Biglaw, Fashion, Gender, Sexism, Women's Issues

Biglaw Memo From Top Firm Advises That Women ‘Don’t Giggle,’ Don’t ‘Show Cleavage’

This is a Biglaw fashion don’t.

Day in and day out, the demands associated with Biglaw grind people up and lay waste to the hopes and dreams that many once had about what it would be like to work as a high-powered attorney. And more often than not, it is the men who are in charge of this “all work, no play” carnival of tortured souls.

From origination credit to salary wars to leadership opportunities, it is usually the men who are accused of pushing women two steps back in the Biglaw regime. But today, we’ve got insider information on some alleged woman-on-woman crime. This time, it is the women who are ripping their female colleagues to shreds. And it’s not just any women; no, it’s the members of the firm’s Women’s Committee who are doing the damage, and trust us when we say that these cats have claws.

Brought to you by the same firm that produced the departure memo seen ’round the world, we now present to you what may be one of the most sexist Biglaw memos we’ve ever seen….

Last night, we started receiving reports of a memo entitled “Presentation Tips for Women” that was distributed by a member of the Women’s Committee to all women associates across the U.S. offices of Clifford Chance. Here’s what one of its recipients said to us via email:

[F]emale associates are very upset by not only the elementary nature of the tips themselves, but the suggestion that these would only apply to women. We have never been a very female friendly firm, but this is beyond the pale.

With that kind of ringing endorsement, we took a peek at the five-page document to see what kind of “tips” the powers that be at Clifford Chance were doling out to their women attorneys. Our tipster was correct in that the vast majority of these words of wisdom aren’t tips for “women,” but rather, tips for “human beings.” (Though to be fair, some of these tips might actually have been helpful to the people who bought into crazy things like the “power cleavage” phenomenon or the unspoken “shorter skirts, bigger bonuses” movement.)

We’ve listed some of the most ridiculous “tips for women” here, along with our commentary:

“Like” You’ve got to Lose “Um” and “Uh,” “You Know,” “OK,” and “Like.”
– Um, Clifford Chance, do you think that women associates are like, uh, valley girls?

Use a relaxed, open throat, breathe from the abdomen & keep your mouth open.
– Ladies, please remember to thank your firm for these excellent blow-job tips.

Think Lauren Bacall, not Marilyn Monroe.
– Because the goal in Biglaw is to sound like an older woman dripping with sex, not a younger one.

Don’t giggle; Don’t squirm; Don’t tilt your head.
– Don’t act like a teenager. Don’t act like a four-year-old. Don’t act like a confused dog. Got it.

Practice hard words.
– Wrap your tiny female brains around this one (or consult with George W. Bush if you’re having difficulties).

Watch out for the urinal position.
– We thought these were tips for women, but it’s best to avoid looking like you’re pissing on your audience.

Wear a suit, not your party outfit.
– In case you’ve forgotten, there’s no such thing as work/life balance. Their suits are their party outfits.

No one heard Hillary the day she showed cleavage.
– Similarly, no one heard Bill the day he waved his dick around.

The document also contains advice for women on how to not give the audience a Sharon Stone crotch shot when wearing a skirt while seated on a dais — because closing your legs is just as hard as words are.

We reached out to Clifford Chance for comment on this debacle, and received this statement from the firm:

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.

We’re sure that the women attorneys at Clifford Chance feel much better now that they know the inadvertent sexism present in this memo wasn’t intentional. While we look forward to seeing the “common sense” memo distributed to the firm’s male attorneys instructing them not to reach down their pants to adjust their junk during presentations, we have a distinct feeling that it just doesn’t exist.

(Flip to the next page to see the full memo. Do you find it sexist, taken as a whole?)

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