Pat Gillette’s Worst Experiences
“I have not experienced discrimination in my career
except on two occasions. One was at a firm where I
think the leader was threatened by strong women.
The other time was in a trial where I was the only
woman. I led the team, because it was my client. I
felt that the judge discriminated against me on the
basis of gender, and I actually called him out on it.
“I was really interested in how the judge would treat
me after that. He was much more careful, but he
would still interrupt me and say really demeaning
things. I’m a pretty experienced and successful trial
lawyer, so it’s not like I’m making rookie mistakes,
but he had been very, very disrespectful to me—
and not to the men in the courtroom. At one point,
when I was doing part of my closing argument, he
interrupted me. You’ve got a flow going, right? He
says, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, Ms. Gillette. I forgot to tell the
jury something.’ It had nothing to do with anything.
He just wanted to interrupt me.
“Otherwise, I will say, I did not have the experience
that many women have where they’re treated as
second-class citizens. It allows me to speak about
these issues without having an axe to grind—
because I was lucky.
“I was raised in South Central L.A. and was one of
two white kids in my high school graduating class.
White kids were excluded from certain clubs and
activities, believe it or not, so I realized early on what
it means to be in the minority. ... So I became pretty
passionate about diversity issues.
“I love moving people to think outside the box. So
I’ve dedicated a large part of my career to doing
that—changing our industry and proposing radical
new ways of thinking about how we practice law to
be more inclusive.”
pushing to have more diversity, both in the people
who represent them and in the leadership of the
firm,” she says. “Clients like Microsoft are saying,
‘Not only do we want you to have a diverse team,
but here’s something else we need: We need you
to ensure that a woman or a minority is going to
have a speaking role.’”
In February, HP’s general counsel announced
it will penalize firms that don’t meet a diversity
mandate. “There are clients like Michelle Banks,
[former] general counsel to Gap, who literally calls
out firms that don’t have women in leadership,”
Gillette says. “If, all of a sudden, clients aren’t go-
ing to give you business, that’s a big deal.”
Also, millennials, who expect diversity, are push-
ing the industry to change, Gillette says, and are
willing to walk out if they’re unsatisfied. “I’m an
optimist,” she says, “so I really do think things will
ISSUE STATEMENT CONTINUED