another day, another sexual harasser. A/K/A call us

Crumiller Badge Image I knew last Monday was going to be a super long day. I had personal training at 8:30 am, the first of many in-office meetings at 10 am, tons of work to do all day, and then choir rehearsal from 7:30 to 10 pm. I had a rare commute to myself (usually I drop off one of my two girls) and I was taking the time to try to focus and rally myself. “You can do it!” I was saying to myself, probably listening to Lizzo. I had transferred from the F to the A/C when a guy got on the train next to me. I was standing near the doors, and he got on next to me at the doors. He was yelling and obviously unhinged – ok fine. But he immediately turned toward me staring directly at me. I actually don’t remember what he was yelling but it involved accusations of me being a “bitch”, his desire to “rape” (me?), yelling about “fucking”, and grabbing his junk under his pants.  He was about 2-3 feet away from me. I froze in my spot. I did not move or blink, other than to close my eyes, and think calm thoughts until the next stop, planning to switch cars at the next stop. But High Street to Fulton is super long! It felt like forever. And when I moved to get off, he did the same. So then I stayed in place, which he did too. I finally darted off and ran into the other car. – Read More “another day, another sexual harasser. A/K/A call us”

Spotlight On: Genesis Fisher

Genesis Fisher When I graduated from NYU Law twelve years ago, I could not possibly have imagined how beautiful and resilient the friendships I formed would become, and what an important part of my life they would be.  (That handsome man in my lawyering section – how could I have guessed we would one day get married and have two children together??)  But one of my great joys has been welcoming my friend and brilliant colleague, Genesis Fisher, to the world of entrepreneurship this year. Genesis and I became friends through the public-interest crowd and a capital defense fellowship we were fortunate enough to take together, helmed by the brilliant, esteemed, and preternaturally kind Tony Amsterdam.  Genesis went on to become a public defender, as many of us did.  Through the years she spent defending her clients in Brooklyn, she developed a thick skin, the lawyer version of street smarts (court smarts?), and amazing litigation skills.  Talking to Genesis about our jobs, she was never one of those jerks who sat around complaining about her clients or adversaries.  She was always thoughtful, always observing, analyzing, and listening.  She took the time and energy to really understand where her clients were coming from. BTW, she’s also super fun, and definitely way cooler than me.  One time she and some other friends were over at my place, and we were having a dance party with my daughter Zohra (Sadia wasn’t born yet).  I noticed Zohra quietly watching Genesis’s moves and then going off into the corner by herself to practice them.  – Read More “Spotlight On: Genesis Fisher”

Catching up on 2018 – and What’s to Come!

2018 Sparklers This morning, I took a moment to pause and reflect on my life as it stands.  When I think about what’s most important, of course, I think of my family first (Zohra is six now!  and Sadia is three!).  But loving them, and providing for them, comes pretty easily.  Naturally, they are irascible at times, but by and large they are kindhearted, curious, creative, and boundlessly energetic.  “Children strive lifeward”, as Dr. Ned Hallowell – my favorite author on children – likes to say. But anyway, I digress. The harder part about parenting is the responsibility I feel to show them what it means to make the most of my potential and to make the difference I want to see in the world.  It’s been almost three years since I created my law firm dedicated to fighting gender and pregnancy discrimination in the workplace and fighting for the rights of NYC tenants.  Am I proud?  Eff yeah.  We have done incredible work; we’ve helped dozens and dozens of people get to a better place in their lives, and we’re only getting started. My favorite part about thinking about my law firm is the security I feel in the knowledge that every single person on my team has a genuine desire, first and foremost, to help our clients.  As employment and L&T litigators, we face difficult situations every day.  Worse, we are all a bunch of quick-witted hotheads with strong opinions about virtually everything, and we all like to argue.  But I never doubt, for even a second, that each person on my team has our clients’ best interests in mind.  – Read More “Catching up on 2018 – and What’s to Come!”

Pregnancy Discrimination Around the World: Mandatory Pregnancy Tests??

medical test Just last month, a City College in the Phillippines issued a policy requiring all female dentistry, nursing, and pharmacy students to undergo pregnancy tests.  If the test comes back positive, the student may be prohibited from certain classes.  In the memo announcing the policy, the school requested that the deans from each school provide a list of female students, and noted the cost of the test would be added to those students’ fees. The  Gabriela Women’s Party released a powerful statement condemning the policy as discriminatory. The school, of course, defended its policy by saying it was designed to protect the students.  Nobody wants to endanger unborn children.  So what’s the harm? Remember that Women are Human Beings My own nifty #lifehack for evaluating whether a policy is discriminatory is to remember that women are human beings.  Pretend for just a moment that pregnant women aren’t just vessels or incubators.  Remember for a moment that over 90% of women are sexually active, and that only misogynists think women should be punished for sex.  Make a wild guesstimate as to how many surprise pregnancies during college are wanted. A woman who has a wanted pregnancy has every right to protect her pregnancy and to make informed choices about the timing of her courseload.  If we remember that women are people, we can assume that a pregnant woman is logically concerned about the health of her unborn child and will take all appropriate measures to protect it.  We don’t need paternalistic laws mandating this behavior as though the pregnant woman were a petulant child in need of guidance and structure from the wise government bureaucrats. – Read More “Pregnancy Discrimination Around the World: Mandatory Pregnancy Tests??”

