Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Guest Blog: MothersEsquire: A Professional Community for Lawyer Moms

We welcome Professor Jamie Abrams to the Gender & Law Prof Blog for the month of July. She is Associate Professor of Law at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law where she teaches Torts, Family Law, Legislation, and Women and the Law. Her research focuses on reproductive and birthing decision-making, gendered citizenship, legal protections for immigrant victims of domestic violence, and legal education pedagogy. Professor Abrams' most recent work includes Debunking the Myth of Universal Male Privilege, in the University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, and The Feminist Case for Acknowledging Women’s Acts of Violence in the Yale Journal of Law & Feminism

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MothersEsquire:  An Introduction to a Supportive Community

As a member of the academic community, I often find myself stuck in something of an outsider status with the practicing legal profession.  I am not a practicing lawyer, so my role in the local bar associations, CLEs, and practitioner-related groups often is a bit awkward and strained.  I attend as many events as I can, but they are downtown and my campus communities have historically not been conveniently located to these groups.  The kinds of conversations – particularly those related to gender dimensions of the profession – are often a powerful and painful reminder of the obstacles faced during my six years of private practice, but they do not quite reflect the day-to-day obstacles that I face in academic life.  The same outsider phenomenon can also describe the role of students attending these events.  I often recommend that students attend bar events and CLE programs, but likewise the relevance and applicability for them might not always translate smoothly to students to justify the commute downtown in the middle of their academic day.  

This blog entry is an opportunity to highlight a new organization that I think has ably bridged communities for moms in the legal profession:  MothersEsquire.  This year has been an important one for the organization of women’s groups.  From the D.C. Women’s March to Pant Suit Nation to Law Mamas, there is no shortage of outlets for women and women lawyers to come together this year.  The MothersEsquire organization stands out in a couple of key ways. 

First, it is not limited to geographical boundaries or bar licensure borders.  For example, I am a member of the Maryland Bar, but not a member of the Kentucky Bar where I currently reside.  This is an obstacle, or at least a deterrent, to my participation in local bar events.   The same is true for many law students who might be studying in Kentucky or Virginia or California, but may not necessary call that community their home later as a practitioner. 

Second, MothersEsquire has followed a “participatory action model” of modern governance. Many long-established bar organizations and affinity groups have signature events that fill the calendar like annual dinners, annual fundraisers, annual awards, golf tournaments, etc.  As a new group, MothersEsquire has organically responded and adapted to changing conditions faced in communities.  For example, when student members last Fall were attending a state bar ethics program and some questionable and inappropriate comments regarding women in the profession were made by a prominent speaker, the group quickly mobilized via social media and local organizers at the event who were also present on social media responded and addressed the concerns effectively and promptly in real time.  The organization is also working on breastfeeding accommodations.  It was able to effectively advocate for a law student denied bar exam nursing accommodations and it established an advocacy group to work on courtroom accommodations.

Third, the group has played a role and provided a focus that fills a gap in traditional women’s bar associations.  Certainly, not all women lawyers are mothers or identify as mothers.  Further, not all women lawyers are interested in or need to have an outlet to think about unique issues of parenting and the profession.   For those that do, however, this group provides an outlet, an information source, a networking portal, and more.  Its website explains:

“We are Moms.  We are Lawyers. We are Master-Negotiators and Multi-Taskers -- at work and at home. We are the Equity Partners at the office and the Team Coach at school.  We drive mini-vans to depositions and to carpool line. We read briefs by day and Goodnight Moon by night.   And we are bringing women together to Disrupt the "Motherhood Penalty" in our profession.”

Finally, this group is unique for its founding in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky by practicing attorney Michelle Coughlin.  Historically, countless influential women’s groups and professional change-agents have originated in large coastal cities, or at least perceptively so.  This group is distinctively inclusive.  It originated in a so-called “red state” or a so-called “flyover state,” but includes members from far beyond that.  Its members include SAH mother attorneys, practicing mother attorneys, prospective mother attorneys, and attorney prospective mothers. 

For more information about MothersEsquire join the Facebook group or check out its website:  I highlight it here on the Gender & Law Blog as a great example of leadership in the profession that bridges academia and practice, crosses geographical boundaries, and fosters organic professional connections.     

July 6, 2017 in Family, Guest Bloggers, Women lawyers, Work/life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Reading Judicial Biographies of Women

JudicialBooks2

Here is my current stack of background reading on judicial biographies and autobiographies. I am beginning a new research project on Florence Allen.  Judge Allen was the first woman appointed to a federal appellate court (the Sixth Circuit in 1934) and the first woman elected to a state supreme court (Ohio in 1922).  So she is often dubbed "the first woman judge," though there were other women magistrates, trial judges, and special court judges who came before her.  Allen may also be one of the first gay judges, though the historical record is murky on this historically censored point. 

