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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    June 01, 2016

    Final Thought
    Please Don’t Hug Me

    As a woman lawyer, here are a few stereotypes that make my skin crawl.

    Deanne M. Koll

    I’m generally a pretty fun-loving person. I love to laugh, I love to joke, and I love to indulge in a few libations. However, I am also a lawyer, a professional, and a mother to two young girls. The interplay between all these things creates a dynamic that is sometimes misunderstood in my male-dominated work environment.

    Deanne M. KollDeanne M. Koll, William Mitchell 2006, is an attorney and shareholder with Bakke Norman S.C., with offices in Menomonie and New Richmond, Wis.

    I feel some responsibility to the rest of my lawyer-gals out there to set the record straight on some things that really make my skin crawl. Here is the short-list of things you should avoid when you meet me or anyone like me:

    Don’t Hug Me. I don’t think that men ever have that awkward moment when one person puts out her hand to shake in greeting and the other goes in for the hug. It happens to me at least five times a week. Am I really that huggable? I doubt it.

    I think there’s something that tells men that if we’re friends, we can no longer have a vigorous handshake and a large smile to greet each other but must instead have an awkward hug. Don’t do it. Unless we’re truly friends outside of the profession, please, spare us both the embarrassment and simply put out your hand to shake.

    Don’t Call Me “Young Lady.” I realize that – to the majority of you – I’m young. But, I’m going on 10 years in private practice, and I’ve been around the block. I’m not your daughter, your granddaughter, or your nanny. I’m a professional and a colleague. Please treat me like one. The term “young lady” is condescending and makes you look like a jerk. Maybe you are, but don’t show all your cards right away.

    Tell Us!

    Tell us your story: What stereotypes make your skin crawl? Comments below or email us at

    Don’t Question My Dedication to Work, Just Because I Have a Family. I don’t have a stay-at-home spouse. In fact, I’m the lead parent. But, that doesn’t mean that I still don’t make sacrifices for my firm. I had a client once who questioned my dedication to his file when I called him during my kids’ naptime, on my cell phone, from home because I had to leave work early because of sick kids. Can you imagine what it took for me to not jump through the phone and strangle him? I had worked on his brief all evening and was doing final tweaks when he alleged my divided dedication.

    The same goes to you bosses: just because a parent has to work an odd schedule to accommodate family issues does not mean the person is not dedicated to work. Stop sending signals that this is the case. You will lose good employees.

    Just because a parent has to work an odd schedule to accommodate family issues does not mean the person is not dedicated to work.

    Don’t Refer to Every Strong-minded Woman Lawyer as a B*tch. I’ve heard it from co-workers, from opposing attorneys, and from clients. When you (men and women) refer to a dominant woman lawyer as a b*tch, you wrongfully engrain the stereotype that women are to be only modest and demure. To quote Barbara Walters: “if it’s a woman, it’s ‘caustic’; if it’s a man, it’s ‘authoritative.’” Let us break this typecast.

    Now that you know what to avoid, we can have a hug.

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