Women’s Issues

Last week I wrote about the bar exam. This week I am hearkening back to happier times after first and/or second year of law school: fat paycheck, lunch out everyday, the life of a Biglaw summer associate. 

But maybe it isn’t quite the same experience for everyone….

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It’s not much of a secret that women are routinely paid less than their male counterparts in the United States — to the tune of about 20 percent. It’s such a non-secret that even those who call the gap a “myth” don’t actually deny it as much as say “who cares?” Which makes the word “myth” more of a PR move to sell a license to be a prick. Usually literally.

More of a secret is the fact that even bastions of self-described enlightenment participate in this system. For example, academia. A new report by research site FindTheBest discovered that some of the top universities in the country — most boasting law schools — systematically underpaid female faculty.

And one law school clocked a $44,000/year pay gap between male and female faculty, making it the second-worst offender in the study….

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‘This one is about being successful and having breasts… at the same time!’ – an anonymous Biglaw chair-elect’s babysitter

You have to have good child care. A good marriage is nice; great child care is indispensable.

Jami Wintz McKeon, the first female chair-elect of Morgan Lewis & Bockius, explaining “how she does it” during a speech at the 8th Annual Women’s Leadership Luncheon. By “it,” McKeon meant being a mother of four and being in charge of a 1,400-lawyer Biglaw firm at the same time.

When women in law aren’t being told how to dress and act appropriately, they’re busy watching their firms brag about their dedication to advancing women in the profession, while at the same time being constantly passed over for partnership promotions and leadership positions in favor of their male colleagues. That doesn’t seem fair, does it?

We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again: “Biglaw lives to serve men, and in most cases, they are the ones claiming all of the power, the prestige, and most importantly, the money, while women are left in the dust.” At some large law firms, it’s a different story. Some firms offer women the chance to rise through the ranks to become major power players and to receive startlingly booming compensation — and rank among the most family friendly.

Thanks to the Women in Law Empowerment Forum (WILEF), we have a way to find out exactly which firms are on top when it comes to offering women attorneys the chance to perform on par with their male colleagues in terms of prestige and pay. Let’s check out the list…

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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]

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