June 6, 2023

Promoting Diversity and Defending Democracy: A Conversation with Lauren Stiller Rikleen

Promoting Diversity and Defending Democracy: A Conversation with Lauren Stiller Rikleen

Lauren Stiller Rikleen is a force of nature. An accomplished lawyer and author, past President of the Boston Bar Association, and holder of several leadership positions in the American Bar Association, she now has her own leadership institute and serves as Executive Director of an organization of lawyers devoted to defending American democracy. Lauren also recently served as editor of an inspiring book, presenting the stories of 25 women judges, all of whom, like her, have received the ABA's prestigious Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award. 

In this episode of Higher Callings, I talk with Lauren about some of her recent work, including the work of Lawyers Defending American Democracy and the publication of her new book.

You can find the Rikleen Institute website here.

You can find the website for Lawyers Defending American Democracy here.

You can learn more about, and order a copy of, Lauren's latest book, Her Honor: Stories of Challenge and Triumph from Women Judges, here.


Higher Callings Podcast

Interview of Lauren Stiller Rikleen

Hosted by Donald R. Frederico

Recorded May 31, 2023

Don: Lauren Stiller Rikleen is a force of nature. An accomplished lawyer and author, past President of the Boston Bar Association, and holder of several leadership positions in the American Bar Association, she now has her own leadership institute and serves as Executive Director of an organization of lawyers devoted to defending American democracy. Lauren also recently served as editor of an inspiring book, presenting the stories of 25 women judges, all of whom, like her, have received the ABA's prestigious Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award. 

In this episode of Higher Callings, I talk with Lauren about some of her recent work, including the work of Lawyers Defending American Democracy and the publication of her new book.

Lauren: You know, each one of these judges not only had to deal with bias in their careers at various points, but were keenly aware of the fact that different voices at the table make a difference in the output, in the results. And that shouldn't be brain surgery for people. You just see it over and over again, and they talk about it even in the work that they do, not only sitting on the bench, but the perspectives they bring to various task forces and other kinds of administrative functions that they have. How they've handled problems in the courts. How they deal with challenges in the system that they try to help fix. It's definitely a universal theme in the book and the recognition that diversity does matter.

Don: I'm Don Frederico and this is Higher Callings. 

I'm with Lauren Stiller Rikleen, President of the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership, and also the Executive Director of an organization called Lawyers Defending American Democracy.

How are you today, Lauren? 

Lauren: I'm well, thank you. How are you? 

Don: I'm fine. Thanks for appearing on the podcast. I know you give a lot of interviews. You've published all over the place. You're on television. You're on radio. You've done podcasts. So I really appreciate your being on my podcast.

Lauren: My pleasure. 

Don: I think your work really fits in with the podcast theme. 

I'm just going to read little bits from the book the American Bar Association just published. You are the editor of a book called Her Honor: Stories of Challenge and Triumph from Women Judges, and we're going to talk about that more in a few minutes. But at the beginning they have a section called "About the Editor," and I just want to give a little bit of your background and then you can fill in whatever you think would be worth adding to it.

I know it can be a very lengthy thing given all of your many activities and accomplishments over the years. But the part I was going to read describes you as a former President of the Boston Bar Association and a former Trustee of Clark University. “Within the American Bar Association,” it says, "she co-chairs the ABA Women's Caucus and is a member of the Standing Committee on Publishing Oversight. Among her many past ABA leadership roles, Lauren is a former member of the Board of Governors, the Commission on Women in the Profession, and the ABA Journal Board of Editors. She is also a former Chair of the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice."

And then it goes on to describe some of, at least, the very prestigious awards you've received from the ABA and other organizations, and also mentions that you've published more than 200 articles. 

So what have I left out that you think is worth mentioning? 

Lauren: You did fine. Thank you. That's totally fine. [Dog barks in background.]

Don: Okay. I think your dog appreciates it too. 

Lauren: Very much so. Sorry about that. 

Don: Okay, no problem. 

Well, I know you've given interviews before. I'll mention you've been on Counsel to Counsel, which is Steve Seckler's podcast, a couple of times, and Steve asked you a lot of questions about your background and you gave a lengthy biography. So if anybody wants to learn more about you and some of your accomplishments, just look for Counsel to Counsel and find Lauren there. 

Let's start with your Institute. Can you tell our listeners what that is, what you do, when you formed it, and why? 