As I begin digging into the archives, my parallel task is to read, and in many cases re-read, the biographies of judges, particularly women judges.  I have some of my own favorites -- with Linda Greenhouse's Becoming Justice Blackmun leading the pack -- but am now focused on structure, tone, and content -- what works, what adds insight, and what as the reader I am able to take away.  My thought is that the Allen book project will be more intellectual history than pure biography, although the interesting personal juxtapositions of this woman's life (e.g. pro-death penalty/anti-war), inform her judicial role. 

June 28, 2017 in Books, Judges, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 8, 2017

New Women Law School Deans

Updated June 8, 2017

For awhile, it looked like the appointments of new law deans this year was trending women.  For my thoughts as to possible explanations for this trend, see my quoted comments in Karen Sloan, If It's a New Law Dean, It's Likely a Woman.  

However, now as we near the end of the 2017 hiring season, it seems that the trend is less to a gender preference, and more to equality of appointment.   

To date in 2017, 14 of 28 (50%) new deans are women. Two are women of color.  

In 2015, 46% of new law dean appointments were women. Annual List of New Women Law Deans.   

Women are currently only 30% of law deans. This is a relatively recent increase as just three or so years ago women were 21% of law deans. See The Rise of Women Law Deans (June 2015). 

Still, a new study of law school deans, US Law School Industry: Dean Positions 2015-2016, concludes that “Law programs and their leadership remain potentially gendered. . . . Women continue to be substantially under-represented at the highest levels of leadership, though we find that differences are significantly less pronounced at Assistant and Associate Dean positions.”

Here is the 2017 list:

Aviva Abramovsky, Buffalo (Associate Dean for International Initiatives, Syracuse)

Joan Bullock, Thomas Jefferson (Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Florida A&M)

Marcilynn Burke, Oregon (Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Houston)

Cathy Cox, Mercer (President, Young Harris College, former Secretary of State Georgia)

Megan Carpenter, New Hampshire (Co-Director, Intellectual Property, Texas A&M)

Darby Dickerson, John Marshall Chicago (Dean, Texas Tech)

Susan Duncan, Univ. of Mississippi (Interim Dean, Louisville)

Heather Gerken, Yale (Professor, Yale)

Judge Maureen Lally-Green, Duquesne (Judge, Interim Dean, Duquesne) 

Rachel Janutis, Capital (Interim Dean, Capital)

Judge Madeline Landrieu, Loyola New Orleans (Judge, Louisiana Court of Appeal)

Lyrissa Lidsky, Univ. of Missouri (Associate Dean, Graduate Programs, Florida)

Hari Osofksy, Penn State (Professor, Minnesota)

Judge A. Gail Prudenti, Hofstra (Judge, Interim Dean Hofstra)

 

The men appointed to new deanships are: 

Richard Bierschbach, Wayne State (Associate Dean, Cardozo)

Paul Caron, Pepperdine (Professor, Pepperdine)

Erwin Chemerinsky, Berkeley (Dean, UC Irvine)

Colin Crawford, Louisville (Professor, Tulane)

Dan Filler, Drexel (Associate Dean, Drexel)

Lee Fisher, Cleveland State (former Lt. Gov, Interim Dean CSU)

Michael Hunter Schwartz, McGeorge (Dean, Arkansas)

Michael Kaufman, Loyola Chicago (Professor, Loyola Chicago)

Gregory Mandel, Temple (Interim Dean, Temple)

John Manning, Harvard (Deputy Dean, Harvard)

Richard Moberly, Nebraska (Interim Dean, Nebraska)

Anthony Niedwiecki, Golden Gate (Associate Dean, John Marshall Chicago)

Jack Nowlin, Texas Tech (Senior Associate Dean, U Mississippi)

CJ Peters, Akron (Associate Dean for Scholarship, Baltimore)

 

June 8, 2017 in Law schools, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (2)

The Mansfield Rule: Law Firms' Rooney Rule for Addressing Gender in Hiring

WSJ, A Rooney Rule for Law Firms? Project Aims to Promote More Women (behind pay wall)

ATL, Get Ready for the Big Law Rooney Rule as Firms Try to Actually Do Something About Diversity

