Long Beach Legal Professionals Association (LBLPA), Women Lawyers of Long Beach (WLLB), and Long Beach Bar Association (LBBA) gathered at Five O’Clock Wine Bar at the Long Beach Marina on March 9, 2016, for a presentation on the elimination of bias, featuring guest speaker Mieke ter Poorten. Mieke is a lawer from Santa Monica and has represented clients in state and federal crimes, including major drug offenses, money laundering, Medicare fraud, identity theft, violent crimes, domestic violence, carjacking, criminal threats, credit card fraud, and sex crimes. She has worked with local and national politicians, high-level executives, and other professionals to strengthen their personal identities and to transform their careers and businesses. Representing LBLPA at the event were Lori VanSkyhock, CCLS, LeQuita Hodge, CCLS, Cathleen Siler, Alice Widmark, CCLS, Michelle Cassara, CCLS, Debby Tankersley, CCLS, Mary Wong, Brandy Gibson and Rany Sao.
Based on the name alone, one would not know whether Mieke is male or female, or any other identifying descriptive, and one might tend to make assumptions based on the name alone. In fact, Mieke is a petite, attractive, blonde female. The presentation focused on how we categorize certain groups, such as whites, blacks, Asians, gays, teens, elderly, doctors, lawyers, Mormons, Scientologists, transgenders, and . . . you fill in the blanks. Mieke spoke of how we can automatically create impressions of people in our mind based strictly on their name alone. For instance, the image we perceive hearing the name “Sherry Brown” may be very different from the image we imagine hearing the name “Shaniqua Love.” Mieke described how she often finds herself in social circles in which Jewish jokes and comments are circulated, and relates people’s reactions when she informs them that she, in fact, is Jewish. Based on Mieke’s appearance, people often comment, “But you don’t look Jewish!” simply because she is a petite blonde, and one would not see her as being Jewish based strictly on her physical appearance.
In closing, Mieke explained how some firms are now deleting the sections for gender and ethnicity on their applications for interviews in order to eliminate the mental “first impressions” that readers seem to form based on what they see on paper and without physically meeting the person. Whether it is race, sex, religion, or some other personal characteristic, bias does exist in the legal profession. Always remember that such bias runs afoul of attorneys’ ethical obligations and, in many cases, is unlawful.
We had a great time. The wine and food were really good and the venue was perfect for an evening by the water. We look forward to co-hosting more events with WLLB and LBBA!!!