Gender

We apologize again for yesterday’s technical difficulties, but if you thought we weren’t going to weigh in on the Hooters anti-fatty policy you haven’t been paying a whole lot of attention. Yesterday, a Michigan judge ruled that a weight discrimination case brought against Hooters restaurants could go forward.

When the suit was filed, back in May, I sarcastically quipped about fat people being a protected class in Michigan. Apparently, that’s exactly what’s happening. The WSJ Law Blog reports:

According to this story from the Grand Rapids Press, the suit cites Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination by employers based on a number of factors. Height and weight discrimination were added in a 1976 amendment by then-state Rep. Thomas Mathieu.

Mathieu originally introduced the height and weight amendment because he was “flabbergasted” by the number of cases of unfairness involving women seeking office jobs who possessed the necessary skills and personality, but were overweight.

Let’s all take a moment to reflect on the necessary skills and personality needed to be a Hooter’s waitress…

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We’ve been doing a series of posts looking at whether women and minorities are adequately represented on the mastheads of the nation’s law reviews. The subject is definitely a contentious one, and our posts have generated a high number of comments.

Perhaps we should shift our focus to underrepresented minorities (URMs) — sayonara, Asians — since women are actually doing just fine for themselves. And you don’t have to take our word for it. This conclusion comes from a report (PDF) that was just released by Ms. JD, which conducted a study of law reviews at the 2009 U.S. News “Top 50″ law schools for the 2008-2010 academic years. Based on the study, Ms. JD made the following findings:

  • The overall percentage of women who are members of law reviews, 44.3 percent, correlates strongly with the number of women awarded law degrees during the same time period, 45.7 percent.
  • The percentage of women in leadership positions on law reviews, 46.2 percent, also correlates strongly with the number of women awarded law degrees during the same time period, 45.7 percent.

But there was one area where women remain underrepresented….

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This was bound to happen at some point. There have been countless associates who were promised jobs at law firms. They stopped looking for other jobs in reliance on that job offer. Then during the recession they were deferred, or their offers were rescinded. They are the leading citizens of the Lost Generation.

Do they have any legal claims against their would-be employers?

Almost certainly not, but it looks like somebody is ready to try to find out. The ABA Journal reports:

A would-be associate has sued San Francisco law firm Howard, Rice, Nemerovski, Canady, Falk & Rabkin for deferring and then rescinding her job offer.

A clean test case on the issue of offer rescission? Not quite. As with most things, there’s a racial angle…

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Today’s confirmation of Elena Kagan as the fourth woman ever to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court is a milestone worth celebrating. For ladies in the law, things are looking up.

But female law students and lawyers still have complaints. Check out a recent query submitted to the Dear Prudence advice column over at Slate, by a correspondent calling herself “Livid but Lost Law Student”:

I am a female law student who is employed for the summer (and potentially for the school year) at a small firm that I’m really enjoying. The law office shares a floor of an office building with a bigger law firm, and my cubicle is “on the border.”

All of the attorneys at both firms are male, but at the other firm, the men are far from politically correct. I have two issues….

Let’s explore this law student’s “issues,” shall we?

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Alyson Kirleis

There’s a serious gender-based wage gap in the legal profession. Female partners make $66K less than male partners on average. If you’re a female partner who has thought about tackling that gap with a lawsuit, you may be interested in the case of Alyson J. Kirleis.

Kirleis, a shareholder at Dickie McCamey in Pennsylvania, has been pursuing a sexual discrimination suit against her firm for the last four years. From the Legal Intelligencer (via The Careerist):

In the suit, Kirleis accused Dickie McCamey of paying female lawyers less than males and alleged she was told by a male partner that a woman with children should relinquish her partnership and work only part-time.

Kirleis, who has worked at the firm since 1988, also claimed she was told by another male partner that the role of women lawyers was to prepare lawsuits for trials that would be handled by male lawyers. The suit also included allegations that Kirleis has suffered retaliation since her suit was filed, and that Dickie McCamey’s annual Christmas party is effectively closed to women “because of the sexually explicit nature of the entertainment including skits, songs, pornographic materials and props.”

The Legal Intelligencer pointed out that her suit could have broken new legal ground, establishing that “some law firm partners are not equal to their fellow partners and ought to be allowed to pursue employment discrimination claims such as suing for equal pay.”

But the Third Circuit wasn’t on board…

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A couple of days ago, a survey came out showing that the wage gap between male and female partners is still very large. The National Law Journal put it this way:

It’s no secret that women earn less than their male colleagues at law firms. The National Association of Women Lawyers concluded last year that female equity partners make an average $66,000 less a year than male equivalents.

This news was met with a tremendous yawn.

