Gender and the Law Prof Blog

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

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Story of the First Woman (also the First Black Woman) Law Professor, Lutie Lytle

Taja-Nia Y. Henderson, "I Shall Talk to My Own People": The Intersectional Life and Times of Lutie A. Lytle, 102 Iowa L. Rev. 1983 (2017).

In the fall of 1898, the Chicago Tribune hailed Lutie A. Lytle of Topeka as the “only female law instructor in the world.” Notwithstanding this purported shattering of the legal academy’s glass ceiling, Lytle’s accomplishments—her path to the professoriate, and her career in the years following her appointment to the faculty of a Nashville law school—have been largely lost to historians of legal education. She is not among those honored or commemorated by our profession, and her name is largely unknown beyond a small circle of interest. The biographical sketch that follows fills this scholarly gap through an examination of Lytle as a historical figure, using contemporary newspaper accounts and other primary source material to provide context for her achievements and linking her life to previously understudied legal, political and social movements.

 

As a genre, biography seeks to use the life of the individual to tell a larger story about the collective. Feminist biography—probably best understood as both subgenre and method—has the same goals, but moves gender “to the center of the analysis.” This methodology asks not only how gender as a social category has impacted the lives of historical actors, but also how the unequal distribution of power resulting from existing gender hierarchies has influenced epistemologies of scholarly inquiry.

 

A biographical sketch of Lutie A. Lytle, a woman coming of age in the second half of the nineteenth century, warrants such treatment. Lytle’s career in the law was certainly impacted by gender as she was among the earliest cadre of women lawyers in the nation. As a student, she was the only woman enrolled in the Law Department of Central Tennessee College. When she was appointed as an instructor at the College, moreover, she was the only woman among the law school’s faculty. As a woman of African descent born during Reconstruction, however, Lytle (and her story) “cannot be captured wholly by” a methodology that moves only gender to the center. The intersection (or overlap) of Lytle’s identities as a woman of color and the daughter of former slaves requires that gender and race (and arguably, status and class) move to the center. In other words, a biographical sketch of Lytle’s life cannot privilege gender in isolation; it must also grapple with the persistence of race, racism, and the myriad legacies of chattel slavery in the subject’s world.

November 17, 2017 in Law schools, Race, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Study Shows Gender Under-representation on District Courts in 10th Circuit

Eli Wald, Judging Judges: A Study of US Federal District Judges in the 10th Circuit

This paper examines the demographics of federal district court judges in the 10th Circuit. Consistent with the glass-ceiling effect literature in positions of power and influence in the legal profession, the study finds that women judges are under-represented on the 10th Circuit bench compared with their numbers as lawyers in the jurisdictions of the Circuit. However, the study finds that minority judges are over-represented in the Circuit. The paper next explores the relationship between under-representation, over-representation and discrimination. Under-representation that cannot be explained in terms of merit criteria or informed opting out, such as the under-representation of women on the 10th Circuit, strongly suggests the lingering effects of past exclusion and discrimination, as well as the current effects of implicit bias. As demonstrated by the over-representation of minority judges, the political commission process can break through the gender glass-ceiling by over-representing qualified women judges in the short run until their overall numbers better reflect equality.

November 8, 2017 in Courts, Judges, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 2, 2017

New Study Shows Gender Gap Much Wider in Law Firms than Other Industries

Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA J, Survey Chronicles Female Lawyers Exodus from Equity Partnership, Belief They Can't Have it All

Law firms are taking steps to improve gender equality, but it’s not translating to a better gender balance past the associate level, according to a new study. 


The gender gap at high levels is much wider in law firms than in other industries, according to the study by McKinsey & Co. and Thomson Reuters. The study drew on survey responses by more than 2,500 lawyers and information from 23 of the nation’s top law firms, according to a press release.

 

Female lawyers are 29 percent less likely to be promoted to the first partnership level than men, and only 19 percent of equity partners are women, according to the “Women in Law Firms” study, available here. Female lawyers are 43 percent more likely to leave equity partnership than men, according to the one-year data sample.

 

Almost half of female lawyers say prioritizing work-life balance is one of the greatest challenges to their professional success. Only 44 percent of female lawyers think they can have a successful career and a full personal life, compared with 60 percent of men.

November 2, 2017 in Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A Short History of Sexual Harassment

As sexual harassment dominates the news, a blog post here collecting some of the key sources for understanding the legal history of sexual harassment.

Lin Farley, NYT, I Coined the Term "Sexual Harassment." Corporations Stole It.

It wasn’t until April 1975 that women had a word for talking about what their male bosses were doing to them.

