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Women Can Lead Trials With High Emotional Intelligence

By William Vogeler, Esq. on September 18, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

People still talk about the legacy of Ellen Pao's high-profile sex discrimination case in the Silicon Valley -- even though she lost several years ago.

Lynne Hermle, who led a team of mostly women defense lawyers, won the case. But the value of the "Pao Effect" -- which exposed a male-dominated culture in tech companies -- gives Hermle and other women lawyers reasons to talk about it still.

"Not many women lead high-profile jury trials and all-female teams are very rare," she says. "Regrettably, this is still news."

Emotional Intelligence

Recent studies show that men are lead counsel 76 percent of the time in civil cases. In criminal cases, they take the first chair 79 percent of the time.

Hermle, a partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, said she would want a woman as lead counsel. She said women have certain advantages, including a high emotional intelligence.

"Women trial lawyers are particularly conscious of whether they are connecting and building credibility with a jury," she said for Business Insider. "This keen Emotional Intelligence Quotient allows the lawyer to understand when a point has been made, even subtly, and when reinforcement is necessary."

For example, she say, it's a quality that helps women trial lawyers decide how far to push in cross examination. Being overly aggressive can backfire, she says.

"Mansfield Rule"

Many law firms are taking women lawyers more seriously as lead counsel. In a commitment to diversity in leadership, 44 firms have adopted a version of football's Rooney Rule: let more women run the team.

In the legal profession, it is called the Mansfield Rule after Arabella Mansfield. She was the first woman admitted to practice in the United States.

"It has been demonstrated again and again that diverse teams make better decisions," said Fenwick & West managing partner Kathryn Fritz in a statement to The American Lawyer. "While we aspire to create those teams everywhere, including and especially in leadership, it is also well documented that unconscious bias clouds our best intentions."

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