Lauren: Sure. I formed it in January of 2011, and it was the culmination of a longtime passion that I had to be able to write and focus on and do speaking and training and consulting on workplace culture issues that I thought were so critical to the success of any workplace. And of course for me, it was always thinking about legal workplaces as a former law firm partner and having had other roles in the legal profession.

So what I wanted to do was to be able to spend that time and do what I could to try to make a difference in other workplaces. I tried to always work on the ones that I had been in, but I wanted to deal with it on a much bigger scale and be able to try to work with other organizations, other firms, other entities. To look at the big picture of: what is a firm culture? How does it come into being? How do we create cultures of inclusion and diversity that are respectful? The books that I've written have been very reflective of that passion. I've written books on generational issues, on issues around silence in the face of misconduct and how we can encourage people to speak up and how we can encourage workplaces to do more, to be active in addressing misconduct and other various negative behaviors.

So that's basically what I've been doing since that time, which is spending a lot of time traveling, certainly at least pre-pandemic, and being able to really focus on these kinds of workplace culture issues that I think are so critical, and particularly critical in a profession like ours, which is so high pressure.

Don: Yeah. I was just going to ask that. I mean, you were a partner in a law firm in Massachusetts for a number of years, I think practicing environmental law, if I remember right. 

Lauren: Yeah. 

Don: Is your audience for most of the work you're doing lawyers and law firms, or do you go beyond that as well? 

Lauren: Very much beyond that. In fact, I recently facilitated an all day retreat of a different kind of professional service firm, its leadership group, addressing these types of issues. So it is not at all, has not been restricted to the legal profession, although, of course, a lot of the work I do is within it. 

Don: I know a lot of the work you've done over the years has had to do with gender discrimination. I assume your work with the Institute includes that, but also you cover other areas as well. Is that right? 

Lauren: Yeah. I think that's what started me on this path, having been a woman in the profession, a partner in a firm where I was one of two women equity partners, the only mother in the equity partnership.

And obviously that just raises a whole bunch of issues that maybe the firm never had to address before, that I had to live through. And looking around and talking to colleagues in other high pressure work environments, it was clear that we were experiencing very similar things. So that was really the start of wanting to think more systemically about this.

Don: Yeah. And one reason you're on this podcast is because Higher Callings involves guests that are people who wanted to sort of go above and beyond their careers maybe, and just work for the common good and work for the greater good. 

And so much of what I described at the beginning from your bio in the book is volunteer work. It's not work that you profit from, but you seem to have a calling. And you tell me if this is right or not, but I interpret it as Lauren Rikleen has a calling to try to make the legal profession and other organizations better places to work and to really try to improve past discrimination as well as ongoing discrimination against women and other groups.

Lauren: It is certainly something that drives me and has driven me throughout my career, wherever I was working and whatever I was doing. 

Don: Well, I mentioned at the beginning, Lauren, that you are Executive Director of Lawyers Defending American Democracy, which I've been learning about more as I've been talking to you and reading the website. There's a lot of good information there. Did you just come out with a new annual report? Or it's not an annual report. A report of your first four years of the organization? 

Lauren: Exactly. Yes, we did. We issued that in December. Thank you. We wanted to pull together the threads of everything that we had been doing since our founding.

Don: And like so much of the work you've done, this is work of a nonprofit organization, but dedicated or with a mission of lawyers finding ways to, where somebody detects an attack or something that would be detrimental to American democracy, pursuing a legal process or public relations or whatever the right approach is to try to push back on that.

Can you talk about that? I know you can describe the mission much better than I just did. 

Lauren: Oh, sure. Thank you. This is very much a project of the heart. 

I had been approached in August of 2020 about joining the board, the leadership team of Lawyers Defending American Democracy, LDAD, by Scott Harshbarger, who those of us from Massachusetts listening would know is a former two-time Attorney General. Very highly respected and beloved in his role. And I was very excited for that opportunity because it came at a time when I was growing, as many of us were, increasingly horrified about what was happening to democracy and the Rule of Law in our country in that period of time. And happy to have the opportunity to somehow try to make a difference in whatever little way that we could. 

