Mixed news for female lawyers (and would-be lawyers)

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

As 2016 draws to a close, The New York Times has mixed news for female attorneys and law school students.

On one hand, the newspaper reports, most of the students currently enrolled in American law school are women. Apparently this is the first time that’s happened.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

Currently, 55,766 women nationwide are studying for a juris doctor degree, compared with 55,059 men, according to American Bar Association (ABA) data cited by the Times. First-year students are more than 51 percent women, or 19,032, and 48.6 percent men, or 18,058.

“There are more women than men based on data we have,” Barry Currier, managing director for accreditation and legal education at the A.B.A.’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar told the Times.

“It is a snapshot in time, and the numbers can be updated by the schools. But it is not likely to be large numbers.”

In the same article, a law professor warned against reading too much into the statistics. Specifically, Deborah J. Merritt said that additional information she compiled with a colleague shows that not all of the women that study law do so at the top-tier schools. The law school from which a student graduates had a direct impact on job placement and earnings, she added.

Additional ABA data seems to support that conclusion. As of this year, it shows, there were more than 1.3 million licensed attorneys in the United States. Of those, only 36 percent are women.

Clearly there’s still room for improvement. But at least we’re heading in the right direction.

Note to Donald J. Trump: Stop playing the victim

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

Sexual violence: term used to describe “a specific constellation of crimes including sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape.” — National Institute of Justice

It is something countless Americans endure each year.

I say “countless Americans” because the experience is not unique to women. Men are targeted, too.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

In a recent media fact sheet, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center cited a survey in which nearly half the number of women who self-identified as lesbians and half the number of women who self-identified as heterosexual “reported sexual violence other than rape during their lifetimes.” Nearly 75 percent of women who self-identified as bisexual reported the same.

In the same survey, roughly 40 percent of men who self-identified as gay, nearly 50 percent who self-identified as bisexual and approximately 20 percent of those who self-identified as heterosexual said they too experienced sexual violence other than rape.

Another report cited in the same fact sheet indicates that “one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives.”

And then there are the most heartbreaking statistics of all — those pertaining to the American children preyed upon by sexual predators each year. According to one estimate, one in four girls and one in every six boys will be “sexually abused before they turn 18 years old.”

These are the victims.

U.S. presidential candidate Donald J. Trump, who was caught on tape bragging about and making light of behavior that can definitely be characterized as sexual violence, is decidedly not a victim of anything.

Oh, he says he is. After the 2005 tape in which he bragged about and made light of behavior that could definitely be characterized as sexual violence became public, several women accused him of sexual assault. And he’s been whining and crying about it for days. To hear him tell it, he’s a victim of a media conspiracy, a victim of character assassination, a victim of a slur campaign… and on, and on, and on.

Perhaps his accusers are lying. Or exaggerating.  Or perhaps not.  Perhaps it is a political ploy dreamed up by the Clinton camp and the mainstream media. Or perhaps not. That all remains to be seen.

Hey Donald, There Is No Excuse

What is indisputable is that Donald J. Trump’s “locker room talk” (his words, not mine) was disgusting, reprehensible, vile, inexcusable and indefensible.

In fairness, the Clintons’ conduct (actual and alleged) is also vile, inexcusable and indefensible. But that’s another subject for another blog. For now I’m sticking to the topic at hand.

That Melania Trump said her husband was “egged on” would be laughable if it weren’t so pathetic. To hear Donald J. Trump tell it, he’s a big, tough businessman who doesn’t take c–p from anyone. He does what he wants, when he wants. No one can intimidate him, and so on and so forth…

But we’re supposed to believe that he only engaged in this “locker room talk” because  someone (presumably Billy Bush) pressured him into it? Or because he wanted to be accepted? Or because he wanted to be one of the guys? Come, come now. What a load of garbage. It’s the kind of lame, pitiful, excuse you’d expect from a teenager. As far as I know, Mr. Trump was an adult back in 2005.

Today he is an adult who wants to become president. So my question is this: Should someone who could be so easily influenced and use such poor judgment become the leader of the free world?

Donald J. Trump had an opportunity to exercise true leadership and strength of character 11 years ago. Instead of going along with the “boy talk,” as Melania Trump claims, he had the chance to say, “Hey, man. You know what — that really isn’t cool. Women should be treated with respect. You wouldn’t want someone talking about your mom or sister, or daughter or girlfriend that way. Knock it off…”

But he didn’t.

Actually words do matter, Mr. Trump

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

It is with great trepidation that I am sharing my opinion on recent events in this forum.

As I have mentioned before, this is a business site — and while I have chosen to address controversial issues and share personal experiences here — I have also taken great pains to stick to apolitical topics.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

The decision to do so is largely a matter of common sense, given the ugliness of U.S. presidential politics and the candidates currently involved therein. Furthermore, I am a private person who generally has little desire to air my personal opinions publicly.

However, there are times when I simply cannot remain silent. So today, I am writing to refute U.S. presidential nominee Donald J. Trump’s assertion that the lewd and vulgar remarks he made about women 11 years ago are of little consequence.