It was that month that I first used the phrase “sexual harassment” in public, during a hearing on women in the workplace by the New York City Human Rights Commission, at which I was testifying as an instructor at Cornell University. The New York Times covered the hearing in an article that was reprinted across the country. And thus, a concept was born.

Reva Siegel, A Short History of Sexual Harassment Law

As we have· seen, the practice and protest of sexual harassment have a long history, in which we can situate developments of the 1970s as a recent and relatively short chapter. But these developments nonetheless represent a dramatic turning point in social and legal understandings of the practice.

In the 1970s Catharine MacKinnon and Lin Farley and the many other lawyers and activists who represented women in and out of court were able to mount a concerted assault, of unprecedented magnitude and force, on the practice of sexual harassment. Responding on many fronts to the demands of the second-wave feminist movement, the American legal system began slowly to yield to this challenge, and for the first time recognized women's right to work free of unwanted sexual advances.

How did this come about? Sexual harassment law arose, first and foremost, from women acting as part of a· social movement speaking out about their  experiences as women at work; the term "sexual harassment" itself grew out of a consciousness-raising session Lin Farley held in 1974 as part of a Cornell University course on women and work. But more was required for the American legal system to recognize this experience of gendered harm as a form of legal injury, when for centuries it had refused.

Carrie Baker, Sexual Harassment: Law for Women, By Women, in Feminist Legal History  

Carrie Baker, The Women's Movement Against Sexual Harassment  

 

October 24, 2017 in Violence Against Women, Women lawyers, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Women's Leadership in Academia at AALS

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Best Law Firms for Women? Really?

Best Law Firms for Women? Really?

How marvelous. A fresh batch of “best” law firms for women lists. They are proliferating like bunnies across the American legal landscape. Law360, Working Mother and our own National Law Journal are just some of the publications that recently put out such lists. (Yale Law Women issues one too; it’s called “Top 10 Family-Friendly Firms”—a much more P.C. moniker.)

 

I’d love to say that these lists signal an abundance of opportunities for women in law. But that’s not how I see them. I find these lists confusing, if not misleading. And sad.

 

Often, firms get the “best” designation because they boast a high percentage of women lawyers—even though not many of them are actual shareholders.

 

The result is that firms with below-average percentage of women equity partners can get a skewed ranking, as I see it. For example, Baker McKenzie (16.4 percent female equity partners; the national average hovers around 18 percent) ranks No. 24 on the NLJ’s list, while Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison (23.3 female equity partners) only ranks No. 38. Using a similar formula, Law360 puts Baker McKenzie in second place on its best women’s list in the 600-plus law firm category, tying with Jackson Lewis.

 

To me the proof in the equality pudding is how many women are elevated to equity partner. If women aren’t equal stakeholders with men, how can anyone say they have any genuine power?

 

I’m all for encouraging institutions to reach lofty goals, but why laud firms so behind the curve? What’s so great about all those spiffy flexibility arrangements when female lawyers essentially have second-class status? ***

 

Instead of focusing on initiatives, I’d rather take a cold, hard look at where women are making equity partner. And here’s the reality check: Women are scarce in the top echelons of the profession.

 

The bottom line is that the sexy Big Law firms are not the places where women are making it in Big Law. So let’s call the “best firms for women” what it really is: a sad statement of how much women lag behind.

October 10, 2017 in Women lawyers, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Inspiring Trailblazer, Australian Judge Rosemary Balmford

Obituary: Inspiring Trailblazer for Women in Law

Rosemary Balmford moved through many professional barriers for women. She was the first woman to lecture in law at the University of Melbourne. She heard the first sex discrimination in employment case brought before the Equal Opportunity Board. She was the first woman appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria. She was also the first woman to preside over a murder trial in Victoria.

 

Rosemary Anne Balmford AM was born in Melbourne on September 15, 1933. Her parents were John and Ada Norris. Her father, Sir John, returned from serving as lieutenant-colonel in the AIF during World War II, resuming his law practice in 1945. He became a barrister and then a judge appointed to the County Court and later the Supreme Court. Her mother, Dame Ada, held the honour in her own right for her extensive charity work.

 

The law was not Rosemary's sole interest. Rosemary and Peter shared a lifelong love of travel and ornithology. They visited all seven continents, and returning from one extensive trip Rosemary commented: "I can now say we have travelled through George Bush's Axis-of-Evil," namely Iran, Iraq and North Korea. When asked the highlight of her trip, she replied: "The warmth of the Iranian people."

