Bad Ideas, Conferences / Symposia, Dubious Conferences, Feminism, Gender

Hey, Lady Lawyers: Have We Got a Conference for You….

Ally McBeal female lawyer woman attorney Calista Flockhart.jpgEd. note: Above the Law is a bit estrogen-deprived this week, with both Kash and Marin on vacation. So your above-signed writer, who is more in touch with his feminine side than Elie, was called up for duty. He apologizes for not being able to do justice to this subject.
UPDATE (6 PM): The New York State Bar Association has changed the title and description of the panel in question. Details after the jump.
Women in the law: you’ve come a long way, babies. Many of you are partners, even managing partners, at top law firms. Some of you are professors, even deans, at leading law schools. One if you is the Solicitrix General; two of you sit on the Supreme Court.
But maybe you still need some advice for navigating the mean, cutthroat, male-dominated world of the legal profession. Ideally these tips should come from, you know…. MEN.
At the upcoming annual meeting of the New York State Bar Association, the Committee on Women in the Law is sponsoring a program called “Weathering Tough Times: Strategic Planning for Your Practice.” It includes this panel:
NYSBA conference panel Their Point of View Tips from the Other Side.jpg
So, how do you think women lawyers reacted to the prospect of enlightenment from a “distinguished panel of gentlemen”?

Not very well. We heard from many irate women lawyers about this panel. Like this one:

Women at my firm are outraged. I was hoping it was a facetious title…

And another:

I thought it was a joke until I went to the website myself. One female partner I showed it to is hoping that the NYSBA website was hacked and this still is a joke. She couldn’t believe it came from there.

Still more:

[E]very female attorney I know that has seen this — partners to associates — is outraged. The first reaction is this is a joke. Then next is what year is this from. And the last is shocked and appalled. Most people don’t know where to start.

The “distinguished panel” of male lawyers — who will surely tell female lawyers to be less “sensitive” and “emotional,” especially around “that time of the month,” but praise women lawyers for their “communication skills” and “empathy” (clients love the “empathy” thing) — will be preceded by this panel, cheerfully entitled “What’s Our Problem? Current Issues Facing Women”:
NYSBA conference panel Whats Our Problem Current Issues Facing Women.jpg
Women lawyers, maybe your “problem” is… self-loathing? And always looking to “distinguished gentlemen” for all the answers? A tipster aptly summarizes:

As for the whole symposium: let’s all get together and discuss our problems in the first panel, and then we can bring in the distinguished gentlemen to tell us how to fix them.

After all, every woman must have the same strengths and weaknesses. You almost expect them to add how to dress to the list of things the gentlemen will be talking about.

I’m willing to give the men on the panel the benefit of the doubt that it was not explained to them this way — otherwise I can’t imagine why they would agree.

Will the panel go forward? Stay tuned. Over at Feminist Law Professors, Professor Bridget Crawford has called for a boycott:

I call for all members of the NYSBA to boycott this panel discussion. Yes, the speakers have a right to speak, but we don’t have to go and listen. Men have been telling us FOR YEARS how we don’t measure up. To have a panel of men, endorsed by the New York State Bar Association, discussing our “strengths and weaknesses,” is a regression and an insult to all women in the legal profession.

Here at ATL, we hope the panel goes forward, if for no reason other than sheer entertainment value. The “distinguished panel of gentlemen” will be walking on the proverbial eggshells before a room full of pissed-off women lawyers.
We can’t wait for some eyewitness reports (from attendees who don’t boycott). Fun times!
P.S. If you’re interested in conferences with less problematic offerings, check out the following:

UPDATE (6 PM): The New York State Bar Association has issued the following statement:
The New York State Bar Association has received concerns regarding a panel discussion organized by the Committee on Women in the Law to be featured during our 2010 Annual Meeting (Their Point of View: Tips from the Other Side, Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 11:00 a.m.).
Unfortunately, the important objectives of this panel have been overshadowed by issues raised as to the topic description and the composition of the panel.
We have therefore responded by modifying the presentation as follows:
Sharing Their Points of View: Tips from Both Sides
A distinguished panel of attorneys, comprising women and men, will engage in a dialogue about the challenges faced by women in the workplace in the areas of communication, negotiation, mediation, arbitration, organization and management of work, as well as the role of mentoring.
The panel will give specific skill building advice for women to consider in order to strengthen their practice in the above-mentioned areas.
We hope that you will join us on Tuesday, January 26th. For your convenience, you can register online at
UPDATE (1/19/10): Read more here (information about participants in the revised panel, as well as a reader poll).
Weathering Tough Times: Strategic Planning For Your Practice [Committee on Women in the Law – NYSBA Annual Meeting – 2010]
The NYSBA Sponsors Panel of Men Opining on Women’s “Strengths and Weaknesses” as Lawyers [Feminist Law Professors]

(hidden for your protection)

comments sponsored by

Show all comments