thunder

"I am not the one who knocks, the one who knocks is probably a pervert so don't answer."


A legal conference has been overshadowed by disturbing reports of men harassing, groping and drugging female attendees.  

The four day Legalweek conference took place last week at the New York Hilton, where organiser ALM, which owns the Law.com and Legalweek brands, said thousands of people had gathered to network, sell their products and catch a glimpse of keynote speaker Bryan Cranston.

Unfortunatelty several patrons appear to have taken Cranston’s talk, ‘Breaking Boundaries’, far too literally.

In a post on LinkedIn after the conference, a vice president of Deloitte listed the grim encounters her female team had endured over the course of the event.

“A great Legalweek has been clouded by some unfortunate actions”, said Deeanna Fleener.

“In a group of 29 women, 20 had personal stories of inappropriate behavior at a conference. That is unacceptable and we have to do better”, she said.

One woman said she was “propositioned in the most graphic way I've ever heard” on the last night of the conference, according to Fleener. “When I turned him down, he tried to convince me to leave with him by telling me his pregnant wife was on bedrest and I was doing her a favor.”

Another told Fleener that a leader of a law firm “showed me a video of 2 girls under 20 in his bedroom naked and invited me and the other woman I was with to join him”.

"A man just wouldn't leave me alone even when others tried to intervene”, a third told her. “He threw a drink at one of the men trying to help me at which time he was finally escorted out."

A young sales person told Fleener she was “grabbed under the skirt” by a coworker, another woman said she went to the bathroom and was pulled into the men's room by a man who then wouldn't let her leave, a fourth was followed into a lift by a colleague trying to track her to her room, and a fifth told Fleener, "I was roofied by a bartender".

Fleener said, “There are so many more stories than this. We need to figure out a way to do better and be the amazing community I know that we are”.

The post prompted an outpouring of sympathy and disgust, as well as some classic LinkedIn posturing: “If you are one of these men, please promptly remove yourself from our community. You are not welcome amongst our ranks regardless of your stature”, demanded Jerry Bui, a ‘Data Storyteller’.

Several women came forward with their own experiences of bad behaviour at the Legalweek event and other legal conferences in the US.

“Some of the comments made this week were absolutely appalling, I personally had 3 comments made in the 4 days that I was there - it was the same last year, and other years that I’ve been”, said Samantha Mather, VP of discovery software company Reveal. “I’m more than happy to tell the individuals what I think…but it’s usually met with aggression or ‘oh come on it’s only a bit of fun’, which is even worse!”

Catherine Monteleone, a Senior Business Development Manager at eDiscovery company Rational Enterprise, said, “I have been in the Legal Tech industry for less than 9 months & I personally have…over eight experiences from Monday night alone at Legal Week. I don’t feel comfortable going into details - but it was enough for me to call it a night by 9:30PM”.

“I was groped and roofied at my first ILTA conference”, said Amy Griggs, the Director of Global Legal Solutions at legal tech company Epiq.”With help from a colleague who intervened, that was the extent of the harm. This experience will never really leave me and puts me on high alert whenever I attend these events/conferences.”

Some women said they now self-excluded from the conference, and not because it looks just awful. “I have my own experiences from Legal Week that occurred in 2014- 2017”, said Amanda Cook of US firm Cole Schotz. “I’d venture if there was a poll, the numbers will climb. It’s one of the reasons I stopped attending Legal Week and if I go to other conferences I don’t leave the side of women I feel safe with”.

“Every year after the conference, when I debriefed with female attendee friends, we all have had at least one story of inappropriateness whether it happened directly to us or indirectly”, said Stephanie Clerkin of US litigation firm Korein Tillery. “How did we get here?”

Kristin Burke of tech company UKG said, “This is a real fear at any conference women attend. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a woman who, when packing, didn't carefully examine each outfit to ensure they were ‘nice but not too nice’”.

Weirdly the viral metoo in law moment hasn’t been reported by law.com, ALM or Legal Week, although ALM did provide RollOnFriday with a statement distancing itself from the alleged wrongdoing.