And what LDAD was really conceived of and what it's been trying to do is to help galvanize the legal profession to understand that protecting democracy and the rule of law is not a partisan or political activity. It is in fact at the heart of what we as lawyers took an oath to do when we raised our own hands to protect the Constitution. And we all who are involved in LDAD do feel that the profession as a whole, there have been many wonderful lawyers doing a lot of work, but as a whole, in terms of our legal institutions -- and that means bar associations as a whole, law firms, legal academia -- it has been too quiet. The voices need to be stronger. 

And I think for all of us, we had hoped that with the election in 2020, would be an end to worrying about these kinds of things. But as we are seeing through attacks in the states on democracy, and laws that have been passed that are quite draconian in terms of how it impacts the Rule of Law, as well as a complete lack of boundaries between the judiciary and the executive and legislative functions, we had hoped that things would change, but that isn't the case. Things are getting worse. 

So about a year after I became involved on the board, I was asked if I would assume the executive director role because we were realizing that this was not going to be an end point, but unfortunately, a continuation of trying to do what we could to help galvanize our profession. 

Don: So what are some of the activities that you and other members of the organization have undertaken over the last four years?

Lauren: We have been involved in a number of different projects. So one area is the development of ethics complaints against, particularly against lawyers who were very active participants in the Big Lie, who were presenting untruthful statements, falsehoods, in open court and otherwise really undermining the rule of law through what was happening following the 2020 election.

So people like John Eastman, Rudy Giuliani, there's a number of those actors that we have filed detailed complaints against. And we are all lawyers in this organization. So what we do is very meticulously researched and very carefully done. And we always make sure we are proud of the quality of the work product that we produce at the end of it.

Don: And these are complaints that are filed with the disciplinary authorities in the jurisdictions where they have their bar admissions? 

Lauren: Exactly. Yes. Wherever it is that they primarily practice. In some cases it's been in multiple jurisdictions. But yes, that has been a very big part of the impact that we have had and work that we have done. 

We do a lot of other special kinds of projects. So more recently we coordinated with another nonprofit organization to create a Supreme Court code of ethics, on the theory that we know there should be a Supreme Court code of ethics, we hear a lot of conversation around that. But we had this idea of, well, what should that look like? Because it needs to be somewhat different than the same code of ethics that the [lower] federal courts are under. I don't think that the answer is just take the federal code and apply it to the Justices because of the unique role that they have, and also because of some of the issues that have come to light. It needed updating. It needed rethinking. So we were involved with our partners on that. And that is something that is available for anybody to take a look at on the, LDAD website, LDAD.org. 

We do a lot of writing, a lot of opinion pieces, a lot of statements that we issue to our very large email list. We do calls to action where we have asked lawyers to sign on to particular statements where we are addressing violations of the Rule of Law and other legal principles that needed to be addressed.

So it's a whole variety of things. And we are always thinking about what kind of project can we do that would help to make a difference, that would help to bring a fresh perspective to this conversation, and that would help get lawyers energized. I spend a lot of time working with other bar associations, trying to work with other bar associations, and energize them around these issues and trying to make them feel comfortable with the fact that we are again talking about nonpartisan, non-political issues. And it's something that we all ought to be addressing in a very active way. 

Don: How many lawyers are involved in this work? In writing or doing research, somehow helping the work along? 

Lauren: Well, LDAD is a very tiny organization. We have our board, which is all very active, and then we are trying to recruit volunteers to work with us. But overall, I think of us as tiny but mighty. We do a lot for how very little we are in terms of the numbers of people that we have and how absolutely limited our resources are.

Don: But a lot of the work that's being done is being done by volunteers, right? 

Lauren: Well, even our board members are volunteers. And our board members are extremely active, and we have been recruiting others who are not necessarily on the board, but are people we know to be brilliant lawyers who care deeply about these issues, who we try to bring into the fold to help us.

Don: Okay. And can you measure at all the impact that the organization has had so far? 

Lauren: That's an interesting question and I think about that all the time, but I'm not sure one can. I look around and I spend in my role a lot of time trying to reach out to others in the democracy field, making sure we are having partnerships where we can, and joining together on projects where we can, or thinking together about what needs to be done.

And I've come to the conclusion that the way we will measure progress is by our collective voice as a community of activists out there in this country who are spending every day trying to figure out how to protect democracy and the Rule of Law in whatever way possible. And I guess time will be the answer to what our impact will be. Time will be, have we maintained a democracy? Do we have leaders that respect the principles of our Constitution? 

