“My Story” Featuring Hon. Elizabeth D. Laporte (Ret.)
Judge Laporte joined JAMS after more than two decades as a United States magistrate judge for the Northern District of California. Judge Laporte was the chief United States magistrate judge for the Northern District of California from 2013 to 2015. As a magistrate judge, she presided over numerous civil cases with the parties’ consent, with a robust docket that included patent, trademark, copyright, business, class action, employment, insurance, environmental, antitrust and civil rights litigation.
Schooling and Career
Judge Laporte started her professional journey as a Marshall Scholar at Oxford and began working for the Federal Trade Commission soon after. Following that, she attended law school at Yale.
“I've been fortunate to have a very interesting and varied career,” says Judge Laporte. She has worked in the private sector, practiced civil rights and employment law, served as an administrative law judge at the California Department of Insurance and Chief of Special Litigation at the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office before joining the federal bench.
Her first job after graduating from law school was clerking for Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, who was the first and for eight years the only woman on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Experience as a Young Woman Lawyer
“It might seem hard to believe,” says Judge Laporte, “but when I went to Yale Law School, the number of women professors varied from zero to two.” Growing up, she knew only one female attorney, even though her father was an attorney and many of her parents' friends were lawyers.
“It wasn’t always easy.” When she began practicing law, she looked young for her age, and with her slight build, sometimes opposing counsel tried to verbally intimidate her. Fortunately, she was never intimidated and ultimately prevailed.
Life as a Working Mother
Like many women, Judge Laporte was a working mother throughout her career, which required her to balance work with precious family time. One benefit of this was that her daughters interacted with various judges while they were growing up. They learned some valuable lessons from them.
Judge Laporte has been involved in many organizations that are close to her heart. In fact, not too long ago, she founded and launched the Women Attorneys Advocacy Project, in which leading women attorneys from a variety of practice areas come together to put on a series of programs “designed to help overcome obstacles and maximize opportunities for women.” She’s been involved in the ChIPs community, which promotes women in law, tech and policy, and has participated in some of its training programs, such as mock presentations and hearings.
The Benefits of Diversity
Judge Laporte is an ardent proponent of diversity initiatives.
“We need to continue to demonstrate the very tangible benefits that come from having diverse decision-makers,” she says. “More and more social science research shows that better decisions are made when people collaborate across different ethnicities and genders and other diverse types of identities.”
Lessons Learned Along the Way
Judge Laporte has learned a variety of lessons during her career. One of them is to “do what you really care about, because you're more likely to do a good job at that.”
She believes that passion fuels excellence. She also advises to try to learn something from everyone you encounter in your career, such as colleagues and even opposing counsel.
“Try to encourage and model civil behavior in that community.”
If she had to write a memoir, she would call it “Fortunate.”
“I had the opportunities to receive an excellent education and practice a profession that I love.”
Judge Laporte credits the wonderful colleagues she has had over the years and is proud of her community. It all reminds her that she is very, very fortunate.
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