Gender

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…

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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…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Pls Hndle Thx: Eyes Are the Window to Flex Spending Accounts”

From time to time, we’ve tried to track whether or not the Biglaw layoffs have had a disparate impact on women or minorities. There hasn’t been a lot of hard evidence. We did a story last year on layoffs at Squire Sanders that seemed to disproportionately affect women. And this year we ran a report that contained statistics showing that minorities have been disproportionately hosed by the layoffs as well.

Of course, there are some good arguments that the difficulties experienced by women in larger law firms are gender-neutral. This article on TechnoLawyer explores some of those concerns.

But there is one Biglaw issue that is undeniably gender-based. Only women can give birth.

Lately we’ve been getting information suggesting we should add another group to the Biglaw endangered species watch list: mothers. Specifically, we’re hearing that the New York office of K&L Gates apparently sports zero associate mothers. There are some female partners at K&L Gates with children, but no female associate in the New York office has figured out how to breed and hang on to her job at the same time.

K&L Gates did not respond to our multiple requests for comment, but the statistics are quite shocking…

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Eve Tushnet

* Elie previously declared that Debrahlee Lorenzana, the too hot for Citigroup plaintiff, was “pretty,” but not “‘blood has stopped flowing to my brain’ pretty.” This video is proof that Elie underestimated her. [Dealbreaker]

* Ugly people get fired on Wall Street too. How many of these 1,200 Morgan Stanley layoffs are in the legal department? [Gothamist]

* Are large-firm gender issues actually gender issues, or just law-firm issues? [Technolawyer]

* Meet Eve Tushnet — daughter of Harvard law professor Mark Tushnet, sister of Georgetown law professor Rebecca Tushnet — the prominent lesbian writer who’s opposed to same-sex marriage. [New York Times]

* An update on that amusing oral argument in the Supreme Court: the government prevailed, with SCOTUS upholding the Bureau of Prisons method for calculating prisoner good-time credits. [Sentencing Law and Policy]

* Blawg Review #267: Venkat Balasubramani is blogging about… blogging! And social media, too. [Spam Notes via Blawg Review]

The New York State Senate yesterday passed its version of the Nanny Law. If signed by Governor Paterson, the law would require employers to give domestic workers paid vacation and sick days, as well as 14 days notice before termination. The benefits would apply to legal and illegal immigrants.

Essentially, it would require people to treat domestic employees like employees instead of serfs.

It sounds like a wonderful law. It sounds like the right thing to do. It sounds … utterly unenforceable. On True/Slant, Claudia Deutsch points out:

Sure, it sounds compassionate and embracing to say that anyone, legal or not, should have a right to recourse if they are being exploited. But how exactly does an illegal immigrant sue an employer without outing himself/herself? I can see a worst-case scenario if this passes, whereby people who currently employ citizens and legals might actively seek illegals, just to avoid the cost and paperwork.

Enforcing this law will be somebody else’s problem. But for the Biglaw families out there, the real question is whether this law will cause unnecessary problems in a market that already seems to work pretty efficiently….

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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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