Friday, February 26, 2016
Articles on Women in the Legal Profession: Few Women in the Supreme Court and Few Minority Women in Firms
[Stephanie] Toti is preparing to argue her first Supreme Court case -- the most significant abortion trial of this century. On March 2, she'll take the lead in oral arguments on Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, a case that could determine whether women in Texas and across the country will have access to abortion services in their communities.
The case challenges the constitutionality of two Texas abortion restrictions passed in 2013 that were designed to shut down most of the clinics in the state. The decision will not only determine the fate of abortion access in Texas; it will also send a signal to other states about the appropriateness of similar laws.
Most litigators who argue big cases before the Supreme Court are white men who have done it before. An elite group of 66 lawyers -- only eight of whom are women -- argued nearly half of the cases before the high court from 2004 to 2012, according to a 2014 Reuters analysis of 17,000 attorneys. Some of those attorneys have argued dozens of cases before the court, and nearly half of them are graduates of Harvard or Yale law schools who clerked for Supreme Court justices after graduation. That narrow representation turns the court into what the Reuters investigators described as an “echo chamber."
But in the most consequential abortion rights cases, the reproductive rights movement has repeatedly turned to relatively inexperienced women.
Sarah Weddington was 27 when she argued and won Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion throughout the United States. Weddington had no previous experience with the high court. “Because I hadn’t been able to get a job with a law firm, I didn’t have any real experience,” Weddington told Ms. Magazine last year. “I had done one adoption for my uncle, some divorces for people with no real assets to divide up, a couple of wills for people with very little money. I had not done Big Law.”
In 1992, reproductive rights advocates chose Kathryn Kolbert to represent them in the case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which challenged a Pennsylvania law requiring a 24-hour waiting period and spousal notification before a woman could obtain an abortion. Kolbert, then a 40-year-old attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, had only argued one case before the Supreme Court, but she claimed a narrow victory over Pennsylvania’s Republican attorney general. The court ruled that states can regulate abortion, but cannot place an "undue burden" on the right to obtain one.
Eighty-five percent of minority female attorneys in the U.S. will quit large firms within seven years of starting their practice. According to the research and personal stories these women share, it’s not because they want to leave, or because they “can’t cut it.” It’s because they feel they have no choice.
“When you find ways to exclude and make people feel invisible in their environment, it’s hostile,” Jones says. “Women face these silent hostilities in ways that men will never have to. It’s very silent, very subtle and you, as a woman of color—people will say you’re too sensitive. So you learn not to say anything because you know that could be a complete career killer. You make it as well as you can until you decide to leave.”
Disturbing sentiments like these led the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession to undertake the Women of Color Research Initiative in 2003. Findings concluded that, in both law firms and corporate legal departments, women of color receive less compensation than men and white women; are denied equal access to significant assignments, mentoring and sponsorship opportunities; receive fewer promotions; and have the highest rate of attrition.
“If you look at the women-of-color research, the numbers are abysmal,” says the New York Public Library’s general counsel, Michele Mayes, who chairs the ABA commission. “When you lose any ground, you lose a lot because you never had that much in the first place.”
Studies and surveys by groups such as the ABA and the National Association of Women Lawyers show that law firms have made limited progress in promoting female lawyers over the course of decades, and women of color are at the bottom.
“We’re still a profession less diverse than doctors or engineers and that is 88 percent white,” notes Danielle Holley-Walker, dean of Howard University School of Law. “We’ve been at this for 40-plus years—firms have been recruiting lawyers of color since the late ’60s.
Monday, February 22, 2016
The byline was Eleanor Roosevelt’s, though the headline, apparently, was not. “One of my finest young friends is a charming woman lawyer — Pauli Murray, who has been quite a firebrand at times but of whom I am very fond,” Roosevelt wrote. “She is a lovely person who has struggled and come through very well.” Indeed, nothing was ever easy for Murray, a black woman born in 1910, a woman attracted to women and also a poet, memoirist, lawyer, activist and Episcopal priest. But her tender friendship with Roosevelt, sustained over nearly a quarter-century and more than 300 cards and letters, helped. It is the rich earth Patricia Bell-Scott tills for “The Firebrand and the First Lady,” a tremendous book that has been 20 years in the making.
