Civility

Reimagining Law: Workplace Equality in the Legal Profession (Part 1)

In this episode of Reimagining Law, we talk to Lauren Tuckey, president of the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois (WBAI), and Katie Liss, Assistant Dean of Law Career Services and Executive Director of the Schiller DuCanto & Fleck Family Law Center at DePaul University College of Law and founder and chair of the CBA’s Sexual Harassment Prevention Task Force.

In Part 1 of this insightful conversation, Lauren and Katie discuss how women are dealing with sexist behavior in the workplace, the WBAI’s push to ensure family paid leave in Illinois, and the work their organizations are doing to create a positive, supportive culture for women in law.

Check out Part 2 of this series here: www.2civility.org/reimagining-law-embracing-the-power-of-no-part-2.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay up to date on new episodes of Reimagining Law!

Timestamps

00:00:58 Data from our Survey on Professionalism of Illinois attorneys found an almost 10% increase in the number of respondents who said they had been the target of sexist comments in 2021 vs. in 2014. How has the environment for recognizing and reporting sexist behavior changed?

00:01:44 41% of practitioners who responded said their workplace doesn’t conduct sexual harassment training or that they were unaware if their workplace conducts these trainings. How can organizations improve?

00:03:11 The Women’s Bar Association of Illinois is working to ensure paid family leave in Illinois. Can you talk a little bit about this and why it’s important for legal professionals?

00:05:55 Can you talk about the work of the CBA’s Sexual Harassment Prevention Task Force [and FLASH]?

Related Resources

About Lauren Tuckey

Lauren is the President of Women’s Bar Association of Illinois, where she has supported this bar year’s theme of “lifting while climbing” by leading programs that provide women the opportunity to support each other while working on their own professional development.

Lauren has previously served as a corporate litigator at BatesCarey LLP, handling some of the firm’s most complex insurance coverage and subrogation disputes in courts across the country.

Outside of the courtroom, Lauren serves as secretary of the Illinois Bar Foundation and a pro bono Guardian Ad Litem for Chicago Volunteer Legal Services. Lauren’s exceptional insurance work and involvement in various legal organizations has led to her recognition as a Rising Star in Illinois by Super Lawyers.

About Katie Liss

Kathryn C. Liss (Katie) is the Assistant Dean of Law Career Services and Executive Director of the Schiller DuCanto & Fleck Family Law Center at DePaul University College of Law. Before DePaul, Katie practiced solely in domestic relations for over 10 years.

Katie is active in professional organizations that support causes she cares about, including the Chicago Bar Association (secretary, 2021-present; board member, 2018-present; co-chair of the Alliance for Women, 2021-present; founder and chair of the Sexual Harassment Prevention Task Force, 2020-present; CBA Record editorial board, 2018-present; founder and past-chair of the Anti-Human Trafficking Committee, 2017-present; and past-chair of the Young Lawyers Section, 2016-2017); Force of Lawyers Against Sexual Harassment (founder and member, 2020-present);  Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Character and Fitness, First District of Illinois (member, 2021-present); and Miami University’s Pre-Law Alumni Advisory Board (member, 2018-present).

This interview was recorded on March 21, 2022.

Transcript

Kendra Abercrombie 0:07 

Hello, my name is Kendra Abercrombie, and I am the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Manager for the Commission on Professionalism. Welcome to Reimagining Law. Today, I am so excited to be joined by Katie Liss, who, among her many titles, is also the founder and chair of the Sexual Harassment Prevention Task Force, and Lauren Tuckey who, among her many titles, is the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois president. In honor of Women’s History Month, we will be discussing equality in the workplace, and we have a lot to discuss. Before we jump in, I like to remind all of our viewers to like this video and subscribe to our channels for new episodes. Thank you both for joining us.

Lauren, data from our Survey on Professionalism of Illinois attorneys found an almost 10% increase in the number of respondents who said they had been the target of sexist comments in 2021 versus in 2014. How has the environment for recognizing and reporting sexist behaviors changed?

Lauren Tuckey 1:18 

I think, in our culture today, especially from the Me Too movement, women are less apt to tolerate that kind of behavior and are more apt to have the courage to report it and have it addressed. I don’t know whether that number is a true increase, or whether because of our culture, people are just more comfortable reporting it.

Kendra Abercrombie 1:44 

Thank you. Katie, going back to the Survey on Professionalism, 41% of practitioners who responded said their workplace doesn’t conduct sexual harassment training, or that they were unaware if their workplace conducts these trainings. How can organizations improve awareness if they do conduct these trainings? How can they start or where can they start to implement these programs and trainings into their companies and organizations?

Katie Liss 2:16 

Thanks, Kendra. First, I’d like to say that this has been a requirement in Illinois for all employers to provide this type of training since 2020. Hopefully, we start seeing a better change in those numbers going forward. The Illinois Human Rights Act requires this type of training, and employers can get a sample of this type of training from the state of Illinois. They have an online PDF that employers can go off. But that should be just the base—there should be a lot more information that is explained throughout the training. You can either get it through the state of Illinois, or you could go through a third party. The Chicago Bar Association provides trainings twice a year for all of our members, but there are also other third parties that provide this type of training. It’s out there, it’s just a matter of looking for it and getting it to your employees.

