Firm to female lawyers: Don’t giggle, don’t squirm, don’t show cleavage

WASHINGTON – Don’t giggle, don’t squirm and don’t hide behind your hair.

The tips sound like advice a mother would give her daughter before she stands up to speak in front of her high school class. However, these tips were not aimed at school girls, but female lawyers at an international law firm.

“These people, they went to law school, they’ve passed the bar exam, they’re working for this big-time firm,” says Staci Zaretsky, assistant editor at the legal website “Now they have to be told to cross their legs if they’re wearing a skirt.”

Zaretsky is talking about a memo entitled “Presentation Tips for Women,” which was handed out to the female associates at the offices of global law firm Clifford Chance. The memo was then leaked to by an anonymous associate of the firm earlier this month.

The women’s committee at Clifford Chance, which also has offices in D.C., provided the advice on public presentation to the firm’s female lawyers.

“It was incredibly sexist, which is a shame because there are some great tips in the memo,” says Zaretsky. “But when you’re sending this to only women at this specific firm, it comes off as almost demeaning and offensive.”

The memo counsels women to stand up straight, lose the “ums” and “like” and “you know” phrases and avoid waving their arms. When addressing work attire, the memo says those women who wear skirts should make sure the audience can’t see up them and with shirts, women should eschew cleavage.

“No one heard Hillary [Clinton] the day she showed cleavage,” the memo says.

Zaretsky wonders, “Where is the memo for the men?”

Clifford Chance offered WTOP this statement:

“The original presentation and associated tips represented a personal perspective, shared with a group of colleagues, some just starting out in their careers. The more than 150 points are based on what this individual has found helpful as a public speaker in a broad range of business environments.

While much of what is covered is common sense, we believe that it is important that women as well as men are given access to a range of different viewpoints and approaches; there is no Clifford Chance template on how people should present. The offense caused by a small percentage of the suggestions in the tip sheet was entirely unintentional.”

Read the full memo, provided by, below:

Clifford Chance: Presentation Tips for Women by Staci Zaretsky

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