You could say Pauli Murray was born too soon, and saying so captures the essential injustice of her life, but it would also rob her of credit for making her own time the best she could. “I’m really a submerged writer,” Murray once told her friends, “but the exigencies of the period have driven me into social action.” The granddaughter of a woman born into slavery and a mixed-race Union soldier, Murray was arrested for refusing to sit in the colored section of a bus 15 years before the Montgomery bus boycott and for participating in restaurant sit-ins in the early 1940s, long before the 1960 sit-ins at Woolworth’s lunch counter. She led a national campaign on behalf of a black sharecropper on death row. ***
And Bell-Scott, who was an editor of the important anthology “All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, but Some of Us Are Brave,” persuasively suggests that Roosevelt’s influence contributed to what would be Murray’s most lasting mark, on women’s rights. “She had spent the first half of her life fighting for equal rights as an African-American, only to discover she would have to spend the second half fighting for equal rights as a woman,” Bell-Scott writes. A brilliant legal strategist, Murray formulated a plan for rendering sex discrimination unconstitutional using the 14th Amendment, co-founded the National Organization for Women and tried her best to build bridges between black and white feminists. In Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s first brief to the Supreme Court, in 1971, she listed Murray as a co-author, though Murray had not worked on it, a nod to the brief’s intellectual ancestry. Ginsburg’s win in that case wrested from the Supreme Court its first ruling against sex discrimination as unconstitutional.
Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Law and Politics Book Review: FINDING JUSTICE: A HISTORY OF WOMEN LAWYERS IN MARYLAND SINCE 1642
This engaging volume was produced as part of the Finding Justice Project, a collaborative effort among a small group of judges, lawyers, and legal academics to recover and illuminate neglected histories of women in law in Maryland. Sponsored by the Maryland Women’s Bar Association Foundation, the project sought to identify and learn about the work and lives of as many women lawyers as possible practicing in Maryland since 1642. For this purpose, a research team collected information from many sources, including records of the names along with signatures of all who received bar admission, court records describing the cases in which women lawyers participated, birth and death certificates and census records of their families, and newspaper reports regarding the professional and personal lives of some women lawyers in the state. One product of these efforts is a list of nearly 25,000 women admitted to the Maryland bar through 2014, a list reproduced in an appendix organized by year of admission that is printed on nearly 100 pages (pp. 173-268).
We learn in the Preface that the Project initially hired an author to write a book based on the data collected. After the author withdrew, The Honorable Lynne A. Battaglia, the editor of this volume and a central advocate for the Project, developed a new plan to produce an edited collection to include several chapters written by a variety of women practitioners with different themes related to women in law, with emphasis on particular women in law, and with a focus on various historical moments. Although the chapters are generally brief in a book that includes only 167 pages of text prior to appendices, together they present a coherent and interesting portrait of the many challenges and opportunities experienced by diverse women interested in legal careers in Maryland over time. The chapters are well organized and conceived, and the details provided regarding legal careers in Maryland are often quite fascinating.
H/t Legal History Blog, Sunday Book Roundup
Thursday, February 4, 2016
Karin Paparelli, Gender Equality and Women at Law in Cuba
Gender equality and more specifically, the role of women in the legal profession in Cuba, presents a paradox of cultural restraint amid progressive policies. In a traditionally patriarchal society, Cuba has actually outpaced the United States and other nations when it comes to gender equality. Cuban women are found in staggering numbers in the legal profession, politics and high-level ministerial positions. ***
Curiously, traditionally “male” professions in Cuba include science, engineering, information technology, and mathematics and exclude medicine, education and law. Nearly 70 percent of health care workers including doctors, 80 percent of the education workforce, and surprisingly, 66 percent of all lawyers and judges in Cuba are women.
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
According to a 2010 study by the Center for Work-Life Policy, nearly 75 percent of women attempting to return to the workforce after voluntarily leaving have difficulty finding a job. What’s a talented, driven, hard-working woman to do? Enter the OnRamp Fellowship program, an “experiential re-entry platform” designed to help women lawyers return to the workforce. The program, which began in 2014, is the brainchild of Caren Ulrich Stacy, who spent 20 years inside law firms recruiting talent. She says during those years, she saw hundreds of resumes from qualified women who were attempting to re-enter the profession after leaving, usually to raise families. Some of those gaps were a few years; some were a decade or more. And the gaps made those women seem risky to firms.
While Caren understood the hesitancy of firms to take on lawyers who had been out of the workforce, she felt they were missing out on women who could become top performers and leaders. So she designed the OnRamp Fellowship to given women a pipeline back into the profession. Fellowship applicants are thoroughly vetted by Caren, whose experience and insight helps her select women who will be a good “fit” for each position. Those women are then given the opportunity to interview with some of the top firms in the country for practice groups with open positions or groups expected to experience future growth. Fellows are hired by participating firms for six-month or one-year terms and are paid through those firms. There is no guarantee of employment at the end of their fellowship year, though the hope is that the fellows will obtain full-time employment, either through their fellowship firm or elsewhere. And that’s been the case for most fellows.
