Thursday, September 11, 2014
As one of the few African-Americans in her law school class, Paulette Brown noticed career counselors steering her and other black students toward legal service or public defender jobs assisting the poor, instead of more prestigious jobs in big law firms. But she refused to go down that path, eventually serving as in-house counsel for several Fortune 500 companies.
Since those law school days, Brown, a partner in the Boston law firm Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP, has fought against subtle racism, discrimination, and small slights known as “micro-inequities.” For much of her career, she has pressed firms to hire and promote more women and minorities; mentored hundreds of lawyers, mostly women of color; and trained many others on diversity in the workplace.Now Brown, 63, has a platform to expand her mission even further. Last month, she became the first black woman elected to lead the 400,000-member American Bar Association, which, until 1943, did not allow African-Americans to join.
In a profession where only 7 percent of partners are people of color and the number of female associates has fallen for the past five years, Brown is focused, among other things, on raising awareness about implicit bias in law offices, the legal system, and American society.
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Men punished for sexual misconduct in the wave of cases sweeping college campuses are fighting back against what they call unfair student disciplinary systems and publicity that threatens to shatter their reputations.
The current and former college students describe themselves as victims of false accusations amid a national campaign — led by the White House — to stamp out sexual violence on campuses. While the federal push to increase awareness of sexual assault is aimed at keeping students safe and holding the nation’s colleges and universities accountable, some of the accused say the pressure on their schools has led to an unfair tipping of the scales against them.
They fiercely dispute the validity of internal investigations that rely on a lower standard of proof for determining misconduct than what is required for a conviction of a sex crime. They also contest accounts circulating on campuses and the Internet that label them as sexual assailants or rapists.
Joshua Strange, 23, of Spartanburg, S.C., said he was stunned that Auburn University expelled him in 2012 for sexual misconduct even though an Alabama grand jury found insufficient evidence to prosecute him for a sex crime. The internal disciplinary proceeding began, he said, after an ex-girlfriend falsely accused him of sex assault.
Thursday, August 21, 2014
Jason Nance (Florida) and Paul Madsen (Florida), An Empirical Analysis of Diversity in the Legal Profession, Connecticut L. Rev. (forthcoming).
In contrast to prior studies, we find that, although woefully underrepresented as a whole in the legal profession, the representation of young African Americans and Hispanic Americans in the legal profession is comparable to the representation of these groups in other prestigious professions. This finding suggests that the underrepresentation of African Americans and Hispanic Americans in the legal profession may be caused primarily by social forces external to the legal profession, and that, in addition to continuing its current diversity efforts, the legal profession should put a concentrated emphasis on initiatives that assist these underrepresented groups to become eligible to pursue all types of prestigious employment opportunities that have significant barriers to entry. Further, we find that Asian Americans, in contrast to other minorities, are very poorly represented in the legal profession as compared to other prestigious professions. Finally, there is some evidence suggesting that women are relatively well represented in the legal profession when compared to other prestigious professions until recently, when they appear to have become slightly underrepresented. This recent drop may be caused by the failure of the legal profession to provide just and inclusive workplaces, leading to greater dissatisfaction and higher attrition rates among female associates.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Highlights of the July 2014 Issue of The Federal Lawyer magazine on "Women in Law" include
Ruth Ann French-Hodson, The Continuing Gender Gap in Legal Education (WL Link), reporting the results of a law-school study conducted by Yale Law Women.
Gender disparity in law school continues both inside and out of the classroom. These effects spill over as women enter the legal workforce and are exacerbated by similar institutional problems across the profession. Additionally, the legal profession has played a role in perpetuating some of the education structures that alienate and disadvantage women through prioritizing certain markers of taw school success. Change will not automatically happen over time; it requires commitment and action from students, faculty, administrators, and the broader legal profession.
Melanie Wilson (Assoc. Dean, Kansas), Sentencing Inequality Versus Sentencing Injustice (WL Link):
This essay considers the empirical evidence showing that women receive more lenient treatment from the American criminal justice system than men. It recognizes that this may be attributed to stereotypes about women as the weaker sex or to gender bias from prosecutors and judges, but ultimately rejects both scenarios. The essay argues that disparities in the way women are prosecuted and sentenced are more likely linked to legitimate differences in women's culpability compared to their male counterparts and that this mirrors current societal influences, including unequal opportunities for women in training, employment, pay, and similar factors.
Zeenat Shaukat Ali, The Dynamic Nature of Islam's Legal System with References to Muslim Women.
Some have criticized Muslim law as being oppressive of women. This article challenges that notion by encouraging the reconsideration of some of the interpretations of Muslim law. Specifically, the article examines some of the law's foundational tenets and philosophies, arguing that they have either been misapplied or should be reconsidered in light of their true meaning. Ultimately, the article concludes that, in changing the paradigm of gender-related issues, the understanding of the dynamic nature of shari'ah, with several legal mechanisms at its command, could play a major role in shaping and effecting reform and restoring the rights of women bestowed on them by the Quran.