 

Rosemary served as secretary of the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union (RAOU) and wrote Learning About Australian Birds (William Collins, 1981) later updated as The Beginners Guide to Australian Birds (Penguin Australia, 1990). It was not unusual for friends travelling with Rosemary and Peter to be encouraged to help them identify a bird.

 

In 1971, Rosemary was appointed as the founding executive director of the Leo Cussen Institute for Continuing Legal Education. It was at the Equal Opportunity Board, however, in 1979 that Rosemary heard the landmark sex discrimination in employment case of Deborah Wardley v Ansett. Ansett, a major domestic airline, had refused to employ the pilot Deborah Wardley because she was a woman. The board ruled that Ansett's refusal to employ Wardley was unlawful. She then became the first female commercial pilot in Australia.

 

In 1982, Rosemary was appointed as a senior member of the Commonwealth Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Later, as a judge of the County Court, Rosemary made public her view on the opening up of the professions to women. Her argument was typical of her staunch and consistent logic, namely that to exclude women wasted the abilities of half the population.

 

In 1996, when Attorney-General Jan Wade appointed Rosemary the first female Supreme Court judge of Victoria, her influence on women in the legal profession was profound.

October 4, 2017 in International, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Job Announcement American Bar Foundation Chair in Diversity and Law

American Bar Foundation,

William H. Neukom Fellows Research Chair in Diversity and Law

The American Bar Foundation (ABF) invites applications for its William H. Neukom Fellows Research Chair in Diversity and Law. This is a one-year, visiting position for the 2018-19 academic year. The ABF anticipates that the Neukom Chair will become a long-term position in the future.

We seek an outstanding scholar with a distinguished record of scholarship in law and the social sciences who is conducting empirical research on diversity and law, broadly conceived. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to, diversity in the legal profession and other institutions of justice; the impact of diversity on legal processes, legal institutions, and public policy; the roles of race, gender, disability, and sexuality in legal institutions and legal processes; and the interaction between legal processes and inequalities of race, gender, disability, and sexuality. Applicants from all social science fields, history, and law will be considered.

In addition to pursuing the Research Chair’s own research, the Neukom Fellows Research Chair will participate in the ABF’s expanding program of research in diversity and law. The Neukom Chair is expected to be in residence at the ABF during the visit, and to make at least one formal presentation on the scholarly work they are doing at the ABF.

The ABF is an independent, scholarly research institute committed to social science research on law, legal institutions, and legal processes. Its faculty consists of leading scholars in the fields of law, sociology, psychology, political science, economics, history, and anthropology. The ABF is strongly committed to diversity in hiring.

Review of applications will begin on December 15, 2017, but the search will be ongoing until the position is filled.  We ask that applicants submit a letter of application, a curriculum vitae, a brief (no more than 2-page) description of current research and a list of three references.

Application letters should be addressed to Robert L. Nelson, Chair, Search Committee, and sent in electronic form to Holly Gitlin, Executive Assistant, at facultysearch@abfn.org with the subject line “Faculty Search.”  Queries about the application process can be directed to Ms. Gitlin at (312) 988-6582.

The American Bar Foundation encourages diversity in its workforce and seeks to provide equality of opportunity for all applicants and employees. All persons are considered for positions on the basis of job-related requirements. All decisions regarding recruiting, hiring, promotion, assignment, training, termination, and other terms and conditions of employment will be made without unlawful discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, religion, age, disability, veteran status, pregnancy, or marital status, in accordance with the ABF’s commitment to equal opportunity and all governing laws.

September 28, 2017 in Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Law & Gender Programs at AALS 2018

Mark your calendars for panels on law and gender at the annual Association of American Law Schools (AALS) meeting, January 2018.

Thursday, Jan. 4 

10:30am  AALS Open Source Program – Mainstreaming Feminism 

Saturday, Jan. 6

9:00am Women in Legal Education –Whispered Conversations Amplified 

10:30am Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Issues – Relationships Between Religious
Exemptions and Principles of Equality and Inclusion 

12:15pm  Women in Legal Education Luncheon. Ticket price $75 per person.

1:30pm Women in Legal Education – Speed Mentoring

Full AALS Draft Program is here.

 

September 26, 2017 in Conferences, Education, Gender, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 15, 2017

Black Women in the Law: A History and Current Assessment

by Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke who represents New York’s Ninth Congressional District in Congress. She has served in Congress since 2007 and is co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Black Women & Girls.