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Emily Bazelon, NYT, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Clark Kent had Superman. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has Notorious R.B.G. For 80 of her 82 years, the Supreme Court justice was known for being brilliant, reserved and a little dry. Then in 2013, the Internet gave her a super-hip-nerd alter ego. On a Tumblr created by a law student, Shana Knizhnik, fans posted photoshopped tributes to Ginsburg. In one frequently shared image, she wore a crown with the caption “Can’t Spell Truth Without Ruth.” She also appeared as a bobblehead doll, a tattoo on a bicep, a decal on a fingernail, and a baby wearing a huge pair of glasses.
Notorious R.B.G. refers to Notorious B.I.G., the young rapper who was killed in 1997. The unlikely comparison gave Ginsburg’s fans the perfect vehicle for turning her precise lawyerly voice into a cultural roar. ***
Knizhnik has teamed up with Irin Carmon, an intrepid MSNBC reporter, to turn the Tumblr, which is still up and running, into a book. Turning the pages, I felt as if I were on a tour of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Museum with two conscientious and loving young curators. They show off Ginsburg, in old photos, at every age. They give us her workout, her favorite of her husband’s recipes (pork loin braised in milk, maybe the most un-kosher dish ever), and the intensely moving letter he wrote to her before he died.
Ginsburg and her family clearly embraced this project, a gain for the reader and for the justice. We get up-close details, like Ginsburg’s reaction to her granddaughter Clara’s nose ring: “She kept calling it ‘that thing on your face.’ ” And Ginsburg gets help reaching readers who aren’t lawyers. Carmon, who wrote the text (Knizhnik chose the images), deftly annotates sections from Ginsburg’s major opinions, adding color, humor and context with a red pen.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
A federal judge has appointed the first plaintiffs steering committee in multidistrict litigation made up of a majority of women members, according to the lawyers in the case.
The appointments, which U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil of Kansas approved on Wednesday, come in lawsuits alleging that Ethicon Inc.’s power morcellators—medical devices used in laparoscopic uterine surgeries—have caused women to develop an aggressive form of cancer.
Vratil approved a proposed committee recommended by Paul Pennock, managing attorney at New York’s Weitz & Luxenberg and Aimee Wagstaff, founding partner of Andrus Wagstaff in Lakewood, Colorado. Pennock, now co-lead counsel with Wagstaff on the official committee, said he was inspired to create a leadership team of mostly women after hearing Vratil, a former member of the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, talk at a conference on “best practices” in MDLs held by Duke Law School’s Center for Judicial Studies in September 2014.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
It's back to the future — and not in a good way for women seeking equity partnership in the nation’s 200 largest law firms.
Women have not made “appreciable progress” since 2006 in either attaining equity partnership or increasing their pay to be on par with their male colleagues once they grasp the brass ring, according to a study by the National Association of Women Lawyers released on Tuesday.
The results: Women represent 18 percent of equity partners, an increase of two percent since 2006, according to NAWL’s findings. Even after they’ve made it into the equity ranks, they make about 80 percent of what their male colleagues bring home. In 2006, women had made 84 percent.
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
The AALS Women in Legal Education Section announced that Professor Marina Angel (Temple University Beasley School of Law) will be awarded the 2016 Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award.
Her bio details her extensive accomplishments and leadership of women in the profession. "A Temple law professor for nearly 40 years, Professor Angel’s scholarship, teaching, advocacy, and service truly embody the spirit and purpose of this distinction."
My favorites of her work are:
Susan Glaspell's Trifles and A Jury of Her Peers: Woman Abuse in a Literary and Legal Context, 45 Buffalo L. Rev. 779 (1997)
Criminal Law and Women: Giving the Abused Woman Who Kills A Jury of Her Peers Who Appreciate Trifles, 33 AM. CRIM. L. REV. 229 (1996).
Teaching Susan Glaspell's A Jury of Her Peers and Trifles, 53 J. of Legal Education 548 (2003)
Saturday, September 26, 2015
- Research has found that people view women as less competent than men and lacking in leadership potential, and partly because of these perceptions, women encounter greater challenges to or skepticism of their ideas and abilities at work.
- Research has found that men are more likely than women to engage in dominant or aggressive behaviors, to initiate negotiations, and to self-select into competitive environments— behaviors likely to facilitate professional advancement.
- Women tend to believe they have less time in which to attain a greater number of goals, and they are likely to experience more conflict in deciding which goals to pursue and which to sacrifice or compromise.
