Unconscious Bias: A Personal Story

Yesterday, I was representing my client at mediation with the following people:

1. Plaintiff: Hispanic Female attorney and Black Female client

2. Me, two While Male clients and White Male adjuster

3. Co-defendant – White Male attorney, White Female attorney, White Male adjuster

4. Mediator – White Male

After the plaintiff’s attorney presented her case, I presented the legal arguments and defenses for my clients. What happened next was shocking, even for me, no stranger to unconscious and conscious bias in this profession.

Co-defendant’s counsel began his presentation. As he was about to adopt the legal arguments I made, referring to me he said ” And as [Client’s name] SECRETARY said …” Must say my head spun around really quick. Everyone else in the room was stunned. He immediately apologized.

I don’t think the slip was intentional. However, when the mediator and my clients asked why I thought that happened, I simply stated because “he did not acknowledge me as his equal.” Why not? Good question.

Unconscious bias is the result of snap judgments we make about others based on our experience, background, stereotypes, etc. Thoughts matter. They dictate our actions