Sunday, August 17, 2014
Thursday, August 7, 2014
In preparation for teaching a fall intersession class of ADR, I read the new book, Doug Linder & Nancy Levit's (UMKC) The Good Lawyer. Their defining characteristics of a good lawyer according to Linder and Levit are:
- Empathy (care about your client's case; put yourself in the client's shoes; active listening)
- Willpower (for the long-haul of litigation; stay healthy; reduce anxiety)
- Value the legal community (civility)
- Both Intuitive and Deliberative Thinking
- Realistic about the Future (avoid overconfidence; use decision trees)
- Serve the True Interests of the client (you are a counselor, not a hired gun)
- Integrity (pro bono, honesty, big picture justice)
- Persuasive (empathy, honesty, prepared)
- Maintain Quality in Changing Environment (no dishonest billing; work/life balance)
It was noted that women lawyers exhibit more empathy and better avoid the overconfidence problem.
Here's a review from WSJ.
From Justice Ginsburg's interview:
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, fresh off a bruising loss in the Hobby Lobby birth control case last month, told Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric in an exclusive interview that she believes the male Supreme Court justices who voted against her have a "blind spot" when it comes to women.
"Do you believe that the five male justices truly understood the ramifications of their decision?" Couric asked Ginsburg of the 5-4 Hobby Lobby ruling, which cleared the way for employers to deny insurance coverage of contraceptives to female workers on religious grounds.
"I would have to say no," the 81-year-old justice replied. Asked if the five justices revealed a "blind spot" in their decision, Ginsburg said yes.
The feisty leader of the court's minority liberal bloc compared the decision of her five male peers to an old Supreme Court ruling that found discriminating against pregnant women was legal.
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
For a summary of Prof. Hanna's contributions as a professor, see Respected Vermont Law School Professor Dies. "She made her name known by creating an intellectual environment and by making everyone feel smart."
For her important work as a legal advocate for women's equal pay, see Key Lawyer Dies Before Equal Pay Case is Heard. "Hanna brought the case to the attention of the Vermont Commission on Women and wrote the organization's amicus brief in the case, which she would have presented Wednesday."
For insights from her husband, see Cheryl Hanna's Husband on Her Battle With Depression and The Mystery of a Popular Professor's Death Solved
And the official statement of the cause of death.
Thursday, July 31, 2014
Rebecca Lee (Thomas Jefferson), has posted Book Review, Sonia Sotomayor: Role Model of Empathy and Purposeful Ambition, Minnesota Law Rev. Headnotes (2013).
In writing her memoir, My Beloved World, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor expressly acknowledges that she is a public role model and embraces this responsibility by making herself accessible to a broad audience. As a public figure, she sees an opportunity to connect with others through an account of her life journey, with details of initial challenges and lessons learned along the way, to show that one’s beginnings need not constrain one’s aspirations. Although her memoir ends at the point she begins her judicial career, twenty years ago, her experiences and reflections provide a sense of how she may approach her work on the Supreme Court, including the importance she attaches to perspective-taking — or empathy — in relating to others and viewing the larger world. Her empathic skill, as well as her understanding of public purpose as a Justice and role model, all serve to strengthen the judicial function and present a hopeful picture of further important contributions to come as she continues her work on the bench.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Updated June 25: New Additions to the List
I thought I would try and track the new law deans that are women. Please help me add to this list by sending me an email (email@example.com) or posting a comment below. For background, see Laura Padilla (Cal Western), A Gendered Update on Women Law Deans: Who, Where, Why and Why Not? (2007)
Jocelyn Benson, (Interim Dean, Wayne State), Dean, Wayne State
Jennifer Collins (Vice-Provost, Wake Forest), Dean, SMU
Phyllis Crocker (former Interim & Assoc. Dean, Cleveland State), Dean, Detroit Mercy
Danielle Holley-Walker (Assoc. Dean, South Carolina), Dean, Howard
Jean Holloway (corporate attorney), Dean, Hamline
Jennifer Johnson (professor, Lewis & Clark), Dean, Lewis & Clark
Gillian Lester (acting Dean, Berkeley), Dean, Columbia
Andrea Lyon (criminal attorney), Dean, Valparaiso
Wendy Scott, (former Associate Dean, NC Central), Dean, Mississippi College
Nancy Staudt (Vice Dean, USC), Dean, Wash U
Judith Areen (former Dean, Georgetown), Executive Director, AALS
Thursday, June 19, 2014
Naomi Cahn's book review for Concurring Opinions on The Good Lawyer by Doug Linder and Nancy Levit. The "good lawyer" possesses certain qualities:
Those attributes are addressed in nine of the book’s ten chapters, and they range from empathy to moral courage, cognitive skills, willpower, civility, honesty, and open-mindedness. As they explore the good lawyers’ attributes, the authors draw on behavioral economics, Tonglen Buddhism, cognitive psychology, and the law to support and explain their point
Monday, June 16, 2014
I've blogged about Gianmarco Monsellato's admirable initiative to ensure that women lawyers in his large French law firm get equal pay and equal assignments as do their male counterparts.
