Drinking, Feminism, Gender, Litigators, Sexism, Small Law Firms

Size Matters: Can A Wet T-Shirt Contest Form The Basis Of A Niche Practice?

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Size Matters, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

After talking to so many happy small-firm lawyers, I have begun looking for my own niche to scratch. It came to me while driving in the suburbs a few weeks ago. There was a radio ad for an awesome night club (“18 to party and 21 to drink”) promoting ladies’ night and a wet t-shirt contest for the ladies until midnight.

As I got off the highway to head to the club, I realized that I had found my niche: ladies’ night is just for the ladies. What about man night? Where is the justice in the world? I should fight for all the men who are discriminated against by paying a cover charge on ladies’ night (well, except for those men who ultimately get preferential treatment from said ladies who enjoyed their free drinks).

Unfortunately for me, Roy Den Hollander took up this worthy cause before my fateful drive to the Boom Boom Room on Highway 12. Let’s learn more about him….

Roy Den Hollander is a solo practitioner in New York. He earned his J.D. at George Washington University and his M.B.A. at Columbia. And, before hanging out his shingle, he was allegedly an associate at Cravath.

Hollander’s niche is fighting for the rights of men. Dubbed the “anti-feminist lawyer” by the New York Times (or at least according to Hollander’s reading of the NYT), Hollander is best known for his lawsuits against New York clubs’ blatant discrimination against dudes due to ladies’ nights. Hollander fought the good fight all the way to the Supreme Court (sort of). In his own words:

Lady Judge throws case into the street. She ruled that under the U.S. Constitution, nightclubs can charge men more for admission than females, but as a result cannot charge guys more for a drink. So if you can make it to the bar, you’re home-free. September 29, 2008.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision. It’s half a victory, since the case can be used as authority to challenge Ladies’ Nights that charge guys more for drinks anywhere in the country because of the prestige of the Second Circuit. September 1, 2010.

U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case. The Second Circuit decision stands, so nightclubs can charge guys more for admission but not more for a drink. January 10, 2011.

Reading Hollander’s words on the discriminatory nature of ladies’ night — and his discussion of his other targets, women’s studies classes at Columbia and the Violence Against Women Act — I was struck with the realization that some lawyers go small not just to specialize or to make big bucks, but to fight for what is right.

I am not the only one to appreciate Hollander’s fight for justice. Steven Colbert recognized Hollander as a Difference Maker.

I am sure we can all sleep a little sounder knowing that one of our own, a small-firm lawyer, is out there fighting against ladies’ night. And, if you happen to read this, Roy, may I suggest that you also take up one more crusade: a legal fight against wet t-shirt contests. Why should women be the only ones eligible to be doused in water in the hopes of winning a free Bud Light?

And, don’t even get me started on mud-wrestling….

Valerie Katz (not her real name) works at a small law firm in Chicago. You can reach her by email at Valerie.L.Katz@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter at @ValerieLKatz.

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