Christine Schneider
8 min readJan 18, 2018

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Women Lawyers: If We Are Nice, Please Don’t Take It Personally.

“Um, you get a weird voice when you talk about law.”

“Why are female lawyers such bitches?”

“Those lady lawyers* are tough and kind of mean.”

We certainly don’t start out mean. We start out nice. But nice is exhaustible. Nice might be natural, but when nice is abused, it gives way to something different.

Nice is often supplanted by the female lawyer voice. Hillary Clinton has it. Michelle Obama has it. Keisha Lance Bottoms has it. It is not high-pitched. It is not quiet.

The female lawyer voice is practical and forceful. It’s chiseled by a few early years of being spoken over, and when it emerges, it often speaks over others. It is connected to a fast-thinking brain, and the brain knows that she who hesitates is lost. So the female lawyer voice often talks first, and keeps talking. It must compensate for natural qualities of some female voices that are not at all attributes when on conference calls with men.

Often, the female lawyer voice is like armor.

*****

In 1988, my standing as first in my class resulted in a great summer clerkship at one of the major law firms. I was one of a handful of first year summer law clerks. I went in polished, articulate, confident. But more importantly, I went in friendly, as a summer clerkship is a summer-long job interview for a permanent position at a law firm.

I went in 25 years old, and nice.

But in the 80s and 90s, Big Law was a hypersexualized, male-dominated environment. From a summer associate retreat where a wet t-shirt contest was sidelined for a bikini contest to raucous summer associate events, where male attorneys initiated drunken pairings with female summer associates, it was no holds-barred.

We had a beautiful group of great legal minds working and playing together in the summer of 1988. When I heard about the First Amendment Tour hosted by my firm, I remember feeling excluded, and embarrassed. How could the firm be sponsoring this event — a tour of the notorious Atlanta strip clubs? And how could it be that only the male members of the summer class were invited to a firm-sponsored event?

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Christine Schneider

Atlanta, Georgia. Books, cocktails, theatre, art, writing, music, real estate, but not always in that order. Vice Chair of Board of Actor’s Express Theatre.