“ALM has been made aware of reports of occurrences of highly inappropriate behavior, including harassment and assault, occurring at unaffiliated venues in New York City during the week of its Legalweek event”, it said.

“We first want to vehemently condemn all such actions and reiterate our strong position that any such behavior has zero place in any setting. While these acts did not occur on site at Legalweek or at any conference-sponsored events, ALM prides itself on the community connections it creates and is committed to working with other key stakeholders to prevent harassment of any industry member”.

The company said it “will continue to work internally and with external stakeholders in the community to determine how we can best champion meaningful, positive change for the legal community and address the larger problem in the industry”.

ALM’s had the misfortune to find itself mired in two scandals in as many months.
 


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Comments

The night of my life 09 February 24 09:17

I can assure you that there is one woman out there with something positive to say. 

TRUMP '24 09 February 24 09:38

Are people actually surprised at this.

Anonymous 09 February 24 09:48

I bet loads of the sessions were on DEI as well etc. There is no point firms boring people with endless eLearning modules on inclusion if your leaders are massive perves.

Anonymous 09 February 24 09:55

What evidence is there to support the allegations?

MC Question Man 09 February 24 10:01

It's the Question Man he's come to getcha',to show these allegations are idle conjecture,at a legal conference where they're all having fun,can we be sure that these acts have really been done?It's crybullies posing on LinkedIn for clout,but the tales that they tell just fill us with doubt,like, you really got roophied by a rogue bartender?Get real honey, you got drunk on a bender!I mean of our industry are you even a member?You're a 'Data Storyteller' trying to make it as a vendor!It just sounds like good fun, not criminal offences,chill out at a conference and put it all on expenses,then say Yes to the guy who wants the menage-a-five,that kind of experience lets you know you're alive!Flirt on the dancefloor, flirt at the bar,don't be a spoilsport and you'll go far!Be real, nobody goes to these junkets to hear lectures from strangers, it's a work-themed vacation to bang rando's without danger.

MC Question Man 09 February 24 10:13

RoF you turnips! Fix this comment board so that pressing the Enter key actually does something again. Every single post one make gets mashed together into one horrific run-on paragraph. I can't possibly troll a comment session in these conditions!

Anonymous 09 February 24 10:17

ALM would of course have been all over this if it had been someone else's event, and they would have considered just a single one of these many allegations at a law firm partner conference as newsworthy and given the firm hell for it. But on this occasion they give the impression of being terribly cross that anyone has had the temerity to consider this newsworthy or in any way their problem. Funny that.

Anon 09 February 24 10:23

The company said it “will continue to work internally and with external stakeholders in the internal community to externally determine how we can best champion internally meaningful, positive external change for the internal legal community and address the larger external problem in the internal industry”. 

Foyle 09 February 24 10:23

Get over yourselves.  Obviously there will be a bit of hanky panky at a conference.

Lord Lester 09 February 24 10:25

Sign me up for the next conference!

Anonymous 09 February 24 10:58

1.   The stories are mre likely true that not.  I very much doubt that women, professional women, have the time or inclination to make it up en masse.2.   Some of the comments here just reflect the same attitudes, that is depressing.

No Answer Woman 09 February 24 11:30

@10.01 - yep, its got you singing! So in other words there is no evidence that this happened as suggested. It may have been as you sas, we simply don't know.

Anonymous 09 February 24 11:39

"Are people actually surprised at this." - I mean, like, why else would you go to one of these boring-ass conferences? If I just wanted to buy LawTech gewgaws then I could do it on the internet.  The whole point of coming to an in-person event is that I want a perky sales rep who doesn't even know what SaaS stands for to blow me first so that I feel like an alpha-male when I sign the cheque. Or, if you really want to make some money, make it a hot middle aged woman who calls herself something like Global Marketing Manager and pretends she has a husband and I'll sign up to a three year contract right there in the hotel lobby.