To begin with, let’s examine Trump’s claims that the remarks were simply “locker room talk” that he engaged in during a private conversation, and that they are not indicative of his true feelings about women.

There are two specific reasons why these claims lack merit.

The first is based upon my personal experience. Having been around plenty of public figures as a journalist, I can say with great certainty that you will very rarely, if ever, see the genuine person when they are in the spotlight. In public, every single second is contrived. Why? Because they know they are being watched. It is only in the private, unguarded moments when they feel safe and at ease, that you will see the person’s true character. So in my humble opinion and experience, the words Trump uttered when he had no reason to fear being caught are definitely indicative of his true character.

The second, and more important is that in Connecticut, where he once had a home and now owns at least one luxury high-rise that I know of, the activity Trump so callously described in his alleged “locker room talk” is a crime. The relevant portion of C.G.S. §53a-72a states that someone is guilty of sexual assault in the third degree when they compel “another person to submit to sexual contact (A) by the use of force against such other person or a third person, or (B) by the threat of use of force against such other person or against a third person, which reasonably causes such other person to fear physical injury to himself or herself or a third person…” The offense is a Class D felony, punishable upon conviction by up to five years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $5,000.

To brag about wanting to, or being able to engage in such conduct — specifically kissing women without their consent or grabbing them by their private parts — and then chalking it up to “locker room talk” is inane at best, and arguably symptomatic of depraved thinking at worst.

Now as Trump and his supporters rightfully contend, it is not illegal to say what he said, as long as he never actually acted on it. And, as Trump and his supporters contend, there are some people who may not find his remarks vulgar, offensive or morally reprehensible at all. Frankly, I don’t know who they are — and I don’t want to know. But I digress.

In the last few days, Trump has repeatedly attempted to mitigate his own behavior by drawing comparisons to things former President Bill Clinton has allegedly said and done. However, his insistence that his verbal denigration of women pales in comparison to Clinton’s alleged and actual sexual transgressions also falls flat for one extremely significant reason.

If elected, Donald J. Trump will find himself in a position where a poor choice of words can have very, very, serious consequences — because words are very powerful.

Throughout the ages, words have been used as weapons and used as tools to broker peace. They have spurred men to action. They have sparked revolutions. They have been used to ensure the punishment of the guilty, and for the wrongful indictment of the innocent. Historically, words have been used to lift people from the depths of despair and to beat them into submission. Words have shaped countries and cultures and people.

The greatest dissidents, the greatest thinkers, the greatest leaders of all time, were known not only for what they did, but for what they said, and what they wrote.

So actually, Mr. Trump, words do matter.

An open letter to young girls and women everywhere

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

Dear Sisters,

I am writing to you as someone who is finally comfortable in her own skin.

It has been a long and difficult journey.

From what I’ve been told (and what I remember) I was a precocious little girl, with a vivid imagination and a flair for the dramatic. But as a little girl and teenager, I also experienced verbal and emotional abuse. At home, my father constantly put me down. At school, my classmates bullied me.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

I suppose I was an easy target. I was always a little bit overweight. I had eczema and asthma. I wore a patch and/or glasses to correct my “lazy” eyes. I wasn’t athletic. I wasn’t stupid, but I was never the smartest kid in class. I wasn’t a gifted musician or a dancer or an artist… The things that seemed to come so easily to other kids were always harder for me

I lacked self-confidence and experienced low self-esteem. I was afraid of being laughed at and I was afraid to fail. I am sure some of you can relate.

In high school, things finally changed for the better. A teacher helped me discover a hidden talent. I discovered that I could write. My confidence blossomed. But it was fragile. And I was still young.

In the ensuing years came the joys and sorrows of college, college romance, entry into “the real world,” engagement, marriage and divorce. At 30, I moved back “home” to recover from the bitter blow that ended my marriage to the man I planned on being with forever. At 34, I moved to Virginia for a new job and a much-needed change of scenery.

Alone in a new place, I made my share of mistakes. I trusted the wrong people. I misjudged alleged friends. After eight-and-a-half years, I lost my job. But by the time I returned home for the second time, I’d written a book — and I’d found myself.

Today I am hardly perfect. But I am happy being me. Finally.

And if there’s anything I hope you can learn from my story, it is the following:

  • Each of you is unique.
  • Each of you matters.
  • Each of you deserves to be loved.
  • Each of you deserves respect.
  • Each of you has something meaningful to share with the rest of the world.

Ultimately your worth is defined not by your physical appearance, but by the choices you make and the values you hold. You can allow others to govern your emotions, or you can take control of them yourself.  You can live up to other people’s expectations or set your own. You can measure your beauty by “conventional” and societal standards, or ignore them and live by your own. You can measure your success by your material possessions or by the difference you’ve made. You can let the world beat you down. Or you can summon the courage to hold your head up high. No matter what.

It’s all up to you.



Author’s note: The preceding was written in response to recent news accounts about U.S. presidential candidate Donald J. Trump’s lewd, sexist and misogynist comments caught on tape in 2005.