Brown continued to work for Judge Beatty after her June graduation to hedge her bets until the bar results were known. In the meantime, her father’s health diminished and he was hospitalized in September 1980. He expressed pessimism about the bar results during their daily convesations, but when she finally called to report she had passed, he said simply, “I knew you would.” He passed away a few days later.
Brown joined the firm now known as Bullivant Houser Bailey and pursued a path to becoming a trial lawyer. Although not the first woman attorney the firm had hired, she was the sole woman attorney there when she started. Adjustments were needed along the way. Indeed, for many women entering previously male-dominated professions in that era, humor and simple problem solving were often the first rungs in a ladder of responses when trying to determine if the sexism they were receiving was clueless or intended. For example, when trying to get to the courthouse quickly one morning, Brown took a short cut through a conference room and unexpectedly walked into a roomful of the firm’s senior partners and one of their most important clients, all of them men. The client locked eyes with Brown and barked, “Where’s that coffee?” She could see the partners looking at her with the distinct nonverbal direction, “Don’t mess this up.” Brown replied, “I am so sorry you don’t have your coffee, sir, but I’m due in court in six minutes for another client. If you don’t have your coffee when I return, I’ll be happy to get some for you then.” The client looked at the partners, shook his head and said, “I’ve got to stop doing that.”
Within blocks of City Hall and the federal and county courthouses, the all-male University Club was used by many law firms and other businesses for lunches or meetings. In the 1980s, women were allowed in for only “occasional events” and even then, had to enter through the back door. That happened a few times too many for Brown and her friend and colleague, Chrys Martin. They worked together to move firm gatherings to places where those invited could enter through the front door. In 1985, Brown and another woman lawyer, Christine P. Brown, were the first women to join the Bullivant partnership. When they entered their first partnership meeting playing a recording of Donna Summer’s “She Works Hard for the Money,” some partners began to worry!
Judge Anna J. Brown
A March/April 2019 article in Federal Lawyer notes that with her firm’s support, Brown developed a practice defending tort claims, particularly representing public bodies, police officers, lawyers, and other professionals. Brown thrived on resolving complicated disputes and noted in a recent interview, “I think fundamentally, I’ve always been inclined toward solving problems, and to me, this practice area was an opportunity for me to be helpful, to figure out how to get things done, to move people out of conflict and into resolution.”