Why Having ADD Makes Me a Great Attorney

Gavel Originality.  Creativity.  Charisma.  Energy.  Liveliness.  An unusual sense of humor.  Areas of intellectual brilliance.  Spunk. About 90% of the compliments I receive mention these qualities.  And it’s no coincidence that these are the traits common to those with ADD. ADD (aka ADHD – the terms are interchangeable) is highly misunderstood.  Some people might ask, why on earth would I want an attorney who is unable to focus, unable to remember anything, hyper-fidgety, and always distracted?  Truly, you wouldn’t want that.  But that’s not really what ADD is. In fact, ADD is a collection of traits that makes me an excellent attorney.  Here’s the real truth about those of us gifted with ADD. We think super fast. The main difference between the ADD brain and the regular brain is speed.  People often come into my office with a large pile of papers and are astonished at the speed with which I immediately identify and hone in on the key facts and the important issues.  For us, our brains work at a rapid fire pace; ADD is sometimes described as like having a race car brain. Fast thinking is the ultimate trial attorney skill.  I can’t tell you how important it is, when your mind is racing for an objection, when you’re analyzing a direct examination and figuring out which questions to ask on cross, when a judge asks you a question and you have to come up with reasoning on the fly that is logical and legally sound, not to be the one who is left stammering and stuttering. – Read More “Why Having ADD Makes Me a Great Attorney”

How to Negotiate With Your Jerk Boss: A Litigator’s Guide From the Trenches (Part I)

checklist Every woman who strives for success, to attain the best for herself and her family if she has one, must negotiate at some point in her life. Negotiation is scary and unpleasant for many, because it involves confrontation, and many people haven’t developed the skills yet to handle confrontation without stress. Negotiation with your boss is even worse: (A) you’re in the position of lesser power, and (B) you may feel like your ego is on the line. Negotiating with your boss is hard for everyone, but especially for women. Women who correctly assess their own worth, and make demands accordingly, are harshly evaluated. It’s not our place; we should be nicer (quieter); we should demand less; we’re less important, less valuable, less deserving. You know that is false, and so do I. But we also live in the real world and so, as savvy negotiators, we’re going to deftly incorporate navigating this bullshit to all the other stuff we have to do to achieve success. More money, more leave time, better benefits, more flexibility: it is there for you if you’ve done the preparation and you have the fortitude to demand it. To get the results you want, you need to engage your heart, your brain, your muscles, AND your steel ovaries. Ready? STEP ONE: DECIDE WHY. Step one is the “heart” step. Whether you want more money, time off, or something else, don’t start with figuring out the details. Figure out why this is important to you. Do you feel undervalued and it’s negatively impacting your self-worth? – Read More “How to Negotiate With Your Jerk Boss: A Litigator’s Guide From the Trenches (Part I)”

Five Reasons Why Experience Matters

Lease As I round the end of my first decade of practice, I recently had occasion to reminisce about my very first trial in March 2008. Remembering the stress and anxiety is fun in retrospect, although when you’re new to trials, the experience is somewhat petrifying. Thinking back to my early days as a trial attorney makes me come to appreciate the importance of the skills you learn over time that come only with experience. Here are five reasons why it’s important to have an experienced trial attorney on your team when you are fighting to get the result you want, whether you’re prosecuting or defending a case. (1) More forceful negotiating. Though they would never admit it, most attorneys want to avoid trial if at all possible. It is time consuming, tiring, and requires a lot of focus. You’ll look like an idiot if you’re not familiar with the facts of the case and the rules of evidence. While most attorneys want to avoid trial, this motivator becomes much stronger for the inexperienced practitioner, whose negotiations will inevitably be impacted. I usually want to avoid trial too, if only because it’s expensive for my clients. But I always visualize how a trial is likely to go very early on in the case. If you are “trial ready”, even just mentally, you can’t help but advocate more forcefully for your client. (2) Maintaining clearer focus on the big picture. A big part of what I do is winnowing down information. 30 minutes of testimony are better than three hours. – Read More “Five Reasons Why Experience Matters”

Utah v Streiff: A Historic Dissent

Although Crumiller P.C. doesn’t focus on issues of race specifically, I am a firm believer in the necessity of fighting racism in achieving equality for all. While we focus on issues of family rights – pregnancy discrimination, maternity and paternity leave – which are not specifically racial issues, we find that, as in all areas, people of color suffer disproportionately from harsh treatment and negative stereotypes, along with the many structural barriers to equality. I believe white people have a special responsibility to speak up about these issues. To that end, and in honor of her 62nd birthday on Saturday, I step back for a minute this week to examine Sonia Sotomayor’s historic dissent in Utah v. Streiff, 579 U.S. ___ (2016), a case which serves as an important microcosm for the ways in which racial injustice is viewed and addressed in our society. In this case, a police officer stopped someone walking down the street, who had been seen emerging from a house in which drug activity was suspected. The stop itself was without reasonable suspicion, and importantly, the State conceded that. The officer then ran a search and found an outstanding arrest warrant. With the warrant as justification, the officer searched the man, and found drugs. the Court faced the issue whether evidence obtained by police at an illegal stop could be used against the defendant if, after the stop, an outstanding arrest warrant was discovered. Generally, such evidence is inadmissible under the age-old “exclusionary rule” which provides that “fruit of the poisonous tree” – evidence obtained illegally – cannot be used against a person. – Read More “Utah v Streiff: A Historic Dissent”