Women’s Issues

Usually, the pursuit of “work/life balance” is just a fight between management and labor. Occasionally, it’s an internal conversation where an employee’s desire to succeed professionally is pitted against his or her desire to succeed domestically. Of course, there are always the people who believe they can “have it all,” as if work/life balance can be reduced to checking a number of accomplishment boxes in the most brutally efficient way possible.

But occasionally, work/life balance becomes a battle ground for people to justify a number of “life” choices that have nothing to do with work.

That’s what we have here today. A memo went around one of the top firms in Manhattan from a woman claiming she needed an “I’m having a baby day” so she could go to a Katy Perry concert. Before I post it and open up the comments, I’m going to make some popcorn — that’ll give everybody some time to ramp up their outrage meters to 11…

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A recent study conducted by Maya Sen, a political scientist at the University of Rochester, and Adam Glynn, a government professor at Harvard, shows that judges who have at least one female child may be more likely to rule in favor of women in certain types of cases. The report “Identifying Judicial Empathy: Does Having Daughters Cause Judges to Rule for Women’s Issues?” finds that having at least one daughter corresponds to a 7 percent increase in the proportion of cases in which a judge will vote in a feminist direction. The study further finds that having one daughter as opposed to one son is linked to a 16 percent increase in the proportion of “gender-related cases decided in a feminist direction.” The study found the “daughter effect” was more dramatic in judges appointed by Republican presidents than in those appointed by Democrats.

Sen told the New York Times in a recent interview, “By having at least one daughter, judges learn what it’s like to be a woman, perhaps a young woman, who might have to deal with issues like equity in terms of pay, university admissions or taking care of children.” Sen and Glynn consider other causal explanations for their findings, but conclude that learning is the mechanism at play. For example, they rule out the possibility that parents of daughters feel compelled to rule in ways that would protect their female children Sen and Glynn saw an effect only in gender-related civil cases, not a conservative shift among gender-related criminal cases like sexual assault.

The problem with the study is not that the data are wrong. The problem is that too often those who use data like these mean to either exempt the judgments from moral consequence altogether or to praise particular judicial motivations that they happen to like. In the first instance, they justify legal realism with data, omitting any reflection on whether the observed effects can or should be minimized. They gloss over too the overwhelming number of cases that are decided by mundane, less-subjective methods. In the second variation, they celebrate the phenomenon as “empathy” with some results, while condemning it as “bias” in others . . . .

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Why won’t anyone take her seriously? It’s clearly the shoes.

Women’s fashion choices are the whipping boy (or girl) of the legal profession. At least every other month, women attorneys get lectured by bar associations, Biglaw firms, law schools, and even federal judges on the way that they ought to dress themselves, from head to toe.

This time, we’ve got an attorney/image consultant riding on his conservative horse to herald the good word from on high that women lawyers dare not dream of dressing fashionably, lest they risk their entire careers by wearing peep-toe pumps.

There are only so many times that women can be told not to dress like sluts, but this guy kicks things off with a bang by insulting a “misguided female judge” for her opinions on women’s style…

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It’s a baby and a briefcase! You know what that means: We’re talking about working moms and using stock images!

Whenever anyone (I’m guilty of it too) talks about the upside of working as a contract attorney, the word “flexibility” comes up within the first 10 seconds. When you have a job that is staggeringly boring that provides you with no job security you celebrate whatever advantages you can find, and the ability to take a day off whenever you’ve stopped giving a damn (and not be chained to a phone endlessly checking your email) is a boon. Sure, it might be because you are fungible and your employers has no investment in your career, but I’ll take the victories wherever I can find ‘em.

But is the level of flexibility contract attorneys enjoy something you can depend on, and really create a schedule around? Say, if you’re a working parent?

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* In a “historic day for our judiciary,” the Senate confirmed the first openly gay black male judge, and the 112th female federal judge appointed by Obama — more than any other president. Congrats! [AP]

* “It looks like science fiction, but it’s real.” That’s probably what the good folks at Amazon are going to say after they take a look at Akin Gump’s bill for its drone delivery lobbying efforts. [Legal Times]

* A 90-year-old judge removed himself from Michael Jordan’s big-money case against a grocery store chain, but dropped the gavel on the basketball star’s lawyers before leaving the bench. [Chicago Tribune]

* This Ohio attorney was suspended after he sent some pretty dirty text messages to a 3L who was working in his office. He just wanted assistance on his pro boner representation. [National Law Journal]

* Give this man some money: Jonathan Fleming, the New York man who was wrongly imprisoned for almost 25 years for a murder he didn’t commit, has filed a $162 million lawsuit against the city. [Reuters]