Don: Let me ask this in a slightly different way. Have you had successes in some of your efforts? In other words, if you filed an ethics complaint against a lawyer who was a threat to democracy through their conduct, have you succeeded in some of those proceedings? 

Lauren: For many of the complaints that we have filed, the jurisdiction has opened an investigation and moved it forward. Now, nobody would ever say, "Oh, LDAD, it's your complaint that made the difference for us. But we also know the quality of our work and discussions that have been had, and feel pretty confident that what we do is taken pretty seriously. And we are seeing, we're just thrilled to see that process move forward and more attention being paid to the ethical obligations that lawyers have to do the right thing in their role. 

Don: And you have an impressive board. I think I recall you have some retired judges and some very accomplished lawyers on your board. So it is a group that I think should be taken seriously, and it's not a surprise that it is taken seriously. And you're adding an important voice, I think, to the pro-democracy conversation that the nation needs to have and continue having. 

Lauren: Yeah. Thank you. I do appreciate that. 

Yes. The board itself, it consists of people who have had enormous success in their careers and could very well be spending their time right now enjoying a lot more leisure kinds of activities than writing complaints to ethics authorities or calls to action. We also have done amicus briefs in several cases. But these are people who are channeling that prior success into the work that they are doing now. But I do feel very proud when people talk about our board and the backgrounds of the people who are on it because every one of them really has an extraordinary background. 

Don: Where can people go to find more about Lawyers Defending American Democracy? 

Lauren: Definitely our website, which is LDAD.org. Very easy. Lawyers Defending American Democracy. LDAD.org. And they can donate. Donations are always definitely needed. There's a way to reach out to us. People can reach out to me directly. We welcome inquiries and interests. 

Don: You mentioned one of the topics that the organization has focused on is the Supreme Court code of ethics, and the lack thereof right now. That obviously is a very timely issue as we lawyers at least, and I think many people in the general public, understand. The ABA I think has looked at that issue and is probably still considering that issue, although I think we took a vote earlier this year that there should be a binding code of ethics on the Supreme Court. 

Lauren: Yes. 

Don: I'm going to have a podcast, my next episode, which obviously, since it's the next one, I haven't done it yet. But the next person I'm interviewing, I think that's going to be a lot of what we talk about. So, I'll just put in an advanced plug for that. 

Let's move on to the book, Her Honor. I've started to read it. I will tell you, I've gravitated towards the chapters on the Massachusetts judges because I know them a little bit. But I've read other parts of it too, and it's really a great read. I can describe it, but maybe I should have you do it. There are, I think, 25 chapters, and each one is about a different female judge. State courts and federal courts. All of them have one other thing in common, that they're all past recipients of a very important award given by the American Bar Association. Can you talk about what the book is before we start diving into it a little more? 

Lauren: Oh, sure. So I actually had been approached by the Judicial Division of the ABA. They were putting together an editorial board and thinking about different kinds of content they wanted in book projects. And someone had suggested that they reach out to me, someone who knew that I loved to write, to see if I would be willing to edit. The idea was edit a book of stories from highly prominent women judges. And that was the idea. And it was intriguing. 

The first thought I had actually was, okay, well in a country full of prominent women judges, how on earth would we define who would be asked and who's prominent for purposes of that type of differentiation for the book? And then the other concern that I had was how do you get judges to talk about themselves? Because that part is always quite difficult. 

So, as to the first question, it occurred to me that, having been a member of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession many years ago, one of the things that the Commission does is it gives, that one of the highest, most significant awards in the ABA is the Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award. And usually, it's five awards, generally, and in that pool there's always one or two judges. It just dawned on me that that might be a differentiator. I myself was fortunate enough to receive that award in 2017, and I remember the speech of the judge with whom I was honored, and thought, this could work if we had enough of these folks say yes to the project. So that was what we used as a basis. And fortunately, we had enough say yes, so that we had even exceeded our expectations really, in terms of the response. 

So, the other piece of it was, okay, well how do we get them to talk about things that can be inspirational to people reading this book and make them feel helpful and understand that everybody faces challenges and figures out a way to get through that. So I actually created a list that went out with our request for participation that really focused on ideas for them. You know, talk about examples of bias that you faced. Pay inequity. Sexual harassment. Other kinds of misconduct. It was quite a list. But to try to get them thinking about the idea that this was not to be a book about "I had great mentors and I was very lucky," because that's what most people will say when you ask them to talk about themselves, particularly people like judges who are not comfortable talking about themselves. At any rate, that worked, and we got a good group of judges who said yes, and we got some really wonderful, thoughtful, nuanced responses.