- Compared to male participants, female participants expected the promotion to bring more negative outcomes, which led them to view the potential promotion as less desirable than men did and to be less likely than men to pursue it. However, men and women expected the same level of positive outcomes from the promotion.
- It is also possible that women are overestimating the negative consequences associated with power, that men are underestimating them, or both.
- Women believe, unlike men, that assuming high-level positions would require them to compromise other important life goals. This is an assumption that is worth studying further.
The OnRamp Fellowship, which connects women lawyers who have taken a hiatus for at least two years with jobs at law firms and companies, is expanding.
The network of law firms that participate in its fellowship program expanded by six to include Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Morrison & Foerster, Loeb & Loeb, Stoel Rives, Wiley Rein and Wilson Elser, OnRamp announced on Thursday.
Both Amazon’s legal department and the compliance division at financial services firm Barclays also joined.
“Everyone realizes we are in a war for talent, and we are fighting for the same talent,” said Caren Ulrich Stacy, founder and CEO of the Onramp Fellowship & Diversity Lab. “Some are looking for new and inventive ways to find people.”
OnRamp launched in January 2014 to provide women lawyers re-entering the profession with an opportunity to update their skills and contacts through a paid-for, one-year fellowship with a major law firm.
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
A view from Britain from the Evening Standard (UK):
One of the country’s most senior judges today warned that rushing to achieve equal representation for women at the top of the legal profession could inflict “appalling consequences” on the quality of British justice.
Lord Sumption, a Supreme Court judge, said he believed that the judiciary was a “terrific public asset” which could be “destroyed very easily” if the selection of candidates was skewed in favour of women.
He added that to avoid inflicting damage, campaigners for equality would have to be “patient” and suggested that it would need up to 50 years before the number of women on the Bench matched the total of men.
The American Bar Foundation has released new data about gender balance in the profession, or more accurately, the lack thereof.
Clearly, more women are entering the law as shown in the chart below.
But even though the number of women entering the law has been steadily increasing in recent years, the percentage of women equity partners at the top 200 law firms has been flat for close to a decade, as the chart below shows:
Gabe Friedman/Source: National Association of Women Lawyers, ABA’s National Lawyer Population Survey
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
The barrister at the centre of a sexism furore over a complimentary LinkedIn message from a solicitor 30 years her senior has said she is facing a professional backlash over her decision to speak out.
Writing for the Independent, the human rights lawyer Charlotte Proudman said she did not regret her decision to make public a message from Alexander Carter-Silk that commented on her “stunning” photograph, because it had led to an outpouring of similar experiences from other women.
Proudman said she had named Carter-Silk because she believed the public interest in exposing the “eroticisation of women’s physical appearance” by an influential and senior lawyer was greater than his right to privacy.
We got our hands on a few pages of a Biglaw memo meant to answer internal questions about interviewing prospective lawyers for a position at the firm. The section details how to deal with “Lady Lawyers” and, oh boy, is it a doozy. The memo is from 1956, and... it was a very different time. Ike was president, Elvis Presley made his debut on the Ed Sullivan Show, a gallon of gas cost 22 cents, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act banning discrimination in the workplace was still 8 years away.
As damning (and, wow, is it damning) as this carefully worded memo is, remember, the firm was, at the time, far from alone in its practices or opinions.
Thursday, August 6, 2015
From the AALS Section on Women in Legal Education:
The AALS Section on Women in Legal Education is pleased to open nominations for its 2016 Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2013, the inaugural award honored Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in 2014 the award honored Catharine A. MacKinnon, and the 2015 award honored Herma Hill Kay. All of these remarkable women were recognized for their outstanding impact and contributions to the Section on Women in Legal Education, the legal academy, and the legal profession.
The purpose of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award is to honor an individual who has had a distinguished career of teaching, service, and scholarship for at least 20 years. The recipient should be someone who has impacted women, the legal community, the academy, and the issues that affect women through mentoring, writing, speaking, activism, and by providing opportunities to others.
The Section is now seeking nominations for this most prestigious award. Only individuals who are eligible for Section membership may make a nomination, and only individuals—not institutions, organizations, or law schools—are eligible for the award. As established by the Section’s Bylaws, the AALS Section on Women in Legal Education Executive Committee will select the award recipient, and the award will be presented at the 2016 AALS Annual Meeting.
Please submit your nomination by filling out this electronic form by August 31, 2015. Please note that only nominations submitted via the electronic form by the deadline will be accepted.
Please email Dean Cynthia Fountaine if you have any questions or difficulty with your online submission.
