Sexism

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to be the key witness in a sexual misconduct scandal involving a rich and powerful Frenchman. After you are savaged in the international press, be prepared for the prosecutor handling the case to abandon you.

From the New York Times:

Dominique Strauss-Kahn was released from house arrest on Friday as the sexual assault case against him moved one step closer to dismissal after prosecutors told a Manhattan judge that they had serious problems with the case.

Prosecutors acknowledged that there were significant credibility issues with the hotel housekeeper who accused Mr. Strauss-Kahn of trying to rape her in May. In a brief hearing at State Supreme Court in Manhattan, prosecutors did not oppose his release; the judge then freed Mr. Strauss-Kahn on his own recognizance.

If Strauss-Kahn’s strategy was to attack the credibility of the witness, it worked…

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Thomas Gooch III strikes me as the kind of man who, upon finding himself in a hole, starts screaming for somebody to throw him down a shovel.

You’ll remember Gooch as the guy who filed a motion objecting to a woman seated at opposing counsel’s table. Well, more specifically, he objected to the breasts of a woman at opposing counsel’s table.

It was a spurious claim from the start; Gooch didn’t know anything about the woman, but because she had large boobs, Gooch felt like he could question her qualifications without any evidence whatsoever. But Gooch was really put in his place when opposing counsel, Dmitry Feofanov, revealed the the allegedly offensive breasts belonged to his wife, Daniella Atencia.

Well, Gooch has dropped his motion. And the judge in the case (remember, there was a real trial going on here before the Gooch started mentally motorboating opposing counsel’s wife) admonished him. And this could all be over with now.

If Gooch would just stop talking….

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I really, really hope that somewhere out there, Thomas W. Gooch III feels like a giant tool. A few days ago, Gooch, of the law firm Gauthier & Gooch, wrote a motion objecting to a “large breasted woman” sitting at opposing counsel’s table. He questioned the woman’s qualifications and accused opposing counsel, Dmitry Feofanov, of planting her there to distract the jury.

We wrote about Feofanov’s response. He said the woman is his paralegal. But that response didn’t satisfy Gooch, who told the Chicago Sun-Times:

“Personally, I like large breasts,” Gooch said. “However, I object to somebody I don’t think is a qualified paralegal sitting at the counsel table — when there’s already two lawyers there — dressed in such a fashion as to call attention to herself.”

Well, it turns out that Gooch has been ogling, scrutinizing, and questioning the qualifications of Feofanov’s wife.

Dude… not cool.

Feofanov has furnished us with a statement, accompanied by a tasteful picture of his allegedly offensively-figured wife…

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Well, there’s really nothing else to talk about this morning. Jezebel reports that a defense attorney has written a motion objecting to the people seated at the plaintiff’s table. Well, one person in particular — a “large breasted woman” who is seated next to plaintiff’s counsel.

Is there a law against having large-breasted women hang out with you? Of course not; this is America!

But since this motion is one of the most sexist things you are likely to come across, let’s give it a closer look…

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Every summer when I was in Biglaw, a new crop of summer associates would roll in, and I inevitably would be assigned a female summer to mentor. Presumably the intention was for us to bond over our mutual struggles of being women at a law firm. Every fall the same arrangement would take shape again, this time with a first-year associate. Within a week they would each inevitably ask some variation on the same question: “Have you found that being a woman has made it tougher for you at the firm?”

I always hated this question. I’m not sure if I’m lacking something that normally comes with having two X chromosomes, but it never occurred to me to go into my career asking this question right out of the box. So, my answer was always a simple “No.”

I’m not suggesting that sexism isn’t a real problem in law firms. There are countless horror stories to back this up. Biglaw is still an old boys’ club and doesn’t show any signs of changing any time soon. We all know that going in.

But I don’t think that female lawyers do themselves any favors by starting with an expectation that they will be slighted. I never stopped to question whether things were tougher for me as a woman because I was too busy trying to do a good job to spend time searching for ulterior motives. If you make being a good associate your top priority, you’ll likely be too busy to wonder if you’re getting as many assignments as the guys are.

That said, there will be times when legitimate issues of sexism arise. And when they do, there are good and bad ways of dealing with it….

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Size Matters, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

After talking to so many happy small-firm lawyers, I have begun looking for my own niche to scratch. It came to me while driving in the suburbs a few weeks ago. There was a radio ad for an awesome night club (“18 to party and 21 to drink”) promoting ladies’ night and a wet t-shirt contest for the ladies until midnight.

As I got off the highway to head to the club, I realized that I had found my niche: ladies’ night is just for the ladies. What about man night? Where is the justice in the world? I should fight for all the men who are discriminated against by paying a cover charge on ladies’ night (well, except for those men who ultimately get preferential treatment from said ladies who enjoyed their free drinks).

Unfortunately for me, Roy Den Hollander took up this worthy cause before my fateful drive to the Boom Boom Room on Highway 12. Let’s learn more about him….

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You have to hand it to the University of Michigan Law School. They always keep it interesting in Ann Arbor.

Today’s tale of wacky wolverines arises out of the law school’s “Mr. Wolverine” beauty pageant. Yeah, it sounds like exactly what it is. It’s a nice little event where Michigan men “dress down” for the amusement of their peers, with proceeds going to charity.

You’d like to think that a law school could pull one of these things off without turmoil, but this is Michigan. After the event, the student newspaper, Res Gestae, ran a review of the pageant authored by Chaka Laguerre. Laguerre is a Michigan Law student and a former Miss Jamaica World.

Laguerre’s review was a little bit snarky. And for reasons passing understanding, people got so pissed about it that the paper took the review down, and the Michigan listserv went nuts.

You’ve gotta love Michigan….

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Jaime Laskis

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….

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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….

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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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