It looks like Biglaw firms are finally moving from the rhetoric of diversity to that reality. Thirty firms, including DLA Piper, Paul Hastings, Jenner & Block, Morrison & Foerster, Blank Rome, and White & Case, have committed to abiding by a version of the “Rooney Rule” when promoting and hiring laterals. For those that have no more than a passing familiarity with the concussion-fest that is the NFL, the Rooney Rule — named after the late owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Art Rooney — requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate when there is a head coach or general manager vacancy. The rule is seen as a progressive success — yes, eight minority head coachesis seen as a success — and now Biglaw firms are taking a cue from the NFL.***

 

The idea was proposed by Mark Helm, a partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson, at Diversity Lab’s event, Women in Law Hackathon. Diversity Lab then worked with the firms to develop the rule, and as reported by Law.com, they are committed to making sure the law firm rule is successful:

“These law firms have signed on [to] help us form the idea, put it into fruition, see what works, see what doesn’t work,” said Caren Ulrich Stacy, CEO of the Diversity Lab, which is working with the firms to develop the Mansfield Rule. “We’re going to stick with the firms and we’re going to help them measure and track and then [see] where the needle has moved over the course of the year so that its second iteration next year could be even better.”

 

The Biglaw version of the rule, named the Mansfield Rule after Arabella Mansfield, the first woman admitted to practice law in the U.S. (a good fact to remember for a future Trivia Question of the Day), asks firms to consider two or more candidates who are women or attorneys of color when hiring for leadership and governance roles, promotions to equity partner, and hiring lateral attorneys. And, if the firms can demonstrate 30 percent of the pool for these positions are diverse, they’ll be “Mansfield Certified.” That spiffy designation will allow firms to participate in a client forum hosted by 45 in-house legal departments, including companies like Facebook, HP, Microsoft, and PayPal.

 

The participating firms seem committed to the Mansfield Rule, and are hopeful it will yield real results:

“It has been demonstrated again and again that diverse teams make better decisions. While we aspire to create those teams everywhere, including and especially in leadership, it is also well documented that unconscious bias clouds our best intentions,” said Fenwick & West managing partner Kathryn Fritz in a statement to The American Lawyer. “The Mansfield Rule helps us bring greater intention to our considerations and actions so that we can achieve our aspirational goal.”

 

There also is a sense that an industry-wide solution is what’s needed, as the Wall Street Journal reports:

Alan Hoffman, the managing partner and chairman of Blank Rome, said the firm is thrilled to participate in the pilot because “we’re not retaining women in the practice at the same rate as men.” Blank Rome began in 2012 trying to get more women in line to take over practice group leadership, and now half of the firm’s 16 practices are led by women.

Orrick Chairman and Chief Executive Mitch Zuklie said the rule looks to be a promising way for law firms and their clients to come together to hold the industry accountable and is emblematic of the fact that “systemic problems require systemic solution."

I have written about the need for systemic solutions for gender discrimination such as the use of gender quotas, and also the limitations of token measures like the Rooney Rule.  See Tracy Thomas, Reconsidering the Remedy of Gender Quotas, Harvard J. Gender & Law (online) (Nov. 2016).

June 8, 2017 in Gender, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Proskauer Sued by Partner in Gender Bias Suit

Partner Hits Proskauer with 50 Million Gender Bias Suit  

An unnamed partner in Proskauer’s Washington, D.C., office has sued the firm in federal court, alleging she is a victim of discrimination and claiming “substantial gender disparities” in the firm’s partnership. The suit claims at least $50 million in damages.

 

Proskauer called the claims “groundless” and suggested that the partner sought to force a payout after her practice faltered.

 

The complaint was filed Friday in D.C. by lawyers at Sanford Heisler Sharp—which is also leading a high-profile gender bias lawsuit in New York on behalf of current and former female Chadbourne & Parke partners. Proskauer represents Chadbourne in that case.

 

The plaintiff in Friday’s lawsuit accuses Proskauer of paying her millions of dollars less than her male counterparts, despite her “standout performance” at the firm.

 

“Among other things, Proskauer excluded plaintiff from client matters, declined to allow plaintiff to pitch or to participate in any employment litigation matter for firm clients, rebuffed her efforts to assume a greater leadership role at the firm, tolerated and facilitated an environment where she was targeted for harassment and humiliation by firm leadership, demeaned and belittled her to her peers and clients, and refused to rectify pay disparities,” the suit alleges.

