Feminism

Being a woman is a tough job, especially when you’re working in a Biglaw atmosphere. Among the long list of things that Biglaw women have to worry about — making partner v. making dinner, picking up documents v. picking up the kids, cleaning up the house v. cleaning up a brief — being cordial to coworkers sometimes tends to fall by the wayside.

So ladies, have you been wondering why your legal secretary avoids eye contact with you at all costs? Or in the alternative, have you been wondering why your legal secretary is giving you a look of death? Here, let me give you a clue: it’s because your legal secretary secretly hates you.

A new study has revealed, however, that maybe it’s not such a secret after all….

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If you ask a small-firm attorney what is the advantage of a small firm over Biglaw, most will tell you that smaller size makes firms more nimble and better able to adapt to client needs and market changes. It stands to reason, then, that small firms could revolutionize the law firm model. But what changes should small firms make? And how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

To answer these questions, I spoke to Mae O’Malley, founder of Paragon Legal, and a visionary when it comes to offering legal services. Paragon Legal is one of the fastest growing alternative legal models. Their model is to offer highly-qualified attorneys (with a minimum of 8 years of experience) to Fortune 500 companies, akin to a contract-attorney arrangement.

This model allows the client to obtain top-notch legal help for a fraction of the cost of Biglaw. The arrangement is also appealing to high-caliber lawyers, particularly women, who look to balance their professional growth with their family obligations. In light of the model’s success, it’s not surprising that Fortune recently featured O’Malley as an individual “fixing a broken legal industry.”

What advice does Mae O’Malley have for reforming legal workplaces?

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At the Creating Pathways to Diversity Conference, sponsored by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA), there was a great lunchtime discussion called “Her Stories: The Evolving Role of Women in Business and Law.” It featured a panel of heavy hitters: two women currently serving as general counsel to Fortune 500 companies, and a third who previously served as GC to no fewer than four Fortune 500 companies over her career.

What does their rise say about the changing role of women in the corporate legal world? How did they get to their lofty perches? And what advice would they offer to lawyers aspiring to such successful careers?

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If learning to do this was mandatory in 3L year, law schools would be doing you a favor.

The stripper with the heart of gold who shakes what her momma gave her to make it through school would be a Disney movie if it didn’t require so much T&A. We know that “I’m doing it to pay for school” is the go-to line whenever you meet a stripper in a situation where she’s expected to keep her clothes on. Most of the women who claim that they need to strip to pay for school haven’t actually read anything since their last visit to the clinic. But for a fair number of strippers, tuition or debt repayment is a chief motivator.

Most women who go to law school think that their advanced education will buy them out of taking their clothes off for money (unless, you know, it’s partner money). But as a practical reality, stripper skills are very useful. It’s a job that can be done while in school or immediately after that pays a lot of money for relatively brainless work. It’s no more exploitative than working a law firm job. And in this economy, that law firm job is probably only available to the few women who are too ugly to strip or are willing to put out.

Hell, as we’ve previously reported, some strip clubs are even proactively screening for advanced degrees.

For today’s tale of a lawyer cum stripper, we have a young lady who has ended up stripping to pay her bills and law school debts. It’s not a sob story, though; she says that in one sense the job is less hostile than any law office she’s worked in…

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From the Bar to the Pole

When I was a child, my mom’s friend visited the house and brought her newborn baby with her. Without warning, the woman whipped out her boob and began feeding the newborn in front of me and all of God’s creation. I stared for an uncomfortably long ten seconds at the parasitic orgy, then quickly scampered behind the curtains located less than five feet from the feeding frenzy. As I stood behind the curtains, my face beet red with embarrassment, my mother and her friend tried to coax me out, assuring me that everything would be okay. After an unusually long time behind those curtains, I stomped past the horror and made a beeline to the kitchen. I had to conquer my fear. I was also determined to salvage what was left of my 14th birthday party.

Segue.

And so it was that a lady filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming that she was fired from her job as a teacher because she had to leave the classroom to suck milk out of her boob.

Moooooo-re after the jump!

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Juliette Youngblood and Morgan Chu

Last month, Juliette Youngblood, an ex-partner at the elite California law firm of Irell & Manella, filed suit against her former firm. In her lawsuit for sex discrimination and wrongful termination, Youngblood advanced a whole host of salacious allegations — including a report of sexual harassment by Morgan Chu, arguably the nation’s #1 intellectual-property litigator.