Sarah Jones

* Judges with daughters are seven percent more likely to support women’s rights than judges with only sons. Alas, Justices Scalia and Alito are impervious to human emotion. [New York Times]

* If you thought Supreme Court justices were “profoundly divided” over issues of law, wait until you see how they differ over the pronunciation of the word “certiorari.” [National Law Journal]

* This year’s summer associate programs sound pretty lame compared to the past: “The emphasis is certainly more on the work than it is on the social events.” All work and no play makes Jack an employed boy at graduation. [Boston Business Journal]

* “I saved the internet today. Your freedom continues.” Fair assessment. Sarah Jones’s win in her defamation case against Nik Richie and TheDirty.com was overturned by the Sixth Circuit. [Courier-Journal]

* If you’re choosing to go against the president’s wishes and apply to law school, here’s how you can leverage your major on all of your applications. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

* This cowgirl is putting aside her rodeo accomplishments to go to law school. At least she’ll have the experience needed to ride the bucking bronco of the post-recession job market. [Casper Star-Tribune]

‘Out of balance’ is a type of balance, when you think about it.

ATL reader opinion was sharply divided over that recent law firm partner “Hang in There Baby/This Too Shall Pass” email. You’ll recall that the partner was seeking to reassure her younger colleagues who face the challenge of balancing the demands of the Biglaw grind against those of motherhood. Her message: eventually things will be better.

Only a few years ago, when the author was a new mother, she found herself “in the fetal position (ed. note: see what she did there?) on the kitchen floor so completely spent that honest to God I did know how I could get through another day.” Things improved; now the partner can promise her younger counterparts that “one day in the future,” when the kids1 can talk and brush their own teeth, “you will bake a pie and wear clean pants.” In between all-nighters prepping for trial, of course. While some found solace in this message, others found it to be cold comfort at best.

Let’s put aside whether one thinks the partner’s advice is uplifting or risible. For the sake of argument, if the legal profession — specifically law firms — is truly trying to foster the advancement of women attorneys, we can all stipulate that the effort is thus far a failure. What is going on when a fit of despair on the kitchen floor is such a “relatable” thing?

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Could this really happen at a law firm pool party?

It’s early June, and most summer associate programs are now in full swing. Sure, these Biglaw indoctrination programs have been pared down significantly since the days of yore, but law students are still having a great time gunning hard for offers. Staying at the office until 5:30 on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend was simply awesome. Everyone’s having so much fun!

Unfortunately, lurking in the dark underbelly of large law firms everywhere, a terrifying event lies in wait for these overly cheerful summer associates. Over the frustrated sighs of attorneys nationwide, news has spread that a pool party or beach outing has been scheduled. Sheer dread quickly spreads among the summer associates, and their pale skin from years spent studying blanches a shade whiter, as if such a thing were possible.

Dear God, what the hell should these people wear? Should they wear — gasp! — bathing suits?

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Attorney Marilyn York

No doubt divorce can be a messy game. Hurt feelings, name-calling, emotional tug-of-war on impressionable children, and a pitched battle for financial security are all par for the course. Divorce attorneys are thus often the most combative of the already combative breed of lawyers. It’s how you end up with lawyers telling the other side that they plan to anally rape them.

But usually divorce attorneys steep their public persona in platitudes about “fighting for you,” saving the nasty “anal rape” stuff for behind closed doors.

But this attorney has a different approach, putting out a TV commercial that riffs on every awful stereotype of women ever, to appeal to the jilted husbands of the world….

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Law school’s tombstone?

* Federal judges still have financial allegiances to their former firms that are reported on their mandatory annual disclosures. At least one appellate judge — Jay Bybee of the Ninth Circuit — made a killing after confirmation. [National Law Journal]

* After “a challenging 2013,” Bingham McCutchen is leaking lawyers like a sieve. Fourteen attorneys, including nine partners, recently decided to leave the firm, and they’re all headed to different Biglaw locales. [WSJ Law Blog via Reuters]

* Just one day after Donald Sterling was declared “mentally incapacitated,” he filed a lawsuit against the NBA, seeking more than $1 billion in damages. Skadden lawyers are stripping off their warm-up suits to take it to the court. [USA Today]

* This Am Law 200 firm thinks it figured out a way to help women combine their careers and home lives — by hiring a role model/mentor with an almost six-figure salary. Good idea or bad? [Dallas Morning News]

* We’ve got some breaking news for our readers from the “no sh*t” department: Law schools are competing to cut costs based on a shrinking applicant pool, but tuition is still quite unaffordable. [Houston Chronicle]

* Lewis Katz, co-owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer and alumnus of Dickinson Law, RIP. [Onward State]

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