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BigLaw Associate Used Reddit to Call out Discrimination, Harassment

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on April 27, 2016 11:15 AM

A disgruntled ex-BigLaw associate took to Reddit yesterday to call out her old firm and explain why she left the law. Kristen Jarvis Johnson says she was a partner-track associate for nine years with Squire Patton Boggs. While at the firm, she experienced "blatant gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and a very clear glass ceiling," she wrote on Reddit.

So Johnson quit her job, walked away from her a nearly $400,000-a-year income, and now wants everyone to know just how awful her time in BigLaw was. Spoiler alert: it was pretty awful.

IamA Fed up Ex-Attorney

Johnson took to Reddit to discuss her nearly-decade's long experience at Squire Patton Boggs. For those not familiar, Reddit is a social news site, part media aggregator, part online forum. It's "IamA" forum (or subreddit, in Redditese) provides a platform for those with unique experiences to share their stories and answer questions.

On Tuesday, Johnson spilled her guts in a post entitled, and we quote, "IamA burned out international lawyer just returned from Qatar making almost $400k per year, feeling jet lagged and slightly insane at having just quit it all to get my life back, get back in shape, actually see my 2 young boys, and start a toy company, AMA!" (Someone should submit that to Reddit's 'Title Gore' forum.)

Here's the gist: Johnson spent her last two and a half years with Patton Squire Boggs in their Doha, Qatar office where she practice international arbitration around commercial and contract disputes.

As a woman and a mother, she claims to have experienced significant gender bias and the feeling that "having a baby apparently makes you worth less as a lawyer." She writes that her experience "was not related specifically to Qatar, but was more related to the male-dominated legal industry. I found that in the upper ranks, especially in litigation/arbitration, women are a rarity."

And her experience isn't unique, Johnson claims, writing that "from what I have seen, many firms (not just my own) get hung up on women who need to take maternity leave, have family responsibilities, or cannot work 110 percent of the time."

Not Just Motherhood

The tipping point for Johnson wasn't the discrimination she felt as a mother, however. It was the death of her grandmother:

Also my grandmother died in November. I found out two hours before I was heading to the airport to work at a hearing for three weeks. I couldn't even take the time to mourn. It was horrible. I missed her funeral the next month because of another hearing. My grandmother was my role model, and I asked myself whether she would approve of my life's path and how I was spending my time. She wouldn't.

Life After Law: Boy Doll Addition

Johnson's tale seems in line with other stories of BigLaw gender-bias, sexual harassment, and the push to sacrifice all other aspects of your life for the firm. But while Johnson might be just one of thousands who've left the legal field for other, more balanced careers, she's the only ex-lawyer we've ever heard of who started her own doll company.

Today, instead of practicing international arbitration in Doha, Johnson is running Boy Story, a company that creates "action dolls" for boys. Consider it American Girls, the boy version.

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