Kendra Abercrombie 3:11 

Thank you. Lauren, the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois has been working to ensure paid family leave in Illinois. Can you talk a little bit about this, and why it’s just as important in the legal profession to have policies like these in place?

Lauren Tuckey 3:34 

Absolutely. At the Women’s Bar, we feel a burden and a duty, because we are in a position to fight and we have the resources to fight on behalf of women in Illinois, then we should absolutely do it. We hired a lobbyist for the first time this year. They’re incredible and we’re making some genuine headway. First of all, the United States is a significant outlier. There are 181 countries that offer paid leave on a national level; the United States and 10 other countries are the only ones in the world who do not. In comparison a lot of European companies offer a full year, some offer a year and a half. The way that this patchwork in America of different policies affects women is that it actually disproportionately affects a lot of minority and lower-income people. And of course, the burden falls on women. The women are the ones who, if they can’t handle childcare, will say, “Okay, well, I’ll stay home.” The burden and the consequences so often fall on women. The data is there that granting women paid parental leave actually helps our economy significantly. The data supports this entirely. It’s time. I mean, we’re falling on the wrong side of history here. I think in 10 years, this will be a nationwide policy.

Kendra Abercrombie 5:16 

I hope that is the case. I have been familiar with some of the policies, and I have friends who live in other countries, so it’s definitely interesting to see the differences here in the U.S. versus other countries when it comes to maternity and paternity leave. I definitely hope to see those changes in the future as well.

Katie, recently, I’ve was able to attend a joint collaborative event with Force of Lawyers Against Sexual Harassment (FLASH), and a few other organizations actually, this past week, where we really talked about women and sexual harassment in the workplace. Can you talk about the work that the CBAs Sexual Harassment Prevention Task Force and FLASH have been doing not only to promote awareness, but events and programs that they have been putting on for the general public?

Katie Liss 6:12 

Absolutely. FLASH stands for the Force of Lawyers Against Sexual Harassment, and it’s a coalition of attorneys who are getting the word out about sexual harassment to kind of destigmatize that issue. It’s a very important topic and, as Lauren alluded to, more people are coming forward, but there still are a lot of cases that are not reported. I would go as far as to say the vast majority don’t report. Both through FLASH and through the CBAs task force, one of the goals is to help educate and to address this issue with the community. FLASH just put on, along with the CBA’s Alliance for Women and others—the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois, I believe, was also co-sponsor, Lauren—a program with the Women’s Lawyer on Guard and the ISBA to address this very important issue. There is more programming: FLASH is coming to present to some of the law schools as well to talk to law students about this issue. And it can only go on from there. We’re still in the very beginning stages of both FLASH and the task force. But education is one of the components of both of those groups. Another one is to review statutes and laws to see if there should be change and to address that if we do need to bring it to the legislature and address that going forward. Another one is to provide resources for individuals and for firms to make sure that there is appropriate training and some sort of agreement on a policy in place at a firm if sexual harassment is addressed. A lot of firms, especially small and solo firms, do not have those types of policies. And solo should have it too because it impacts paralegals, clerks, everyone who is employed there. There definitely should be a policy in place. And hopefully, with the guidance of these two organizations, and others throughout the legal community, we can address those issues going forward.

Kendra Abercrombie 8:17 

I think one of the things that really stuck with me from that program you mentioned is that 86% of women don’t report anything at all and of that 86%, 30% think about reporting it but don’t because they are afraid of the fallout of actually reporting. It kind of hit me in the chest a little bit to see that number in black and white and to see that these things are happening. Traditionally, women have been afraid, and I think organizations like the ones you’ve founded are going to be able to assist in pushing that movement forward to get more women more comfortable coming forward about those events. So, thank you for organizing that event. Thank you both for the work that you’re doing to move these initiatives forward.

Lauren Tuckey 9:31 

I don’t know that a lot of listeners know that with Katie’s organization and my own organization, part of the value of them is being able to connect with a mentor or somebody who can hold your hand through the process down to, “This just happened. This is my boss. Let’s talk through the options. What does this look like?” Also, not just the logistics but the emotional support I think is so important for women. And I think that if more women were involved in organizations like ours, that number would not be the same, that that there would be way more reporting. Frankly, reporting shines a spotlight on this behavior. I can’t help but think that more reporting just leads to less conduct like this, because I think people will think twice, and they will understand how black-and-white wrong this type of behavior is, and that they will absolutely be called out.

Katie Liss 10:38 

Lauren, I could not agree more with you. I definitely know that there are consequences for reporting. The more this is called out, the more things will change. Yes, there may be some negative consequences. But I feel we can all join forces and have each other’s backs when someone is reported. If there are questions going through the process, the better we will be as a legal profession. I think that’s so important. And one other thing I do want to mention, on FLASH’s website, there’s a pledge that individuals and firms can take to show that you support people going through this process and you support the eradication of sexual harassment. I can’t encourage people enough to stand up and show your support by taking that pledge.

Kendra Abercrombie 11:34 

I definitely hope that our listeners take that pledge and join in on this. Thank you, Katie and Lauren, so much for joining us today. And to our viewers, please stay tuned because we do have Part 2 of this discussion coming soon. We were able to get through so many good topics today, but we have so much more to discuss.

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