September 14th marks what would have been Constance Baker Motley’s 96th birthday. In 1966, Judge Motley became the first Black woman to serve as a federal judge. Yet, fifty years later, Black women are still heavily underrepresented at nearly all levels of the legal profession. While Black women are also underrepresented in the arts, sciences, media, and numerous other industries, our underrepresentation in the legal profession is particularly troubling, given its unique role in protecting the rights of those who lack the knowledge or resources to protect their constitutional rights.

The history of Black female attorneys in the United States really begins with Charlotte E. Ray. On March 2nd, 1872 Ms. Ray became the first Black woman to serve as a licensed attorney in the United States. Charlotte E. Ray was born in my home state of New York in 1850 at a time when slavery still existed and even freed Black women were taught that the measure of their success was their ability to care for the men in their lives. Not willing to accept this narrow definition of purpose, Ms. Ray hid her gender in order to gain acceptance to Howard Law School. She worked twice as hard as her male colleagues to graduate Phi Beta Kappa and was admitted to the District of Columbia Bar that same year. This made Ms. Ray only the third licensed female attorney in the United States. Ms. Ray was also a dedicated social advocate and served as a delegate to the 1876 Conference of the National Woman’s Suffrage Association.

While Charlotte E. Ray laid the foundation for Black women to serve as attorneys in the United States, it took nearly fifty years until a Black woman gained admission to the highest bar in the nation. This occurred on January 29, 1926 with the admission of Violette Neatley Anderson to the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States. Ms. Anderson had served as a court reporter for fifteen years before attending the Chicago Law School. Like Charlotte E. Ray, Violette Neatley Anderson was deeply involved in her community and recognized the need for women of color to help each other overcome the unique barriers that stood in their way.

Yet, the tide of progress remained slow for Black women in the law. It took until January 25, 1966 until Constance Baker Motley was nominated to serve as a federal judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. By this point, Ms. Motley was already a towering figure in the law. Born in New York to parents from the Caribbean, Ms. Motley joined the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Education Fund soon after graduating from Columbia Law School. At LDF, Ms. Motley helped draft the original complaint in Brown v. Board of Education and became the first Black woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court, ultimately winning nine of the ten cases that she argued before that body.

More than fifty years after Constance Baker Motley became the first Black woman to serve as a federal judge, Black women are still grossly underrepresented at nearly all levels of the legal profession. Despite comprising more than 6.6 percent of the US population, Black women accounted for less than 5 percent of full time law school graduates for the 2014 and 2015 academic years. A January 2017 NALP report similarly found that Black women only accounted for 2.32 percent of associates at major law firms and a paltry 0.64 percent of partners.

Of the 578 active district court judges in the United States, 6.4 percent (37) are Black women. While this is roughly proportionate to our share of the U.S. population, 65 percent (24) of these district court judges were nominated within the past few years by President Obama. Unsurprisingly, Black female representation drops precipitously on the circuit courts. Of the 160 active circuit court judges, only 4.4 percent(7) are Black women. Two of those judges, representing 29 percent of the total figure, were appointed by President Obama. We need not even proceed to the highest court in the land, since it is well known that no Black woman has ever served on the Supreme Court

September 15, 2017 in Courts, Legal History, Race, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Rise of Women's Voices on the Supreme Court

 

Taunya Lovell Banks, President Obama and the Supremes: Obama's Legacy -- The Rise of Women's Voices on the Court,  (forthcoming), Drake Law Rev. (forthcoming)

For approximately two hundred years, all of the United States Supreme Court justices were male. Now there are three women on the Court, two appointed during the administration of President Barack Obama. With the appointment of Justices Sotomayor and Kagan to the Court, women’s voices literally are more prominent, especially during oral argument. This article speculates on whether the presence of these three women on the Court will influence the substance of decisions. It asks whether we are witnessing the emergence of a definable “women’s” voice, in the collective sense, or whether there is simply a greater representation of women on the Court; women justices, who like their male counterparts, sometimes agree and sometimes do not. In addition, this article asks whether the reaction of some commentators, and male justices, to the increased participation of women justices during oral argument suggests implicit gender bias, another possible by-product of President Obama’s legacy.

September 13, 2017 in Courts, SCOTUS, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

New Movie on Ruth Bader Ginsburg, "On the Basis of Sex"

Armie Hammer Joins Felicity Jones in Ruth Bader Ginsburg Biopic  

Armie Hammer will start opposite Felicity Jones in On the Basis of Sex, the biopic of renowned Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Participant Media is behind the drama, which will be directed by Mimi Leder from a script by Daniel Stiepleman, who is also Ginsburg’s nephew.Sex focuses on Ginsburg, played by Jones, as she teams up with her husband, Marty Ginsburg (Hammer) to bring the first landmark gender discrimination case before the Supreme Court.