Don: One thing I really appreciated, you have a great sentence in your introduction to the book. I'm going to read it. You said, "Here we strive to present the human face of the judiciary-- judges who steadfastly maintain compassion for the litigants before them, a humble appreciation for the power they wield, a desire to serve with distinction, and a commitment to the Rule of Law that is foundational to every American's faith in the judicial branch of government." What a great sentence! You captured so much of the ideal of the judge. 

Lauren: You're reading that and I'm thinking, oh, did I say that? Oh, thank you. 

Don: No, it's really great. And I think that, at least in the parts I've read, I think that really comes through. 

And it's interesting to me, and obviously, I have more to read and I'm going to learn a lot more, but it's easy for a white male lawyer like me in his sixties to not appreciate, not really understand at all what it used to be like -- I think it's still an issue, obviously, but I think it used to be worse -- what it used to be like for women coming up in our profession to have to prove themselves, establish, if they were in a private law firm, a path to partnership, while they were also expected to be the primary child raiser, the primary parent raising the children. I'm always surprised when I hear this stuff because I always assume the best of everybody and that there isn't bias, people are good to each other, and obviously that's not always true. And it's funny for me as a lawyer to say that because I'm also somewhat cynical about human nature.

But, I remember when I was at a reunion in my law school class years ago, and I went to law school at a time when only a third of our class were women, or it might have even just been a quarter of our class. And after 25 years, we were all having dinner, men and women, and I was talking with a number of them, and the women were describing what it was like for them, and I was just floored. Like, "Oh my God, I had no idea that those things were happening, or that you had those obstacles that the rest of us didn't have." And yet they overcame them and had successful careers. 

And I got some of that out of the chapters I've read. And I want to learn more because I think especially we men need to be reading this book. I think this book is probably going to, you're going to sell a lot of copies to women, but I would encourage men to get a copy of this book because we need to understand what the challenges have been that women have faced in our profession. And I don't think most of us really have a very good understanding of that.

All right, so I'll get off my soapbox. But go ahead, Lauren. 

Lauren: I think that is an important point because, it's first of all quite true, and the people can't read or shouldn't read this and think of it as a time gone by. Maybe some of the more blatant examples, but on the other hand, one of the things I was doing just before this was I was reading the complaint that was filed against Giuliani recently by his former employee, you know, sexual harassment. It was a full panoply of [alleged] misconduct. And these are behaviors . . . . First of all, the complaint itself reads like a bad porn novel. And it's disgusting, and also indicative of the fact that these behaviors happen today. 

And so, whenever we read stories of bias or challenges that people face, we have to understand that, well, maybe we're not seeing them, but they're there, and maybe they're more underground, or maybe they're handled with greater discretion by somebody who's behaving poorly. But I hear these stories all the time in the work that I do. 

Don: Yeah. So, it's women judges that are telling the stories. Or in the case of some deceased judges and justices, it's their former law clerks who are also women. 

Lauren: Well, law clerks and in one case, the category of people who either were, for the two Supreme Court Justices, it was former law clerks, but for others it was either a judge colleague or other lawyers who were close to them.

Don: Would you think the book would basically read the same if instead of judges it was accomplished women lawyers? 

Lauren: Yes. Yes. 

Don: Okay. So it's the same experiences, challenges, but it happens to be a group of women judges who have been very highly recognized in their profession.

Lauren: Yeah. And I think what makes it unique is that, as I said, judges in particular don't talk about themselves very comfortably. And there are some wonderful stories in this book that they shared. 

Don: I mentioned that I was drawn to the judges who I know a little bit about because they're in Massachusetts. So I read the chapter on Judge Nancy Gertner, who was a district judge in Massachusetts for those who don't know, and also of retired Justice Nan Duffly, who was in the Probate and Family Court for many years, and then was elevated to the Massachusetts Appeals Court and ultimately to the Supreme Judicial Court. In fact, I think I was President of the BBA at the time she was appointed. So I attended her confirmation hearing and I attended her swearing in, I believe. Very impressive. 

