Thursday, June 2, 2016
The highest court in Massachusetts has revived a lawyer’s gender discrimination lawsuit against Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris & Popeo, which focuses on her employment at the firm as an associate between 2004 and 2008.
Kamee Verdrager, who now has an employment law practice in New Hampshire, sued Mintz Levin in 2009 claiming the firm demoted and then fired her in 2008 based on gender bias.
“The plaintiff has presented evidence from which a reasonable jury could infer that both her demotion and her termination were the result of unlawful discrimination, as well as evidence allowing an inference that both were the result of retaliation,” wrote associate justice Barbara Lenk on behalf of a five-judge appellate panel in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
The claims at the heart of the dispute center on the cause of her demotion and subsequent termination in 2008.
Verdrager claims that she was subject to discriminatory, negative performance evaluations following a six-month 2006 pregnancy leave, and that the firm had retaliated against her after she previously complained of gender discrimination against at least one of the firm’s members, Bret Cohen.
On Tuesday, the Massachusetts appellate court ruled that Verdrager has enough evidence to bring her case to trial.
The ruling said: “There is evidence… that the plaintiff was treated differently from similarly situated male colleagues, that her evaluators may have judged her through the lens of a stereotype, and that Cohen, her boss, tried to undermine her. From this evidence, a jury could, but need not, infer that a “pattern of retaliatory conduct [began] soon after” her 2004 complaint
And, in a section of the decision that could influence other employment cases, the justices ruled that employers are in some circumstances barred from retaliating against workers who search for, copy, and share with their attorneys confidential company documents that may help them prove discrimination claims.
Friday, May 13, 2016
Elaine Craig, A Brave and Honest Examination of the Complexity of a Feminist Defence Ethos, JOTWELL
Reviewing: Abbe Smith, Representing Rapists: The Cruelty of Cross Examination and Other Challenges for a Feminist Criminal Defense Lawyer, 53 Am. Crim. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2016).
Abbe Smith, a well known legal ethicist and criminal lawyer, has committed much of her professional attention to theorizing and defending the need for unmitigated zeal in the representation of the criminally accused – including, of course, those accused of sexual offences. With a view to better protecting sexual assault complainants, I have dedicated a lot of scholarly attention in the last few years to developing feminist arguments in support of the ethical limits on defence lawyers who represent clients accused of sexual offences. Where our perspectives likely differ most is with respect to the cross-examination of sexual assault complainants.
Thursday, May 12, 2016
[After working as a lawyer] she finally decided to enter academia. She felt, she said, that moment “was the only shot I had to be able to write, to be able to think about issues, to be able to use all of the things that I had been thinking about up to this moment—to be thinking about society, to be writing about society in a way that I thought would be useful.”
“Law is important. Obviously I believe that. But the kinds of human relations, the kinds of things we’re talking about in both of these books, transcend it,” Gordon-Reed said. “Sometimes you have to look beyond it, because the law is not put in place for everybody, is not made to work for everybody. It’s our hope that we can try to make it work for everybody, but the historian understands that there are moments when that just was not the case, and slavery was one of them."
Monday, May 9, 2016
Jessica Kennedy, Mary-Hunter McDonnell, Nicole Stephens, Does Gender Raise the Ethical Bar? Exploring the Punishment of Ethical Violations at Work,
Abstract:We investigate whether women are targets of more severe punishment than men following ethical violations at work. Using an experimental design, Study 1 finds evidence that ethical behavior is more strongly prescribed for women than for men, even when they occupy an identical professional role. Study 2 manipulates the gender of a manager in a hypothetical scenario and finds that women are punished more severely than men for ethical violations at work. It also tests the scope of our theory by asking whether women are punished more for errors in general, or only for intentional ethical violations. Using field data, Study 3 examines how severely attorneys are punished for violating the American Bar Association’s ethical rules. Female attorneys are punished more severely than male attorneys, after accounting for a variety of factors. Greater representation of women among decision-makers diminishes the gender disparity in punishment. Our research documents a new prescriptive stereotype faced by women and helps to explain the persistence of gender disparities in organizations. It highlights punishment severity as a novel mechanism by which institutions may derail women’s careers more than men’s.
Takeaway: "People expect women to be more ethical than men."
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Nicole Negowetti, Implicit Bias and the Legal Profession's "Diversity" Crisis: A Call for Self-Reflection, Nevada L.J. 431 (2015)
Fifty years after federal law prohibited discrimination based on gender and race and ten years after Roderick Palmore issued A Call to Action: Diversity in the Legal Profession, racial and gender disparities persist in the legal profession. A 2013 study commissioned by Microsoft revealed that the diversity gap in the U.S. legal profession has worsened over the past nine years, lagging behind other professions. While the under representation of minorities is a pervasive problem in the workplace, the legal profession may be the palest profession. In May 2014, The American Lawyer magazine announced that the legal profession is suffering a “Diversity Crisis.” According to Professor Deborah Rhode,
One irony of this nation’s continuing struggle for diversity and gender equity in employment is that the profession leading the struggle has failed to set an example in its own workplaces. In principle, the bar is deeply committed to equal opportunity and social justice. In practice, it lags behind other occupations in leveling the playing field.
