Law360, New York (March 21, 2014, 12:25 PM ET) -- Patricia L. Glaser is a partner in Glaser Weil Fink Jacobs Howard Avchen & Shapiro LLP's Los Angeles office and chairwoman of the firm's litigation department. She is a business trial lawyer with a wide-ranging practice. She provides general legal advice to publicly and privately held companies in a variety of areas, including real estate, entertainment, banking and securities. She is also actively involved in a number of community and philanthropic endeavors, perhaps most prominently the American Friends of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Los Angeles Music Center Theatre Group.
In 1988, after 15 years practicing at one firm, she joined a group of colleagues to form the firm that is now known as Glaser Weil.
Q: How did you break into what many consider to be an old boys’ network?
A: I was lucky because it was a lot of those “old boys” who opened up many doors for me. I guess I just worked for the right people at the right time early in my career. The clearest example of this was Greg Bautzer, a very important partner in my first firm. He was a real “man’s man” who, on one level, treated women very differently than men, but was someone who was fabulous to practice law with. After working with him for a while as a pretty junior attorney, he insisted on including me in meetings with his circle of friends and clients. When I walked into the office, he would stand up (as he did whenever a woman entered), introduce me and say: “This is Patty. She’s my lawyer ... she should be yours.” Of course, I should also add that many of the men in the firm in those early years had been conditioned by the no-nonsense presence of Mariana Pfaelzer, now a federal judge, who — even then — had been a very important, influential litigator in the firm for years.
Q: What are the challenges of being a woman at a senior level within a law firm?
A: Probably most importantly, I feel I have a responsibility, over and above my male counterparts, to ensure that the women in my firm are working in an atmosphere that is free of any kind of sexism — real or perceived. Whether it’s having zero tolerance for inappropriate conduct or just creating a general environment where people are able to achieve their potential without being held back because of gender, it is my responsibility to make sure everyone has an equal opportunity to be successful.
Q: Describe a time you encountered sexism in your career and tell us how you handled it.
A: It was during my second or third year as an associate when I had gone to New York on a case with a man who happened to be a significant client of the law firm. When we arrived at the hotel, he made it clear that he preferred that we share a room. The added difficulty that I would have to focus on more than just being a good lawyer over the next few days initially angered me, but I had to decide very quickly how to deal with the immediate situation. The times were different then — I think a young female associate today faced with the same situation might handle it differently — so I simply told him that, while I was flattered, I was going to say, “No, thank you.” I must have handled it well, as I continued to have a wonderful working relationship with him then, and since — but it certainly made the entire trip more difficult for me.
Another instance was during my first jury trial. The judge was very patronizing to me in ways that he was not to the male attorneys and, in what I then saw was in the interest of not jeopardizing my client’s case, I didn’t push back in fashion. It was very disappointing to me at the time, and even today I am unhappy with myself for not standing up to him. I made a promise to myself to never let that happen again.
Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring female attorney?
A: I’d give an aspiring female attorney the same advice I’d give an aspiring male attorney: Work hard. Practicing law is about the cases and the clients — focus on them and always, always be prepared. The rest will fall into place.
Q: What advice would you give to a law firm looking to increase the number of women in its partner ranks?
A: Law firms need to be more flexible with their expectations if they want to attract and retain the best female lawyers. My firm has found that, by making accommodations for lawyers with young children, it is rewarded with hard-working, bright and talented lawyers. They should not be penalized just because they have commitments outside the office. Hopefully, these women will chose to keep working, and will be my partners someday.
Q: Outside your firm, name an attorney you admire and tell us why.
A: Aharon Barak, former president of the Supreme Court of Israel and now a professor and lecturer of law at various universities all over the world, is a real beacon for me. He exemplifies what it means to think and work and struggle for what is right, not what is expedient or popular. In a sense, he is a quintessential Jewish humanist — leading the way down an unmarked path to basic human rights, armed only with his own intellect and an unfailing moral compass.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or Portfolio Media Inc., or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.
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