Irell did not respond to the lawsuit at the time. Now it has, in a blistering 22-page filing that calls Youngblood’s claims “meritless” and “utterly false, complete fabrications manufactured out of whole cloth.”

What does the firm have to say about the specific claims made by Youngblood — such as the allegation that a drunken Morgan Chu made inappropriate and offensive comments to her at a firm happy hour, including remarks about her physical appearance and about “objects entering [Youngblood's] body”?

And what do ATL sources, including readers familiar with both Youngblood and Irell, think of the situation?

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Firm denies claims and moves for arbitration.

The statistics about women equity partners are bad. There is no shortage of “experts” opining on how to improve the statistics. The solutions often involve a cardigan (apparently the successful woman’s secret weapon), full-time nannies (the successful woman’s not-so-secret weapon), and a miracle.

There are some who offer more specific solutions. I personally love Skadden’s idea of hiring a “den mother” to mentor and guide their young female associates. Indeed, Sheli Rosenberg is correct when she channeled Madeleine Albright’s famous saying that “[t]here’s a place in hell for women who don’t support other women.”

I have had many conversations with small-firm attorneys about whether or not small firms may offer the solution to the gender gap among partners. Unfortunately, there is little to no research regarding the statistics of female partners in small law firms, so the discussions are based on personal experience as opposed to objective facts. Given the sources of the data, the results are, not surprisingly, mixed. Some say that small firms are better for women because the women have direct access to the decision-makers and clients, and there is less politics when it comes to promotion decisions in small firms. Some say that small firms are worse because the firms, unlike Biglaw, often do not disclose demographic information and so feel insulated — and because firm managers, who tend to be male, promotes their own….

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Ebony and ivory, billing together in perfect harmony.

We’ve talked a lot in these pages about the value of diversity. It’s important to clients, it’s important to law firms, and it’s important to the legal profession as a whole.

Given the significance of diversity, it’s not surprising that several organizations and news outlets focus on it, especially with respect to large law firms. In the past few weeks, we’ve discussed diversity data from Building A Better Legal Profession and from the American Lawyer, for example.

Today brings news of more diversity rankings, this time from the ranking gurus over at Vault. They’ve compiled a list of 25 best law firms for diversity.

Which firms made the cut? Is your firm on the list?

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Morgan Chu

Legendary litigator Morgan Chu, former managing partner and current litigation chair at Irell & Manella, is one of the nation’s top intellectual-property attorneys and trial lawyers. He has tried multiple IP cases to nine-figure jury verdicts, and he has earned every professional accolade under the sun (see his Irell website bio). He is arguably the nation’s #1 IP litigator. (If you disagree, make your case for someone else in the comments.)

And now Morgan Chu is the subject of sexual-harassment allegations. In a lawsuit filed in California Superior Court on Friday, former Irell partner Juliette Youngblood alleges that Chu sexually harassed her, then retaliated against her after she rejected his advances.

Morgan Chu is widely admired — at Irell, where his rainmaking monsoon-making helps generate robust partner profits (over $2.9 million in PPP in 2010), as well as above-market associate bonuses; in IP litigation circles, where he is a fearsome adversary; and among Asian-American lawyers, where he stands as proof that we can excel at litigation as well as transactional work.

It’s hard to believe that such a beloved figure has been hit with such salacious allegations (which we must emphasize are mere allegations at this point, nothing more). But let’s forge ahead and check them out — along with the pertly pretty plaintiff who is making them….

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Former partner alleges sexual harassment by Morgan Chu.

Which GC took home the most cash in 2010? For the first time, the winner was a woman.

Corporate Counsel just released its annual list of the highest-paid general counsel in the land. On the whole, the news is good: “If last year’s GC Compensation Survey showed the aftereffects… of the deepest trough of the recession, this year’s results show that chief legal officers made steady gains and recovered some momentum.”

This year there was at least one surprise: a winning woman. For the first time since the inception of the survey in 1994, the highest-paid general counsel on the list was a female attorney.

Who topped the list, and how much did she make? Let’s take a look….

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