May 16, 2017 in Equal Employment, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Story of Ida Platt: The First Black Woman Lawyer in Illinois

Gwen Jordan, "A Woman of Strange, Unfathomable Presence": Ida Platt's Lived Experience of Race, Gender & Law, 1863-1939"

In 1894, Ida Platt became the first African-American woman lawyer in Illinois. She was one of only five black women lawyers in the country and the only one able to maintain a law practice. Throughout her thirty-three year career, Platt served as head of her household, providing for her mother and sisters, without marrying or having children. She accomplished these feats by employing a fluid racial identity, passing as white in her professional life, and by avoiding the dominant gender roles that excluded women from the masculine legal profession. In 1927, at the age of sixty-four, Ida Platt retired, married Walter Burke, a white man, and moved to England. Twelve years later, Ida Burke died. As is the practice in England, there was no race designation on her death certificate.

Platt’s choice to employ a fluid racial identity allowed her to pursue her career as a lawyer amidst a racist and sexist society that particularly discriminated against black women. She entered the law when Jim Crow was taking root, race lines were hardening, and elite, white, male lawyers were intensifying their opposition to women’s rise within the profession. Platt’s life and career offer insights into how law and the legal profession responded to the complexities of race and tender a new story of the lived experience of race as it intersects with gender. It suggests that Platt’s pragmatic strategy of changing her racial identity both contested and shaped the ways in which race, gender, and identity were constructed and represented in American society, as it exposed both the rigidity and permeability of these constructions.

 

May 12, 2017 in Legal History, Race, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 28, 2017

Montana Legislature Rejects ABA Ethics Rule Prohibiting Discrimination and Harassment

Montana Legislature Says ABA Model Rule on Discrimination and Harassment Violates First Amendment

A joint resolution passed Wednesday by the Montana state legislature condemns the ABA’s Model Rule 8.4(g) as a violation of Montanans’ First Amendment rights.

 

The model rule, passed by the House of Delegates at the 2016 Annual Meeting, makes it a violation of professional responsibility to discriminate or harass on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status in conduct related to the practice of law. The rule was controversial both within and outside the ABA, although the Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility worked to address concerns raised by other ABA sections.

 

Those changes may not have been enough for the Montana legislature, whose Joint Resolution No. 15 says the model rule infringes on the First Amendment rights of people licensed to practice law in Montana, and “seeks to destroy the bedrock foundations and traditions of American independent thought, speech, and action.”

 

The resolution is also critical of the Montana Supreme Court, which invited public comment on the model rule in October. The resolution says public comment was overwhelmingly opposed, but the court “relentlessly pursues adoption” of the rule by extending the time to consider it. This, the legislature said, overreaches the high court’s authority to regulate the conduct of attorneys—it says “the word ‘conduct’ clearly does not include the concept of ‘speech’”—and usurps the legislature’s power to make laws.

 

“Contrary to the ABA’s world view, there is no need in a free civil society, such as exists in Montana, for the cultural shift forced by the proposed rule, and even if such a need did exist, the Supreme Court has no constitutional power to enact legislation of any sort, particularly legislation forcing cultural shift,” the resolution says.

 

The resolution is at least the second statement of opposition to Model Rule 8.4(g) from a state government. In December, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion saying the rule violates attorneys’ right to free speech and would not hold up in court. That opinion was submitted to the Montana Supreme Court for consideration.

 

The model rule has also been criticized by First Amendment scholar and UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh. He reiterated Wednesday at the Volokh Conspiracy that he believes the rule is so broad that it captures protected political speech, and that harassment and discrimination is better dealt with through employment law.

 

 

 

April 28, 2017 in Constitutional, Legislation, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Feminist Legal Academics

Carrie Menkel-Meadow, Feminist Legal Academics: Changing the Epistemology of American Law Through Conflicts, in Gender and Careers in the Legal Academy (Ulrike Schultz, ed. Hart Publishing-Onati Series, forthcoming)

In this Chapter I will describe the inter-generational contributions of the first few decades of women law professors who have created a contested “canon” of new understandings of legal concepts in American jurisprudence and legal practice. I describe here the way in which several generations of women law professors (some working with legal practitioners) have forged new legal ideas or “memes” (cultural units of understandings), and legal causes of action that have reframed not only “women’s issues” (reproductive rights, employment and labor rights, family law, violence, rape and criminal law, as well as constitutional jurisprudence and different conceptions of “equality”), but have also contributed new conceptions or interpretations of mainstream legal concepts (e.g. in contracts, property, and torts etc.).

 

Those of us who have written about these developments over the years all acknowledge the inter-generational differences in meanings attributed to our goals as participants in the making of new legal epistemology—the interpretation of law and doctrine, the creation of new concepts, causes of actions, or legal “memes,” the creation of new courses and methods for learning law, whether and how our new epistemology should be integrated (or more controversially “assimilated”) into mainstream American law doctrine and education, how we have or have not influenced the legal academy and legal thought generally, as well as legal practice and law reform measures, and what lessons we offer for future generations of “outsiders” who are increasingly populating our profession with more diverse bodies and ideas.

