Gender

female lawyers women lawyers attorneys old girls network

The old girls' network?

Hundreds have gathered here in Chicago for the 10th annual Inside Counsel SuperConference. Though it’s perfectly pleasant weather outside, the Fairmont Hotel meeting rooms are upholding the Windy City’s reputation for frigid temperatures.

Many of the sessions offer advice on how in-house counsel can improve their offerings to their companies and get the most from their outside counsel. One law firm that has set up shop in the vendors’ alley has an advertisement that reads, “The Billable Hour is dead… and we killed it” — a pure pander-play to cost-conscious in-house counsel.

But the conference is not dedicated solely to budget busting, belt-tightening moves. Last night was a celebration of female GCs and law firm partners, with a series of awards for successful women lawyers and the companies and firms that support them.

Winners offered advice on empowering women in the work place. I wish I’d kept count of the number of times I heard the word “mentor.” I also heard a new term: “the old girls’ network.”

So what advice did they have for the XX set?

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I can’t claim to know all of the difficulties nursing mothers are up against as they try to handle their personal and professional business. But I do know that the recession has pushed “work-life” balance concerns off the front page.

We’ve all heard stories about the travails of nursing mothers. Horrible stories about women who can’t get an exception to their firm’s “no curtains” policy, thus preventing breast pumping in their own office. Discriminatory stories about women who can’t get a reasonable break to do what needs to be done. We’ve heard positive stories too: like Simpson Thacher’s lactation room — which sounds like a thing nobody would call a “perk” if more women ran law firms.

However, I can’t recall any kind of technological innovation that could actually help nursing mothers manage all the things on their plate. Until now. The device below is beautiful … and terrible. It seems like one of the most unnatural contraptions ever invented to help a natural process. It is corporate and mammalian at the same time.

And it’s just a striking freaking image….

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Angela Reinholz: Apparently getting pregnant didn't screw her enough.

It takes balls to file this kind of lawsuit.

A man working for the British firm Eversheds filed a sexual discrimination lawsuit after being fired from the firm. He claimed that the firm should have fired a woman out on maternity leave — but Eversheds didn’t because it was worried that the woman would file a sexual discrimination lawsuit.

Catch-22 for Eversheds? Maybe. The English Employment Tribunal ruled in favor of the laid off man. The Daily Mail (gavel bang: ABA Journal) reports:

John de Belin won £123,000 in damages after one of Britain’s biggest law firms ‘deprived him of his livelihood’.

Mr de Belin, 45, was one of two associates facing redundancy from Eversheds’ property division in Leeds. The other was Angela Reinholz, 40.

To decide who would be sacked, the firm undertook an assessment of both Mr de Belin’s and Mrs Reinholz’s abilities, including financial performance, discipline history and absence records.

Mr de Belin was fired in February 2009 after losing by just half a point, scoring 27 out of 39 in the exercise against Mrs Reinholz’s 27.5.

The problem was that Reinholz’s score was “inflated” while she was out on maternity leave…

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“I have the p*ssy, so I make the rules.”

A t-shirt that resulted in a contempt-of-court charge in Chicago.

Now that President Obama has interviewed the four finalists for the U.S. Supreme Court seat he has to fill — Judge Merrick Garland (D.C. Cir.), Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Judge Sidney Thomas (9th Cir.), and Judge Diane Wood (7th Cir) — the nominee could be announced any day now. Who will it be?

We realize that the betting men (and women) favor Solicitor General Elena Kagan. Kagan is also the pick of Tom Goldstein, the veteran Supreme Court litigator and founder of SCOTUSblog, who correctly forecast the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor (a nomination that the White House sought his counsel on).

But we’re going to go out on a limb and make a crazy prediction: President Obama is going to nominate Judge Diane Wood, of the Seventh Circuit, to the Supreme Court. He’ll announce the nomination on Monday, May 10 — the Monday after Mother’s Day. (That’s significant, for reasons we’ll get to later.)