Lydia 09 February 24 12:34

That is appalling. Even just this morning aged 62 I was out in my gardening clothes on the grass verge when a man drove by once and then came back and then rolled down his window - okay to tell me about a road blockage at end of road but then he said - are you single etc.  It was really weird.  Why do that? He was about 25 and Indian (perhaps not relevant but I suspect he does not know how things are done in the UK so I forgive him)    and I am 62. So even now aged 62 that sort of conduct to which I have been subjected since I was about 14 carries on.

Anonymous 09 February 24 12:56

@10.58 - it is almost certain that the accusations aren't true as described. Women and men, professional men and women, do have time to make up or exaggerate things. They're not immune to jealousy and discrimination based on gender.Some people just can't accept the need to consider evidence prior to reaching conclusions. That's depressing.

Anonymous 09 February 24 12:58

"I am 62" - and are you a Global Marketing Manager by any chance? 

minkie 09 February 24 12:59

It is appalling. As a woman slightly younger than Lydia I have like every other woman my age been the subject of  inappropriate advances from male colleagues and clients all my working life, but not on this scale - open groping, outright propositioning, drugged drinks etc.  And I dont know what sort of evidence you could expect to find other than witnesses. If as a man you have witnessed such behaviour for goodness’ sake call it out.

Anonymous 09 February 24 13:31

@Lydia - the allegations in the article, at least some of them, are appalling if true. At the moment we don't know if they are, remember.

Anonymous 09 February 24 16:54

@Minkie - we don't know if the allegations are true though. The question isn't what evidence people would want, but what evidence is there at all.

Anonymous 09 February 24 19:17

There's always some incel, harrasser or combination of the two with too much time on it's hands pretending that sexual harassment doesn't exist.  We all know why.  It's great to see that these pitiful, onanistic provocations don't get any traction anymore.    Some sweaty gimp with greased hands and no trousers doesn't deserve the attention.

Anonymous 09 February 24 23:31

@19.17 - incel is not ok. It is a sexist slur. Unfortunately false allegations are very common and are a form of harassment. While the allegations aren't proven, we don't know if the accusers are pitiful, onanistic provocations who don't get any traction anymore or sweaty gimps with greased hands and no trousers who don't deserve the attention - you don't have enough evidence to accuse them of that. 

Riiiiiggghhht 10 February 24 07:30

1. Anyone 'roofied' who guesses at the identity of the perpetrator and anonymously accuses them was likely just pissed.2. Where is the comment from the NYPD in all these drinks spiking cases? I've had my drink spiked, it's the sort of thing one reports.3. What evidence has been presented beyond LinkedIn comments.4. Anyone who says 'do better' is acting in bad faith.5. Male feminists are predators.

Alfred Wintle 10 February 24 15:16

An depressing story made worse by this official reaction."We need to figure out a way to do better and be the amazing community I know that we are”.Get a grip.

Anonymous 11 February 24 16:02

The conference has been overshadowed, but we don't yet know if it is the conduct of the reporters or the reportees who are disturbing.

Question Man 12 February 24 15:06

"we don't know if the accusers are pitiful, onanistic provocations who don't get any traction anymore or sweaty gimps with greased hands and no trousers" - I'm not wearing any trousers.

Anonymous 13 February 24 08:46

"Anyone 'roofied' who guesses at the identity of the perpetrator and anonymously accuses them was likely just pissed" - Look, if you think that people who go to a conference, get blind drunk in front of their boss, collapse in a dribbly heap on one of the sofa's near the bar, and then need to be carried up to their hotel room by a colleague or three would ever, ever, make up some flimsy unverifiable excuse that they were drugged by a stranger who just did it during their regular work shift with little apparent motive or scope to benefit in an effort to save face and to stop their colleagues from whispering that they were an alcoholic, then maybe you need to have a long hard think about whether you are a misogynist. It's the only possible reason that you might doubt such a tale.

Wow 13 February 24 15:52

The amount of victim blaming on here is shocking and appalling.

Anonymous 14 February 24 19:33

@Wow - although we don't know yet if there are any victims.

No Answer Woman 16 February 24 07:28

We simply don't know who is wearing trousers.

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