April 27, 2017 in Law schools, Theory, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Courts Begin to Cite Report by ABA Commission on Women in Sanctioning Lawyers for Gender Bias

The Commission Reports and Judges Listen

In March 2015, lawyer Dora Monserrate-­Peñagaricano was representing a client in a deposition hearing in the U.S. District Court for Puerto Rico when she complained aloud to a colleague that the room was hot.

 

“You’re not getting menopause, I hope,” interjected the opposing lawyer, Camilo Salas, in front of 14 other, mostly male, lawyers.

 

Monserrate bridled at his comment. And in a sanctions hearing several months later, U.S. District Judge Francisco A. Besosa also chastised Salas for it, quoting the American Bar Association report First Chairs at Trial: More Women Need Seats at the Table to emphasize the comment’s discriminatory nature and negative impact: “An ABA report published this year,” stated the judge, “identified ‘inappropriate or stereotypical comments’ directed at female attorneys by opposing counsel as one of the causes of the marked underrepresentation of women in lead trial attorney roles.”

 

It’s not the only time that the First Chairs report—which examines why there is a dearth of women lawyers in lead counsel and trial counsel posts and what to do about it—has been cited in sanction hearings. Since its release in 2015, this first-of-its-kind study, published as a joint project of the American Bar Foundation and the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession (CWP), seems to be having the precise effect that its coauthors hoped it would.

 

“I think having judges call that behavior out, and having a study that they can rely on,” is a powerful tool for change, says coauthor Roberta D. Liebenberg, a former chair of the CWP and a senior partner at Philadelphia-based Fine, Kaplan and Black, R.P.C. Stephanie A. Scharf, who heads the litigation practice at the women-owned Chicago firm Scharf Banks Marmor LLC, served as Liebenberg’s coauthor.

 

The two began by taking a random sample (608 cases) of all the civil and criminal cases filed in 2013 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. They examined the cases from the perspectives of (1) type of case, (2) type of practice setting, and (3) type of client. They found that women were consistently underrepresented in lead counsel roles in almost all types of legal settings. Notably, men were three times more likely than women to serve as lead counsel in civil cases. And when surveying criminal cases, the authors found that men were four times more likely than women to serve as trial lawyers.

 

“You could go into any courtroom and just by being there know that there are not enough women as first chair trial lawyers,” Liebenberg says. “But because we did the statistics, the thing has really taken off. It’s been cited by several courts in sanctioning lawyers for biased behavior, like during a deposition. It’s been cited in a law review article. It’s been cited by The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. And it really shows you how important the statistical backup is—to validate what we can all see with our eyes.”

April 14, 2017 in Courts, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Remembering Judge Shirley Hufstedler - One of the Famous Firsts

Robert Percival, The Judge Who Climbed Mountains, 69 Stanford L. Rev. (March 2017)

Shirley and Seth Hufstedler loved to climb mountains. The week before the U.S. Department of Education opened its doors in 1980, a profile of them reported that their “favorite hobby is mountain climbing” and noted they had made five trips to the Nepalese Himalayas. When interviewed decades later, Shirley Hufstedler fondly recalled how she and Seth “walked up and down mountains all over the world.

 
Those were not the only mountains Shirley Hufstedler climbed. To ascend to the highest ranks of the legal profession she had to overcome enormous obstacles then facing women who pursued a legal career. Although the dream of making a woman’s first ascent to the Supreme Court ultimately eluded her, she blazed a trail for those who followed.***

Judge Hufstedler opened her own one-woman law practice. Her big break came when a former professor invited her to help defend the state of California in the Arizona v. California water rights dispute being heard by the Supreme Court. Her brief-writing work on the case quickly earned widespread admiration, though she was not at the counsel table when the case was argued before the Supreme Court.

 

California Governor Pat Brown took notice of Shirley Hufstedler’s extraordinary legal talent and appointed her to the Los Angeles County Superior Court in 1961. She then was the only woman out of 120 judges on that court. She quickly established herself as a valuable member of the court, pioneering a procedure for issuing tentative decisions that helped reduce the court’s enormous backlog of cases. When asked whether she felt like she had to do anything special to fit into a male-dominated world, Judge Hufstedler replied: “No, I just did my job. And I think doing my job and doing it capably was adequate to be able to help everybody else make a judgment that they didn't have a fox in the hen house.” 

 


In 1966 Governor Brown elevated her to become an Associate Judge on the California Court of Appeal. Two years later, President Lyndon Johnson appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Judge Hufstedler was only the second woman ever to serve as a judge on a U.S. Court of Appeals [after Florence Allen] and the only woman serving at the time.