Friday, July 31, 2015
New research by the Law Society of Scotland shows a 42 per cent gender pay gap among its members, the lawyers’ body has revealed.
The figure was reached by comparing average full-time and full-time equivalent (for part time/flexible hours employees) salaries for women and men at all career stages.
Janet Hood, convenor of the Law Society’s equality and diversity committee said the gap “reflects very badly on what is otherwise a modern and forward-thinking profession”.
She added: “There are many and nuanced reasons why the gender pay gap exists, and the legal profession is certainly not alone – figures from November 2014 show that the overall UK gap was 9.4 percent.
“However we have seen little change in the past decade compared to other professions such as accountancy or dentistry and it is a major concern that such a substantial gap persists 45 years after the UK Equal Pay Act and 10 years of Law Society equality research and promoting good practice within the legal profession.”
Ms Hood said the issue could not be ignored “for either ethical or business reasons” and there should be “no limit” set on the talent and ambition of women in the sector.
The referenced report by the Law Society of Scotland is available here.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
National Jurist, Year of the Female Dean
Call it the year of the women dean. Eleven of the nation’s 28 new deans this summer are female, an unprecedented number. It brings the total number of female deans at the nation’s ABA-accredited law schools to 59, or about 30 percent, which is an increase of 21 percent from 2008.
While the number still pales in comparison to the number of female J.D. students, which is 47 percent, the dean numbers are inching closer to the percent of female full-time law faculty, which is 34 percent.
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Female federal litigators serve as first chair far less frequently than men, and implicit bias is likely a cause, according to a study recently released by the American Bar Association.
The study, First Chairs at Trial: More Women Need Seats at the Table (PDF), pulled data from 2013 cases filed in the U.S. District Court for Northern District of Illinois. 558 civil cases, and 50 criminal cases, were randomly selected.
Out of the civil cases, 68 percent of all lawyers who made appearances were men, and 76 percent of the lead counsel were men. For the criminal cases, 67 percent of the lead counsel were men. Out of the criminal cases that went to trial, 79 percent of the lawyers serving as lead counsel were men.
Women lawyers comprise 36 percent of the legal profession, according to the study. it also notes that 17 percent of large law firm equity partners are women, and women comprise 22 percent of Fortune 500 general counsel.
Sponsored by the American Bar Foundation and the Commission on Women in the Profession, the study also examined case types. It found that women appeared as lead counsel in 41 percent of real property cases, but only in 15 percent of the contract cases.
Also, the study found that in civil cases involving the U.S. government, 31 percent of the lead counsel for the government were female.
In criminal cases, 69 percent of the women who appeared as lead counsel represented the government, and 31 percent represented defendants.
Family responsibilities may play a role in opportunities for women lawyers, the study notes, but it also notes potential bias from senior partners and clients, as well as inappropriate comments and treatment from judges and opposing counsel. It mentions a notion that women litigators show too much emotion, but male litigators who show the same level of emotion are often seen as zealous advocates who are passionate about their cases.
“All of these issues apply with even greater force” for women litigators of color, according to the study.
The ABA’s Commission on Women the Profession plans to work with the profession and identify how women can better get litigation training and courtroom experience.
Law schools, the study notes, should specifically teach how women can navigate implicit bias in the courtroom, and let women who want to be litigators know that government jobs probably offer them the most first-chair opportunities.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
We have been tracking the number of new women law deans. Our current count is 11 of 25 new appointments (44%).
The National Law Journal provides more analysis in Female Deans Taking Charge
Since 1989, women who run law schools have dined together during an annual American Bar Association workshop for leaders in legal education. Tradition dictates that each attendee talk about her greatest success and failure during the year. They share support and ideas.
When Katherine Broderick assumed the deanship of the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law in 1998, the 14 female law deans could fit at a relatively small table. Today, 59 women run American Bar Association-accredited law schools, comprising 30 percent of all law deans. That's up from under 21 percent in 2008, according to a survey of law faculty by the Association of American Law Schools (AALS).
Clearly, they need a bigger table.
"Because we are so many, the stories of triumph and disaster are much shorter," said Broderick, now the longest-serving woman dean.
The numbers are set to rise even higher. Eleven — fully 40 percent — of the 28 deans slated to take over this summer are women — a spike that has not gone unnoticed. Incoming deans who attended a two-day ABA conference in Chicago this month buzzed about the number of women in the room.
"It felt to me like there were a striking number of new female deans," said Jennifer Mnookin, who will take the top spot at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law on July 1. "At one point, I was talking with a group of six soon-to-be deans, and five of them were women. I don't think that would have been possible a decade ago."