The movie is eyeing a fall shoot in Montreal.

The feature is slated for release in 2018, in line with Ginsburg's 25th anniversary as a Supreme Court Justice. Focus Features is distributing domestically.

 

Felicity Jones Replacing Natalie Portman in Ruth Bader Ginsburg Biopic 

Felicity Jones is set to star as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a biopic about the Supreme Court justice's life.

On the Basis of Sex will be directed by Mimi Leder (The LeftoversShameless) and follows Ginsburg as she fights for equal rights throughout her entire law career, which began at Harvard University and Columbia Law School and led to Washington.

At one time, Natalie Portman was considered to play Ginsburg in the feature, which was written by Daniel Stiepleman and was placed on the 2014 Black List. 

 

September 12, 2017 in Media, Pop Culture, SCOTUS, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

New Books Podcast: Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray

New Books Network, Rosalind Rosenberg, Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray (Oxford 2017)

Rosalind Rosenberg‘s book Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray (Oxford University Press, 2017) is a multi-layered and rich biography of Pauli Murray, an activist, lawyer and Episcopal priest whose life intersected with the most significant civil and human rights issues of the twentieth century. As a mixed raced woman who felt that her identity was at odds with her body before transsexual had become part of the popular consciousness, Murray’s life provides insight into a lived intersectionality of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Beginning with her southern upbringing, we follow Murray through multiple educational, vocational and identity challenges she suffered. In a journey through a dislocated life, she contributed to multiple movements and institutions working with many key social leaders such as Thurgood Marshall, Eleanor Roosevelt and Betty Friedan. Appearing as a one-person social movement with a deep religious faith she pursued justice not only for herself but also for others. Rosenberg has provided sympathetic insight into the personal cost that Murray incurred on the road to a more equitable society. Rosalind Rosenberg is Professor of History Emerita at Barnard College.

August 30, 2017 in Books, Race, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Judge Weinstein Issues Court Rule for a More Visible Role for Women Lawyers

NYT, A Judge Wants a Bigger Role for Female Lawyers So He Made a Rule

It is common for judges to publish guidance for lawyers who appear in their courtrooms on how to conduct themselves with regard to minor matters like how and when to file motions. But on Wednesday, Jack B. Weinstein, a senior federal judge in Brooklyn, used this typically mundane process to address an issue of growing concern to many in the legal profession: the lack of female lawyers in leading roles at trials and other court proceedings.

 

Following the lead of a handful of other federal judges, Judge Weinstein issued a court rule urging a more visible and substantive role for young female lawyers working on cases he is hearing.

 

The issuance of the rule was just one jurist’s effort to chip away at the traditional old-boy network that has dominated the legal profession for decades. While some women have, of course, ascended to the top of the legal field, serving on the United States Supreme Court, many still face challenges getting heard in court.

 

Judge Weinstein has informally encouraged young women and minorities to participate in court more actively over the years, but in an interview on Wednesday he said he decided to codify the guidance after a recent New York State Bar Association report found that female lawyers appear in court less frequently and that when they do, they are less likely to have a prominent role.

 

At least one other federal judge in Brooklyn, Ann M. Donnelly, has an analogous rule in place, but that sort of guidance is rare. Of the hundreds of other federal judges around the country, only about 20 have established similar provisions, according to the bar association.

 
“I’ve been doing this on my own for some time, but not in a systematic way,” Judge Weinstein, who is 96, said. “It’s particularly important because we have so few trials these days so some of the youngsters don’t get the same training they used to. It’s important for everyone, and for the litigation process, that the upcoming generation understands the fundamentals and just gets up on their feet.”

August 24, 2017 in Courts, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 4, 2017

Conference: Women in Law and Leadership

Women in Law and Leadership Symposium
Friday, November 3, 2017
Marcum Conference Center at Miami University
Oxford, Ohio

You are invited to the Women in Law and Leadership (W.I.L.L.) Symposium from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, November 3, 2017.

Miami University and its Pre-Law Program are proud to present a daylong conference focused on issues related to women in law and leadership. The conference will bring together lawyers and current Miami students. Miami Pre-Law students will moderate panel discussions featuring successful Miami alumni in the legal profession. Panel topics include gender issues in the workplace, work/life challenges, keys to success, and career trajectories and possibilities. Each session has significant intellectual and practical content designed to improve each participant’s professional competence and understanding of leadership. Application for Ohio CLE credit is pending.

More details to follow online.

For more information, please contact prelaw@MiamiOH.edu

August 4, 2017 in Conferences, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

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

 Photo

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)