Judge Gertner just brings such a lively perspective. She's just always so interesting to listen to and to read, and she talks about how there's a school of thought, and I think she mentioned Clarence Thomas as articulating this during his confirmation hearings, that lawyers who want to be judges need to come at it having no opinions about anything. And she says, well, that's crazy. We have life experiences and we're all going to bring opinions. And what you want is a diversity of opinions. But you can't say you're coming as a blank slate. That's not realistic. 

Lauren: Exactly. 

Don: I'm going to read this because I love this paragraph of hers. She said, "I knew who I was, who I had been, what I believed in. A passion for justice. A determination to work and work to all hours of the night until I found an answer. Looking at the people before me in court as people I might have grown up with or represented. Feeling empathy, and yet learning detachment."

Again, what a great passage! It really sums up in just a few words a very important point about what it takes to be a judge. 

Lauren: Another thing that's so profound about that passage that I thought of as well when I was reading what she had sent was that it really tells you how ineffective our confirmation process is for Supreme Court Judges. Because, it's a charade about basically trying to get them to make themselves be a blank slate rather than to try to understand where, in fact, their own inner biases, their own inner views, inner perspectives will creep. And that's really where we should be going when we're trying to understand how a judge will rule when sitting on the Supreme Court. 

Don: There are certain stock answers I think that Supreme Court candidates give because they know that those won't present a problem to their advancement. And I think there's also a maneuver that often takes place in the nomination process, where you try to find somebody who doesn't have a long track record. You know, somebody who's only been on the bench for a matter of a couple of years at the most, so that people can't attack them based on some of their earlier decisions. Yeah, it is a problem. 

But then you get a judge like Judge Gertner, who just brings a very refreshing perspective to it. She's not on the bench anymore, for anybody wondering. She's now a professor at Harvard Law School, I believe. But, she was on the bench for quite a long time. And another very highly respected judge.

There was another theme that I thought came out in some of these that I want to ask you about. I think it's an important theme, and it carries over into other areas besides judging and courts. 

One place where it appears is in the last paragraph of Judge Duffly's piece. These pieces are, what, about anywhere from eight to 15 pages long? Each chapter, each judge. So, they're really easy to get through. You won't bog down reading these. But she was the first, I believe, Asian American judge appointed to the Massachusetts bench, any of our courts, when she was appointed to the Probate and Family Court, and also on the Supreme Judicial Court. She was the first, I believe. We could check that if anybody wonders about that, look it up, because I may be wrong, but I think that's what I read. [NB: On page 202 of Her Honor, Justice Duffly is described as “[t]he first Asian American woman appointed to any court of the Commonwealth in its history.”]

Here's what she writes at the very end of her piece: "My time on the Appeals Court and Supreme Judicial Court was the most rewarding of any job in the law that I have held, in part because the men and women who were my colleagues were truly collegial and we supported each other's efforts to achieve the best possible decisions."

And here's what she says. She says, "The presence of women and men, gay and lesbian judges, and judges of color contributes to better decision making, greater understanding of minority experiences and points of view, and the high regard in which I believe our opinions are held." 

So it's that theme that we are stronger by our diversity, which is a theme that I know colleges have been struggling with. There's the case that's going to be decided, maybe even before I drop this episode of the podcast, involving Harvard and colleges that want to have diverse classes because they think it's good for the students and for education generally to have diverse classes, and challenges to that as a challenge to affirmative action, as if that were discriminatory.

But the same theme pops up in the last chapter of the book. So, you have bookends here. In the front you have Sandra Day O'Connor is the first chapter, and the last one is Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And obviously they didn't write them themselves. But there is a quote from Justice Ginsburg in which she said this:

"A system of justice will be the richer for diversity of background and experience" among its judges. "It will be poorer, in terms of appreciating what is at stake and the impact of its judgements, if all of its members are cast from the same mold." [The book goes on to say]: Diverse backgrounds, Justice Ginsburg believed, generate differing perspectives. Those multiple perspectives, in turn, push the law to keep its promise of serving 'all the people law exists (or should exist) to serve.'" 

So there is that theme. Did you hear that from some of the other judges as well? I haven't read all the chapters yet. 

