Sexism

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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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.

So what did they allege?

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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”….

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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.

I know, I know — pictures or it didn’t happen….

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