Amazing. We’re living in a world where women who rise to the top of their profession still suffer a ridiculous income gap, and nobody seems to care very much. Even my ATL co-editor Kashmir Hill said: “Women get paid less than men. D’uh.” So much for righteous indignation. The suffragettes must be thrilled…

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Warning to the female readers of Above the Law: the reading of this post may lead to the rending of your inappropriate clothing and pulling out of your questionably-styled hair.

Earlier this month, lady lawyers gathered in Philadelphia for the ABA’s Women in Law Leadership Academy. Gina Passarella of the Legal Intelligencer was in attendance and reported on a session featuring esteemed female judges offering advice to their trial lawyer counterparts (gavel bang: ABA Journal).

U.S. District Judge Norma L. Shapiro criticized women for being too timid in the courtroom. She said that “women lack the confidence that men seem to have.” Apparently the solution is the same one that women employ when they lack enthusiasm and confidence in certain other situations:

“You pretend. You fake it,” Shapiro said, adding that being prepared helps.

If faking confidence in the courtroom is as easy as feigning pleasure in the bedroom, perhaps many more women will soon be coming across as master litigators.

The judges had other advice. When a whole bunch of women get together, they just can’t help but complain about other women’s outfits and hair, after all….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Career Advice for Women Lawyers: Fake It.”

Would you shed your bra for a client? Earlier this month, Miami attorney Brittney Horstman did just that, while trying to pay a visit to a client at the Miami Federal Detention Center — but it did not help her case.

When Horstman visited the center on June 4, she set the metal detector off. The guards at the detention center barred her from entering while wearing a bra with underwire. The prison dress code doesn’t bar the bras, but it appears to be informal policy at the prison — presumably because an inmate might use the metal to make a Victoria’s Secret shiv and bust out.

So Horstman went to the bathroom and took her bra off. But the guards again declined to let her enter. From the Miami Herald:

In blouse and jacket, she returned, and cleared the walk-through detector.

Again, guards refused to let her pass — now, because she was braless, which is against prison dress code guidelines.

Apparently this has happened before, and there’s a special memo allowing defense attorneys to enter the center wearing a wire (bra). As women know, it’s hard to find a bra without underwire, after all…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawyer of the Day: Brittney B. Horstman Is Above the Bra”

Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are examples of female lawyers who have it all: success in both their personal and professional lives. They both reached the pinnacle of the legal profession — a seat on the Supreme Court — but also raised families, blessing the world with judicial opinions galore, children, and grandchildren. They had time for dicta and… Well, you get the picture.

What about the most recent two females anointed with the holy SCOTUS water: Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor? They both have incredible résumés, which helped get them to One First Street, but neither one had a family to move down to D.C. with them.

On the other hand, the most recent male nominees to the Court, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, are both married with children. They did not have to sacrifice family for profession. (Of course, that’s assuming you see “no children or significant other” as a “sacrifice.”)

Some studies have shown marriage is advantageous for men, but disadvantageous for women. Single women often make more than single men. An old article from Forbes points out:

Without husbands, women have to focus on earning more. They work longer hours, they’re willing to relocate and they’re more likely to choose higher-paying fields like technology. Without children, men have more liberty to earn less–that is, they are free to pursue more fulfilling and less lucrative careers, like writing or art or teaching social studies.

Andrews Kurth partner Kathleen Wu recently offered career advice in the Texas Lawyer. As Ashby Jones points out at the WSJ Law Blog, the most valuable piece is to “get real about balance.” Wu wrote:

It is next to impossible to balance a full-time legal career with marriage, children and regular trips to the gym. It’s no coincidence that the two women most recently nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court — now-Justice Sonia Sotomayor and nominee/U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan — are unmarried and childless.

Can women not have it all? Elie — married and male — and Kash — single and female — opine and offer a poll, after the jump.

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Ed. note: Have a question for next week? Send it in to advice@abovethelaw.com.

Dear ATL,

I work in Manhattan and it’s time for me to get a new prescription for my glasses. Some of my friends are saying that I should trade in the glasses for contacts, to make me look young (I’m on the wrong side of 30). But others contend that glasses give me a distinguished look which will help my career. Still others suggest Lasik — though I’m not wild about shooting laser beams into my eyeballs.

What should I do? I’ve been delaying going to the optometrist for weeks while I ponder my options.

Four Eyes

The optician isn’t a needle exchange… you don’t have to surrender your old, dirty glasses in order to procure a clean set of contacts. This is America, you can have both, especially if you have a Flex Spending account.  The real question is whether you should roll up to work in glasses or contacts. Lasik only makes sense if you like paying money for permanent broken blood vessels and blurry night vision.

Gender plays a large role in the answer…

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