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Pandemic Worsens Career Barriers For Marginalized Attorneys

Anna Sanders  | Law360 - February 23, 2021


Attorney Jean Lee's life was upended when the coronavirus pandemic began a year ago and she was forced into remote working. Taking care of her elderly mother while they're isolated at home, Lee says she still struggles with juggling her job and household tasks without the stability of an in-person office.

"Every person at home — whether you're a working parent or not — you're just constantly in this state of trying to keep up with your own day-to-day," said Lee, who heads up the Minority Corporate Counsel Association and is a former vice president and assistant general counsel at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Lee said her experience has played out across the country, with an especially devastating impact on the careers of women, attorneys of color and those in other marginalized or minority groups.

"Unlike being in a physical office, it's very much 'out of sight, out of mind' as you struggle," Lee said. "With ... underrepresented lawyers of color, it seems to be more common."

Remote working during the pandemic only makes it harder for underrepresented attorneys to get ahead, particularly women and those caring for children or older family members, according to experts who say the pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in the profession and solidified barriers to their career development.

"For women, for LGBTQ+, for black, brown, people of color — these individuals need to pay closer attention to the pandemic's effect on their careers," said A.B. Cruz III, a senior adviser at BarkerGilmore LLC and president-elect of the board of governors for the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. "If they don't do things right, it can impact them more dramatically."