Monsellato believes that the popular American approach to form "diversity committees" and to "lean in" are absurd because the partners themselves have all the power and that genuine fairness must be initiated by them.
A female CEO blogger for the Harvard Business Review Blog notes that those partners like Monsellato are themselves "outsiders" to their firms and that it might very well take such an outsider to implement serious changes:
Interestingly, in my experience, most of the leaders who’ve pushed hardest for gender balance are themselves not fully members of their companies’ dominant majority. They are often a different nationality than most of their colleagues, or the first non-home- country CEO. So, for example, the Peruvian-born Carlos Ghosn at Nissan in Japan, the Dutch Marijn Dekkers at BAYER (disclosure: they are a client) in Germany, or the Italian Monsellato at TAJ in France.
There is nothing better than being a bit of an outsider to understand the particular stickiness of the in-group’s hold on power. These are some of the more enlightened leaders on gender balance. They build true meritocracies, they get the best of 100% of the global talent pool – and they will win a huge competitive edge in this century of globalization.
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
From WashPost, Women and Work: Opt out or pushed out? The data.
In recent weeks, four law firms announced the first-ever, one-year “On Ramp” fellowships designed to help people — primarily women — who left the workforce to start families, care for aging parents or pursue other opportunities get back into the legal profession.
Baker Botts, Cooley, Hogan Lovells and Sidley Austin have chosen nine women out of a pool of 170. The women had been out of the workforce for between three and 20 years. Other “returnship” programs for women who’ve been sidelined have been offered at Goldman Sachs, Sara Lee, Credit Suisse and others. The BBC just ran a piece on the Credit Suisse program.
Some call women leaving the workforce in order to balance work and family life “opting out.” Social scientists who study workplace culture say it’s more like they were “pushed out” because workplaces require long, demanding hours of face time and see flexible or part-time work as almost a sign of weakness. And, unlike in other advanced economies, there are no policies or laws that give real support to working families.
Thursday, June 5, 2014
Women lawyers earn less because they are billed out at significantly lower rates. Female Lawyers Can Work Longer and Harder but Will Still Be Paid Less. Why? Firms don't equally value women's work? Firms don't think clients equally value women's work? Or so clients can get the same work product for less? (think teachers in the 19th century)
Another report traces a similar phenomenon back to high school: A Woman With Perfect Grades is Worth the Same as a Man with a 2.0 Average
Thursday, May 29, 2014
I want to come back to John's post from yesterday. This really resonates with me. This was my experience during my tenure in a Washington, D.C. law firm. Gender equity and diversity came not from women’s support groups, what we now call lean in circles, but from men in power delegating and dispensing power to women.
Early in my second year at the law firm, 1992, 22 years ago, we had a ladies lunch. Officially a business lunch of women associates at the firm, maybe 30 plus women in the room. We heard testimonies of women who exemplified how they were making it work. One woman, a senior associate, told how her male supervising partner valued her work, allowed her to go to 80% time so she could work 9-5, and how her husband had primary caregiving responsibility for their two young children. Another junior associate told how it was easier for her to have her two children early in her career, as the ongoing years increased responsibility and client connection that unlike a research memo, could not be easily transferred. Another senior associate advised to make yourself indispensable to your supervising partner, always doing excellent work, making yourself accessible at home (this was before cell phones found you anywhere).
But none of this is what really made a material difference to the women attorneys. What mattered was the men in power investing in their women associates. (There were only a handful of female partners among the hundreds at the firm at the time). Providing good work, mediating any client issues, and supporting those women as they came up through the ranks in terms of promotion and salary. One male partner I worked for from the start threw me into depositions, briefing, oral arguments, and wrote solid, supportive, professional advancement reviews. Another provided helpful professional advice as to next steps and development, providing opportunities for professional growth and increasingly sophisticated lawyering. Conversely, another relegated me as a senior associate to the backroom and bottom-tier status of fact gather and memo writer on an antitrust case. In another example, my friend and colleague became partner while on permanent part-time status, again, proactively sponsored by a senior male partner from the firm's management group.
It doesn’t take one mastermind to change the world. It takes each person in power simply training, promoting, and investing equally in women. Maybe that has to be deliberate and planned until it becomes reflexive.