March 21, 2017 in Judges, Legal History, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Harvard Law Review has its First Black Woman President

After 130 Years, Harvard Law Review Elects a Black Woman President

It has been 27 years since the first black man, an older student by the name of Barack Obama, was elected president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review. It has been even longer — 41 years — since the first woman, Susan Estrich, was elected to the position. Since then, subsequent presidents have been female, Hispanic, Asian-American, openly gay and black.

 

Only now, for the first time in the history of the venerable 130-year-old journal, is the president a black woman.

 

ImeIme (pronounced “Ah-MAY-may”) Umana, 24, the third-oldest of four daughters of Nigerian immigrants, was elected on Jan. 29 by the review’s 92 student editors as the president of its 131st volume....

 

“It still feels like magic that I’m here,” Ms. Umana said in an interview, though her fellow students said it was not magic at all but her sharp legal mind, intense work ethic, leadership ability and generosity of spirit that catapulted her to the top.

 

Ms. Umana’s emergence now has raised questions about why it took so long for a black woman to reach the pinnacle of the review and how her perspective may influence a publication that has for most of its existence been led by white men.

 

When Ms. Umana talks about the law, she speaks through the prism of her race and gender. Not far from her mind are the black women who in recent years died after encounters with law enforcement.

 

“I’m constantly reminded of people like Natasha McKenna and Tanisha Anderson and Sandra Bland, whose relationships with the law were just simply tragic,” she said.

 
Unlike the vast majority of graduates of the nation’s top law schools, Ms. Umana says she has no interest in joining a high-paying corporate firm. Her dream for now is to become a public defender, a goal she set after an eye-opening internship last summer in the public defender’s office in the Bronx. She plans to work this summer with the public defender in Washington.

 

“A lot of the clients I worked with that summer and since have looked a lot like me,” she said. “They are disproportionately represented on the unfortunate end of the legal system, so it struck a little closer to home.”*** 

 

So why did it take so long to elect a black woman?

 

In Ms. Umana’s view, the lag reflects a wide gulf between black women and law school — and the law in general, a profession in which minorities have historically been underrepresented. 

 

“We’ve been systematically excluded from the legal landscape, the legal conversation, and we’re just now making some important inroads,” she said in her office at the law review, which occupies Gannett House, a creamy 19th-century Greek Revival building that amid the law school’s imposing brick and concrete edifices looks like a New England cottage.

 

A 2014 study found a wide gender disparity at many of the nation’s top law reviews. It suggests that women do not apply in the first place for a host of reasons: They prioritize other parts of their lives, do not want to put in the extra hours that law reviews demand and are less interested in conventional markers of success like law review membership.

 

 

February 28, 2017 in Law schools, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 27, 2017

OH Bill Proposes Ending Exemption for Marital Rape

Akron Beacon J., Ohio Bill Outlawing Marital Rape Gets No GOP Support, Again

As an assistant prosecutor in Summit County, Greta Johnson made a habit of asking females on the witness stand if they had married their alleged rapists.

 

“And that just seemed crazy to me. But it was a question I had to ask,” Johnson said. “I remember occasionally thinking, what if they were married? Would that have changed the situation?”

 

The situation? Maybe not. Justice for the crime? Maybe.

 

In Ohio, husbands or wives can rape their spouses so long as there is no force or threat of force. The “spousal exemption” means husbands can drug and rape wives, and avoid a first-degree felony rape charge.

 

“As a former prosecutor,” said Johnson, who now represents part of Akron in the Ohio House, “I would argue that you could still try to prosecute under the forced rape statute, but unfortunately drugging and raping your spouse in Ohio is not illegal.”

 

In her first term, Johnson introduced House Bill 234. It would have done away with this “spousal exemption” in Ohio’s criminal code. The bipartisan, bicameral Ohio Criminal Justice Recodification Committee explored this and agreed.

 

But the 2015 bill died in a Republican-controlled committee, receiving no more than initial testimony from its Democrat sponsors, Johnson and Rep. Teresa Fedor of Toledo.

 

Johnson suspects the bill failed for partisan reasons. Obstructing legislation offered by minority parties is common practice in Ohio’s history of making laws.

 

But GOP members also pushed back on a provision of the bill that eliminated Ohio’s 20-year statute of limitations on rape and sexual assault cases. Johnson still thinks rape should be categorized with murder and aggravated murder as crimes that have no shelf life for prosecution.

 

“I’ve always called rape murder of the soul. It changes people in fundamental ways. Nobody will ever be the same,” Johnson said. “The only thing [my clients] wanted was something I could never offer, which is the day before [the rape] happened.”

