

    At the YLD program, panelist Heather Nelson asked women attorneys in the audience to raise their hand if they’ve been mistaken for a court reporter or support staff.

    “This being a younger group than other panels I've given on this topic, I was really thinking, ‘we're going to have many fewer hands than I've seen before with older groups,’” Nelson said. “There were hands in the air across the board, and it was kind of sad. It's a culture that's not new, but I think we're just finally becoming empowered to call it out and talk about it and have conversations about it.”

    Attorney Frederick Strampe, another panelist, said everyone has a role to play in changing the culture that surrounds sexual harassment in the legal profession.

    “Everyone has a role in creating a culture where everyone feels safe, everyone feels valued, and people don't have to tolerate any type of abuse or harassment,” he said.

    Strampe said everyone can recognize physical touching or inappropriate physical contact as inappropriate and intervene to stop it from happening again.

    “The much harder situations are the subtle harassment or the subtle innuendos,” Strampe said. “Those types of situations are where I think males can be more effective and more impactful” in telling other male lawyers that such comments are not welcome.

    That is, the backlash can be harsher for women who speak up on what they perceive to be improper behavior or comments, and men can be allies in changing the culture.

    “It's not a black and white issue,” said Nelson. She noted common defenses – ‘I was kidding’ or ‘can’t you take a compliment’ – don’t make inappropriate comments okay, and women are often worried about the ramifications of speaking up.

    “The culture is not going to change unless it starts with men,” said Nelson. “They're the allies we need. We have a lot of them, and we're very aware of that, very happy about that. The purpose of continuing the conversation is to grow more and more of them.”

    Learning More About Improving Diversity

    Rekha ChiruvoluJoin Rekha Chiruvolu, director of diversity and inclusion at Nixon Peabody, Los Angeles, and learn the best practices for developing and implementing a successful diversity and inclusion strategy. She is a featured speaker for the State Bar of Wisconsin 2019 Annual Meeting & Conference in June. Diversity & Inclusion Oversight Committee members Hon. Carl Ashley, Milwaukee County Circuit Court, and Rebecca Scheller, U.W. Law School, will join the discussion.

    What: “Improving Diversity and Inclusion in the #MeToo Era”

    When: Thursday, June 13, 3-4:15 p.m.

    Where: Hyatt Regency/KI Convention Center, Green Bay

    Sponsor: Diversity & Inclusion Oversight Committee

    To register:

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