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Gianmarco Monsellato is a partner at the No. 5 law firm in France. His firm also has 50/50 gender balance at every level--including equity partnership.
How did he do it? Dramatically differently than most law firms. Most of his competitors have spent years organizing women’s initiatives, networks, or mentoring programs that have done little to increase the percentage of women reaching the top. The National Association of Women Lawyers’ recent report is pretty clear: These “fix the women” approaches have not delivered.
Monsellato puts the burden squarely on the partner himself to be extremely proactive:
Instead, Monsellato tackled the problem personally. He was involved in every promotion discussion. “For a long time,” he says, “I was the only one allocating cases.” He insisted on gender parity from the beginning. He personally ensured that the best assignments were evenly awarded between men and women. He tracked promotions and compensation to ensure parity. If there was a gap, he asked why. He put his best female lawyers on some of his toughest cases. When clients objected, he personally called them up and asked them to give the lawyer three months to prove herself. In every case, the client was quick to agree and managed to overcome the initial gender bias.
The idea is intriguing. It is also an idea that probably requires the right combination of corporate culture, amenable clients, and, most importantly, a highly deft corporate leader who also possesses an unusal charisma and great foresight about business productivity. Not easy to duplicate this model.
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Saurabh Vishnubhakat (Postdoc, Duke & NIH), has posted Gender Diversity in the Patent Bar, 14 John Marshall L. Rev. __ (2014). From the abstract:
This article describes the state of gender diversity across technology and geography within the U.S. patent bar. The findings rely on a new gender-matched dataset, the first public dataset of its kind, not only of all attorneys and agents registered to practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office, but also of attorneys and agents on patents granted by the USPTO. To enable follow-on research, the article describes all data and methodology and offers suggestions for refinement. This study is timely in view of renewed interest about the participation of women in the U.S. innovation ecosystem, notably the provision of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act directing the USPTO to study diversity, including gender diversity, among patent applicants, and of related research by the National Women’s Business Council on usage of the U.S. patent and trademark systems by U.S.-based female entrepreneurs. Analysis of gender data on the patent bar complements these studies and begins to provide a more complete picture of diversity in the U.S. patent system.
Thursday, May 15, 2014
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Theresa Beiner (Arkansas-Little Rock) has published Theorizing Billable Hours, 75 Mont. L. Rev. 67 (2014).
This article looks at the ethical and diversity implications of high billable hour requirements. While corporate counsel have increasingly demanded a diverse legal workforce and emphasized the need to lower the costs of outside counsel, law firms have not responded to these concerns in a manner that is producing results. Instead, women continue to drop out of law firm practice at higher rates than their male counterparts and the costs of legal services remain high. High billable hour requirements exacerbate both these problems and have implications as well for ethical lawyering. Using data from a variety of disciplines, the article shows that not only do high billable hour requirements make large law firms difficult places for women to succeed, but they also foster work environments that are inefficient and therefore cost clients more. This has implications on a lawyer’s ethical duty not to discriminate based on sex and not to charge an unreasonable fee, and also increases the potential of lawyers making mistakes. Studies of lawyers suggest that high billable hour requirements exacerbate the difficulties women have in practice, especially for those women who have family responsibilities. This leads to high dropout rates from law firm practice that hurt both law firms and their clients. Lowering billable hours will increase the possibility that women will succeed in these workplaces while making lawyers more efficient. Using studies of sleep deprivation and sleep restriction, this article explores what clients are getting for their money from sleep-deprived high billable hour lawyers. It is clear that both sleep deprivation and chronic sleep restriction impair the average person’s ability to function on many levels—including neurocognitive performance that has important implications for lawyering. In addition, studies of workplace productivity have shown that limiting working hours can actually increase productivity. Thus, limiting hours logically should produce more efficient and ethical lawyering while making law firms more feasible work environments for women.
Saturday, May 10, 2014
Nichola Gutgold, The Rhetoric of Supreme Court Women (2012). From the jacket:
The Supreme Court is one of the most traditional institutions in America that has been an exclusively male domain for almost two hundred years. From 1981 to 2010, four women were appointed to the Supreme Court for the first time in U.S. history. The Rhetoric of Supreme Court Women: From Obstacles to Options, by Nichola D. Gutgold, analyzes the rhetoric of the first four women elected to the Supreme Court: Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Gutgold’s thorough exploration of these pioneering women’s rhetorical strategies includes confirmation hearings, primary scripts of their written opinions, invited public lectures, speeches, and personal interviews with Justices O’Connor, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor. These illuminating documents and interviews form rhetorical biographies of the first four women of the Supreme Court, shedding new light on the rise of political women in the American judiciary and the efficacy of their rhetoric in a historically male-dominated political system. Gutgold’s The Rhetoric of Supreme Court Women provides valuable insight into political communication and the changing gender zeitgeist in American politics.