Lauren: Oh, it's definitely a prevailing theme throughout the book. You know, each one of these judges not only had to deal with bias in their careers at various points, but were keenly aware of the fact that different voices at the table make a difference in the output, in the results. And that shouldn't be brain surgery for people. You just see it over and over again, and they talk about it even in the work that they do, not only sitting on the bench, but the perspectives they bring to various task forces and other kinds of administrative functions that they have. How they’ve handled problems in the courts. How they deal with challenges in the system that they try to help fix. It's definitely a universal theme in the book and the recognition that diversity does matter. And that's another example of something where we can't allow that language to be taken away from us.

Every lawyer in this country, every time they hear the word "woke" used in the way that it is used as a pejorative should be fighting back and pushing back against just how awful that is. One of our board members, Peggy Quince, who's a former Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court and also a chapter author, recently wrote a piece for Bloomberg Law that is one of the most important pieces I've seen on the topic of “woke” and what the word truly means as compared to the way in which it is now turned into a pejorative and an excuse to deny people the right to understanding their history. The history of this country. The history of the broad range of diverse people who helped build this country and the experiences they had.

So that's another piece to me of the whole fight that we as lawyers should be leading in this country. Because every time that we allow that word "woke" to be used as a pejorative, we're letting go so much of what is dangerous in this country right now. 

Don: Yeah, I agree. I always have the same reaction every time I hear certain politicians use that word in a very pejorative way. 

Well, congratulations on the book. If somebody wants to get a copy of the book, they can get it through American Bar Association Publishing. Is it also on Amazon and other [outlets]? 

Lauren: It's definitely on Amazon, 

Don: Okay. So again, the book is "Her Honor," and it's published by the ABA's Judicial Division, and the Editor is Lauren Stiller Rikleen.

Lauren: Thank you. 

Don: I threw a question to you in advance of today, and I don't know if you've had a chance to think about it, and I'm not sure I want to end on this because, if it's a dark story, I don't know that I want to end with a dark story. But the question was, "If you were asked to write a chapter about yourself in a book like Her Honor, what is the one story you'd be sure to include?

Lauren: Well, it's funny. I did look at your list and when I saw that, and I promise it won't be a dark story, when I saw that I was sitting with my husband last night and I said, "Oh, what the heck would I say about what I'd write about myself?" And he looked at me and he said, "Well, that's an easy one." And my husband, who, as you know, is also a lawyer, and the institutional memory in this household, said "The Hiller Zobel story." 

Don: Okay, let's hear the Hiller Zobel story. For people who don't know, Hiller Zobel was a longtime judge on the Massachusetts Trial Court, the Massachusetts Superior Court. He was on the bench a long time, now retired, in advanced years, but still remembered by many of us. So, go ahead. 

Lauren: So, Hiller Zobel was also my civil procedure class my first year at Boston College Law School, a terrifying professor to have, who I nonetheless adored. And, actually, in many ways changed my life with this one incident. And that is this. 

One day we showed up in class. It was one of those first year classes, obviously civil procedure, very large. And there was a note on the door apologetically canceling class. And so all of us turned around and went back to our lives. 

And then the next time we showed up in class, he started off with an apology, and saying, "I'm sorry that I missed class. It's very rare for me. But my son was sick and at that point my wife and I had to look at our schedules." His wife at that time was a partner in a major law firm. "And we had to look at our schedules to see who had the most flexible day. And she had a client that was already on a plane coming in from the West Coast. And my choice was that I could stay at home, but knowing it would still be an inconvenience to all of you, that was the choice that we had to make under the circumstances." 

And that was like a light bulb going off in my life in terms of his honesty in addressing it and the rational way in which they problem solved how to deal with a sick child when two people had a very busy career. 

Don: Yeah. It was the rational way, but not necessarily the traditional way.

Lauren: Yeah, exactly. Yes. A very untraditional way in many ways. And it was how we guided our lives as two lawyers very committed to our children, making sure that somebody was always home if a child wasn't feeling well. And forever just looking at our calendar that day, figuring out who had the most flexible day. But it wasn't just related to having a sick child. It essentially guided our lives as parents. 

Don: That's a wonderful story. Have you ever told him that story? 

Lauren: You know, I think about that all the time. I'm pretty sure I have not. I should figure out his address and tell him. 

Don: Well, thank you very much. This has been fun. These issues are so interesting. Your work is fascinating to me. And I look forward to having other people have a chance to hear about it. 

Lauren: Thank you so much. It was fun to talk with you. 

Don: All right, Lauren. You take care. 

Lauren: Thank you.