 

But with more pragmatism in her second term, Johnson have compromised by dropping the provision on statute of limitations and instead crafted a cleaner bill that focuses on the marital rape exemptions.

February 27, 2017 in Legislation, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 17, 2017

Examing Why Women Lawyers are Less than 20 Percent of Advocates in the US Supreme Court

Jennifer Mika, The Noteworthy Absence of Women Advocates at the US Supreme Court, 25 American J. Gender, Social Policy & Law 1 (2016)

Abstract:     

Arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court is considered one of the most prestigious accomplishments in a litigator’s career. However, during the last five terms, women consistently make up less than one fifth of this elite club. This article takes a closer look at the advocates that argued before the Supreme Court during the 2015-2016 term as well as those who appeared more than once in a given term over the past six years. It explores the possible causes of the deficit in women advocates including gender disparity in Supreme Court clerkship experience. It strives to start a dialogue about how the gender gap in Supreme Court advocacy can be closed.

 

February 17, 2017 in SCOTUS, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

St. Valentine's Greeting to The Lady Judge

From the archives of Judge Florence Allen.  Allen was the first woman judge elected to a state supreme court (Ohio in 1922), appointed to a US Court of Appeals (6th Circuit), and shortlisted for the US Supreme Court. She saved this card sent to her from friends. 

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February 14, 2017 in Legal History, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 13, 2017

Reinforcing Masculine Legal Authority in the Way We Teach Moot Court

Susie Salmon, Reconstructing the Voice of Authority

Abstract:      

Notwithstanding the presence of three women on the United States Supreme Court, in terms of gender equality, surprisingly little has changed in the legal profession over the past twenty years. This stagnation is particularly apparent in the highest paying and most prestigious sectors, such as the Supreme Court bar, the top echelons of the top law firms, the judiciary, and the general-counsel’s office. Even where objective facts suggest that female lawyers should be hired, billed out, or compensated at the same or higher rate than their male peers, subjective decisions informed, in part, by bias and stereotype drive a different result. 

This Article proposes that, until we stop indoctrinating law students that a “good lawyer” looks, sounds, and presents like the Classical warrior — that is, a male — these barriers will persist. For many law students, the first place they get to model what it means to look, sound, and act like a lawyer is in moot court or other oral-argument exercises. Especially in light of an overall law-school culture that reinforces the significance of inborn abilities, it is not hard to see how moot court’s frequent emphasis on “natural” oral-advocacy talent, and its implicit connection of that talent to traits traditionally associated with men, can influence how students — and later lawyers — develop rigid conceptions of what a good lawyer looks, sounds, and acts like. And continuing to uncritically teach the values of Classical rhetoric — values inherited from a culture that silenced women’s voices in the public sphere — exacerbates the problem. This Article explores the dynamics and consequences of reinforcing the male paradigm in the way we coach and judge moot court and other oral-advocacy exercises, highlights some barriers to change, and proposes concrete steps legal educators, practitioners, and judges can take to help change what the voice of authority sounds like in the legal profession.

 

February 13, 2017 in Education, Gender, Law schools, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Justice Ginsburg on Law School, Motherhood, and Her Groundbreaking Cases

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Perspective that Comes with Motherhood

Ruth Bader Ginsburg spent a large portion of her legal career advocating for women’s rights and was appointed as the second female justice to the Supreme Court in 1993. In this animated interview, she describes attending law school with a 14-month-old baby at home. Ginsburg attributes some of her career successes to her husband’s flexibility and the experience of being a mother. “I think I had better balance, better sense of proportions of what matters,” she says. "I felt each part of my life gave me respite from the other.”

This interview was conducted by Ryan Park for his story "What Ruth Bader Ginsburg Taught Me About Being a Stay-at-Home Dad".

February 7, 2017 in Courts, Family, SCOTUS, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Women Lawyers Face More Personal and Gender Attacks than the Usual Lawyer Hate

 Alice Woolley & Elysa Darling, Nasty Women and the Rule of Law, Univ. San Fran. (forthcoming)

No one enters the legal profession expecting social popularity – or, at least. no one should. But recent events create the impression that women lawyers face more than the generic suggestions of dishonesty, untrustworthiness, greed and adversarialism that typify anti-­‐lawyer criticisms. For women lawyers, attacks and criticism are role-­‐related (arising from her occupation of the professional role) but also personal, specific and gendered. Lawyers in general are labeled as morally troubling; women lawyers risk being specifically and personally identified as morally transgressive, even when performing acts expected of a person in their role. Women who take on law firm leadership, advocate in notorious trials, lead teams in complex corporate transactions, demonstrate political ambitions or political leadership – that is, women who do things that lawyers might normally be expected to do– risk particularly gendered and hostile forms of criticism. They risk being labeled unlikable, unattractive, unfeminine, unpleasant, immoral–a bitch. Such attacks are not certain to occur. They may be more likely for some women than for others; the form and tone they take almost certainly varies with context. But a woman who chooses to enter the legal profession does not just risk generic unpopularity. She also risks being labeled a “nasty woman”.