Right out of the starting gate, immediately after Justice John Paul Stevens announced his retirement, Solicitor General Elena Kagan emerged as the frontrunner for his seat. And Kagan is still widely regarded as the leading candidate.

But, in the past week and a half or so, we’ve felt a slight, almost imperceptible shift in the wind, in favor of Judge Wood….

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Ten reasons Obama might appoint Diane Wood.

For the past five years, Yale Law School has produced a list of the top “family friendly” law firms. And for the past five years, men have acted like “family” issues are something only women need to worry about.

Maybe that’s true if you are a committed bachelor who never intends to procreate or know the love of a real woman. Maybe that’s true if you subscribe to some kind of 1950′s television ideal where the man works and the woman is exclusively a stay-at-home mom. Mind the pool boy, fellas.

But the majority of men will one day marry and spawn. In many cases, they’ll marry a woman of equal career ambitions. At that point, being able to take some paternity leave might be very important. Maybe their wife won’t even be a lawyer, and thus make more money than her husband (have you seen what legal salaries are like these days). Most likely we will see more and more male primary care givers, and the firms will have to adjust. We’ve heard a lot about the “mommy track,” in our professional lifetimes one expects the “daddy track” to become just as important.

So which firms are already ahead of the family friendly curve?

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The American Bar Association is currently holding its Women in Law Leadership Academy in Philadelphia; prior to the conference, they surveyed female partners in regional and international firms. Harder for women than figuring out what they’re allowed to wear is becoming a partner. (Though there are signs that’s changing.)

Apparently, female lawyers must go elsewhere to be appreciated. Forbes summarizes:

According to the study, the majority of women who had made partner had to attain the position by making a lateral jump to another firm–few were promoted from within.

Once you make partner, it’s hard to stay one. Almost eight percent of the 700 female partners surveyed reported being de-equitized. How come?

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Last fall, we gave props to Sullivan & Cromwell for making a high number of women partners — four out of five, or 80 percent. If you consider only U.S.-based partners, S&C had a new partner class that was 100 percent female. (Tax partner Eric Wang is based in London.)

As it turns out, Sullivan & Cromwell wasn’t alone in having a majority-female partner class for 2010. From the Project for Attorney Retention (PDF):

The economy may be looking up, at least for the women lawyers in the 2010 new partner classes. According to a survey released today by the Project for Attorney Retention (PAR), law firms made significant advances in retaining and promoting their women lawyers: 23 firms made new partner classes that were 50% or more female, and 34% of the new partners are female, compared to 28% of the new partners in 2009.

Not all of the news was good, however: 14 firms had all-male classes.

Let’s name names, shall we?

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It’s funny how being laid off really puts all of your workplace problems into perspective. The Wall Street Journal reports that more and more men are claiming they are victims of sexual harassment:

Since the start of the recession, a growing number of sexual harassment complaints have come from men. Some 16.4% of all sexual harassment claims—or 2,094 claims—were filed by men in fiscal 2009, up from 15.4%, or 1,869 claims, in fiscal 2006, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

While male victims sometimes experience behavior like groping and unwanted sexual advances, employment lawyers say increasingly “locker room” type behavior like vulgar talk and horseplay with sexual connotations have been the subject of claims.

Has there been an outbreak of office grab-ass that I’m not aware of? Not quite. Instead, there has been an outbreak of men losing their jobs …

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kathleen kathy sullivan quinn emanuel urquhart sullivan.jpgThe elevation of Kathleen Sullivan to name partner at Quinn Emanuel symbolized some serious change in the world of Biglaw. Diversity in the partnership ranks is growing. Sullivan is likely Biglaw’s first openly LGBT name partner, and she appears to be the first female to get her name on the door at an AmLaw 100 firm.

We raised the gender milestone question last week, asking our readers if they knew of any that came before her.
We think it is now fair to award her this distinction in Biglaw lore. After all, the next day, the American Lawyer declared it definitively: Quinn Emanuel Becomes First Am Law 100 Firm to Have a Female Name Partner.

But our readers did raise the names of some other notable females who deserve asterisks next to their names in the legal history books…

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