Many efforts have been undertaken in response to the Call to Action, such as recruitment at law schools of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and diversity scholarship programs, and many scholars have also proposed institutional reforms to address the law firm practices that disadvantage women and minorities. However, diversity has been elusive. As Brad Smith, General Counsel and Executive Vice President of Microsoft, stated in response to data from the diversity gap findings: “What is troubling is the lack of clarity about why this is happening. And until we know why, we are just guessing at the best ways to help build a more diverse legal profession.” One reason the diversity efforts have been unsuccessful may be due to a lack of focus on a key reason for the persistent disparities — the “reforms are unlikely to stick until people understand how race actually operates in the brain.”
The goal of this article is to apply social science insights to understand and address the diversity “crisis.” Emerging studies from social science demonstrate that implicit biases play a pivotal role in those “continuing inequities.” Researchers assert that disparate outcomes for different demographic groups not explained by education, experience, qualifications, or work effort are “the most rigorous evidence that substantial bias remains in the American labor market.” Social science studies demonstrate that the continued under representation of women and minorities in the legal profession is unlikely due predominately to explicit or “first generation bias,” which involves “deliberate exclusion or subordination directed at identifiable members of disfavored groups.” Rather, this bias has been supplanted by “second generation” forms of bias, which are attributable to implicit bias.
Friday, April 29, 2016
WE tv launched the premier to its newest reality show at the end of March called “The Sisters in Law". The show follows 6 black female attorneys in Houston, Texas. *
The show is brand new and only a few episodes in. The show does have a dramatic flare among the cast mates, but so far the show is also doing a great job of showing the women in their career and working hard for their clients. For example, the first episode showed criminal defense attorney Jolanda meeting with her client who had been charged with murder. In the episode, Jolanda is advocating that her client was in self-defense of her life from an abusive spouse, and even goes to visit the client’s house where the homicide took place.
Thursday, April 7, 2016
"Tackling the gender gap in the legal profession is becoming more important as the number of women going to law school continues to boom. In fact, women are projected to outnumber men in law schools by 2017."
On the history of women lawyers:
Women have always been a part of the legal system, but remained formally prohibited from the actual practice of law for many years. Nevertheless, women found innovative ways to circumvent existing rules while advocating for more equitable ones.
On the continuing pay gap:
Remarkably, the typical female equity partner currently earns approximately 80% of what a typical male partner earns—despite exceeding the average total hours billed by male partners.
A recent analysis of invoices from more than 3,000 law firms demonstrated that no matter what tier firm women work at, female lawyers are billed at 10% less than male lawyers per hour.
On pockets of progress:
The percentage of women who are law school deans has tripled since 1999. Women hold one in five law school dean positions, 45% of law school associate or deputy dean positions, and 66% of assistant dean positions.
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
With the Yaz birth-control multidistrict litigation led almost entirely by men, the evidence that women are less likely to be first chairs at trials across the legal industry, and the occasional story about old-guard leadership jockeying to ensure continued appointments on steering committees, anecdotal evidence suggests women are underrepresented in leadership positions on plaintiffs' steering committees in MDLs and mass torts.
Although many attorneys say the situation is improving—in large part through efforts from both the judiciary and attorneys who work in the arena—soon hard evidence may be coming forward outlining exactly the disparity mass litigations are facing when it comes to female attorneys serving on leadership panels.
Recently a study has gotten under way at the Sheller Center for Social Justice at Temple University's Beasley School of Law that is aimed specifically at quantifying the various factors that may go into appointing female attorneys onto steering committees.
The study, which is being conducted by research fellow Dana Alvare, will break down the number of women serving on plaintiffs' steering committees nationwide, and will look into how variables such as the type of the cases, whether they are state versus federal litigation, or the gender of the judge, could impact the likelihood of having a more diverse roster of leadership appointments.
Friday, March 4, 2016
Phillipa Strum, Dorothy Kenyon, Senator Joseph McCarthy's First Case, History Weekly (2015)
Scholars have documented the confusion, but for the most part historians of McCarthyism have not examined the role of Senator Joseph McCarthy in reflecting and adding to the tensions. This article examines the way in which the senator’s attack on what he called his “case number one”—the lawyer-activist Dorothy Kenyon —both reflected and contributed to the ongoing struggle about the proper role of women in the 1950s. While historians have written volumes about McCarthy, they have largely ignored the assumptions implicit in the choice of a woman as his first target. Kenyon’s case becomes a lens through which to view an important moment in the construction of gender.
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.