That, at least, is the premise of this paper. We do not prove that women lawyers risk being attacked in this way, although we note some examples of women lawyers who have been, consider some objections to the premise, and discuss the extent to which gender equality has eluded the legal profession to date, even in comparison to other professions. Instead, we focus on why gendered and personal attacks on women might occur....

 

Our thesis is that attacks on women lawyers arise from the intersection between the normative structure of the lawyer's role and sexist stereotypes. The lawyer's function in achieving the social settlement of law, including maintaining the rule of law, requires lawyers to occupy positions of moral ambiguity and power.  Lawyers have the privilege and responsibility to pursue the interests of their clients within the bounds of legality, even where doing so inflicts harm or violates valued norms of ordinary morality. That role makes all lawyers unpopular, but when combined with prescriptive gender stereotypes about appropriate conduct for women, it makes women lawyers seem not merely morally dubious, but also personally dangerous. That is, the danger presented by a woman lawyer connects to the woman herself; she presents the danger rather than simply being a part of a group or category of dangerous people; she invites moral outrage.

February 1, 2017 in Gender, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Shortlisted: The Stories of the Women Considered, but not Nominated, to the Supreme Court

Hannah Brenner & Renee Newman Knake, Shortlisted, UCLA Women's L.J. (forthcoming)

Abstract:     

Mildred Lillie fortunately had no children, as the New York Times noted in 1971, and even in her fifties, maintained “a bathing beauty figure.” Lillie was not, however, a swimsuit model. She was one of President Nixon’s possible nominees to the United States Supreme Court. Shortlisted tells the stories of nearly a dozen extraordinary women considered for the Court, but ultimately not nominated, before Justice Sandra Day O’Connor became the first in 1981. The public nature of the nomination process enables us to analyze the scrutiny of these women by the profession and media, and analogize to those similarly not selected, elected, or appointed to political office, corporate governance, the judiciary, law firm partnership, and other positions of power. We find that the stories of those women who did not attain these various power roles are as compelling as those who did. Our work builds upon and transcends previous scholarly work on the theory of the “leaking pipeline” — i.e. that women enter the profession in numbers equal to men but do not advance — and dispels the persistent myth that there is a dearth of sufficiently qualified women. The framework for this project, exploring decades of women shortlisted to the Court pre-O’Connor from Presidents Roosevelt to Reagan, allows gender bias to be viewed in a vibrant historical context and illuminates ideas for future advancement of women in law and beyond. Shortlisted explores the gendered experiences of this elite group of women — both professional and personal — and situates their stories within the context of gender, judging, and the legal profession. This project is one of first impression. We are the first scholars to identify and assess these women together in light of their shared experience of being shortlisted. Their individual and collective stories have largely gone untold. Until now

 

January 31, 2017 in Courts, SCOTUS, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Durability of Gender Inequality in Private Law Practice

Joyce Sterling & Nancy Reichman, Overlooked and Undervalued: Women in Private Law Practice, 12 Annual Rev. Law & Soc. Science 373 (2016)

Abstract

This article examines the durability of gender inequality in private law practice since Kay & Gorman published their comprehensive review in the Annual Review of Law and Social Science in 2008. We begin with some of the changes in legal practice that intensified during the Great Recession and help to contextualize women's lack of progress. We turn next to a contemporary profile of women in private practice that demonstrates empirically where women stand. We look at some of the organizational mechanisms that seem to perpetuate inequality. The challenges of integrating work and family dominated the discussion of women's lack of progress in earlier reviews of women in the legal profession and continue to matter greatly. We assume the persistence of these challenges and instead focus on ways that the mechanisms or strategies for determining compensation systematically overlook and undervalue women's contributions. We consider the different social science frameworks that explain women as overlooked and undervalued for their contributions. We conclude with proposed suggestions for changes aimed at remedying the problems discussed here.

 

January 25, 2017 in Equal Employment, Women lawyers, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Women and the Law Conference at Northeastern

Women and the Law Conference at Northeastern University School of Law, May 19, 2017.  On careers, practicing law and the "New Girl" network.

January 24, 2017 in Conferences, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)