I’m not trying to compare the claims of Jaime Laskis, a former associate at the prominent Canadian law firm of Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt, with those of Charlene Morisseau (a legendary Lawyer of the Day honoree, from 2007). But we’ve got two stories vaguely related to alleged employee harassment and discrimination in the legal profession, and I wanted to click them both off so I have something to change the subject with when Sweet Hot Justice asks me if she’s a cougar when we meet for drinks tonight.
Let’s start with Jaime Laskis’s story, which is a bit more newsy. Laskis was an associate in the New York office of Toronto-based Osler, who claims she suffered various forms of sexual harassment while she worked there. One partner allegedly said that Harvard University was full of “pretty women pretending to get an education.”
I know, I know, that’s sounds like a man who has never been to a Harvard party. But Laskis makes other allegations….
Today Am Law released an exhaustive report about female equity partners at major law firms — equity partners, not to be confused with non-equity partners (who are really glorified associates that firms slap with the “partner” label in order to look good when folks like BBLP or Jezebel come calling). The numbers aren’t going to surprise any woman who is seriously considering a career in law.
But just because they’re not surprising doesn’t make them any less depressing. From the report:
The data compiled for this first systematic look at the issue is presented below. When we reviewed it, two numbers immediately jumped out. First, women make up only 17 percent of partners at the firms we surveyed, even though they have represented about 51 percent of law school graduates in the last 20 years. Second, of the women partners who work at multi-tier firms, 45 percent have equity status. In comparison, 62 percent of the male partners at these firms have equity.
Retention issue much? At 17 percent, you’re talking about a serious glass ceiling sitting on top of women at major law firms. With spikes pointing downard. And holes so small you can’t possibly fit squeeze through them if you are carrying any extra weight, or a baby….
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?
David Cowling, Mathews, Dinsdale & Clarke partner and alleged booty dancer
Sometimes law firm after-hours parties get pretty wild. The Great Recession didn’t put a damper on one Toronto firm’s celebrations last year. In January 2009, Mathews, Dinsdale & Clarke threw a rager in honor of its annual labour law “moot” competition for Canadian law students. (We mentioned this story briefly in yesterday’s Non-Sequiturs.)
After awards were given out at a dinner, the lawyerly crew headed to Toronto night club Cheval, for bottle service and dancing. Things got a little crazy. One senior associate got so hammered that “he left the club without his coat or keys and vomited in the taxi cab as it left the club.” And one partner, David Cowling, allegedly got too friendly with some of the female associates while grinding on the dance floor.
Two associates complained about his behavior to other partners, and now Cowling is suing the two associates (who have since left the firm) for defamation and intentional interference with economic relations.
It seems the world can’t get enough of Debrahlee Lorenzana, the former Citibank employee who alleges she was fired because she was “too hot.” She’s been making the rounds of the morning talk shows, and people have been absolutely gushing about her figure, which allegedly got her fired.
But could you call her body an attractive nuisance to the men and women who supposedly persecuted her for her beauty? Perhaps, since it now appears that Debrahlee’s boobs were not endowed, but acquired. Dealbreaker reports:
In this clip of her aforementioned knockers surgery, … she says she pumped them up to meet “a professional, well-educated man.”
Dealbreaker has a full clip of Debrahlee’s appearance on Plastic Surgery New York Style. Click here to watch it.
You could say that the video defines the word “busted”….
You know something is capturing cultural attention when your mother asks, “Did you write about that woman who got fired for being attractive?”
Earlier this week, the Village Voice ran a cover story on a woman who is suing Citibank for wrongful termination. She claims that her bosses found her too hot — and thus distracting to the other people trying to do their jobs.
Or make that a cucumber of one. Remember this allegation, from the lawsuit filed by former case manager Hanh Nguyen Allgood against the prominent Richmond law firm of Williams Mullen?
When the [office elevator] doors closed, [partner] Robert Eicher pretended to be sad and depressed. He asked Allgood for a hug. When she complied, he pressed his genital area against Allgood’s left thigh. Allgood felt something hard pressing against her thigh and attempted to pull away from him. Eicher held Allgood tighter to prevent her from pulling away, and pressed his genital area against her thigh even harder. Allgood was horrified. She pushed him away and stepped back. In response, Eicher laughed and pulled a cucumber out of his pants pocket.
We’re sorry to disappoint all you lovers of law firm gossip, but sadly, we won’t be hearing testimony in open court about the cucumber incident….
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 …
Williams Mullen is a prominent Richmond-based law firm that is “100 years strong,” according to its website. For 18 of those years, Vietnam native Hanh Nguyen Allgood, 53, was a case manager for the firm. She left in March 2007.
Apparently, the departure was not “all good” with her. She has filed a $950,000 lawsuit against the firm, alleging discrimination and sexual harassment, according to Style Weekly.
Litigation partner Robert Eicher bears the brunt of Allgood’s sexual harassment allegations. According to her complaint [PDF], he asked when he first met her whether “her vagina was vertical or horizontal,” a reference to “a horrible racial slur bandied about by some American soldiers during the Viet Nam War contending that Vietnamese women had vertical vaginas.”
And then there was the cucumber incident….
UPDATE: A statement from the firm has been added after the jump.
We have another episode in the saga of Deidre Dare, one of our favorite laid-off lawyers. She was an attorney in Allen & Overy’s Russia office until she penned typed a salacious online novel about her expat adventures, which featured lots of drinking, sex, drugs, donkeys, and dwarves. After the firm let her go, she sued.
Dare’s still in Moscow, where she writes an often controversial column for the Moscow News called sExpat. The latest reveals that Deidre likes it rough:
Anyone who has spent even five minutes in bed with me knows that I have a strong proclivity for S&M. My experience in the area ranges from the mild (spanking) to the extreme (ball gags, golden showers and the like), according to how much experience my partner has and what he or she likes.
The column goes on to praise Russia’s abusive men. Dare writes: “If you’re hanging out with real men and you’re a little slutty, you’re going to get hit. Period.” Roll On Friday photoshops A&O’s chairman into being a “real man” here.
Ed. note: We at Above The Law do not condone physical violence against women. We do, however, condone violence against the commenter ShaFeef.
In a previous column, Dare said money was tight and suggested that prostitution might be a way out of her money woes. That might have led to more hitting than even Deidre likes. Luckily, she’s come up with a different way to make money. She’s written another book. Its title, fittingly, is SLUT.
When you talk to a prospective lateral about your firm during their first meeting, the conversation can go deep, sideways, and in circles. There is so much to share and discuss. What path of a dialogue can you follow to get better odds of a favorable conclusion?
Consider this template as a model you can use to discuss your firm’s opportunity. This simplifies the conversation and gives you a mental framework so the discussion is meaningful, relevant and moves things forward.
The Four P’s
In my transition from retained corporate executive search to legal search, I saw that there were many levels of complexity in the move of a partner transitioning from firm A to firm B. In placing an executive in a corporation, it was simple because of the linear nature of relationships in corporations. In a law firm, because of the multi-layered aspect of the interdependent relationships that each partner must manage with others, the dialogue is much more involved.
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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