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.
Thursday, May 1, 2014
A former history professor at the University of Pennsylvania is suing the school, claiming she was denied tenure because she took time off to have and care for her children.
Kristen Stromberg Childers, who taught at the Ivy League college from 2002 until 2010, contends in the federal discrimination lawsuit that her family-leave periods were the "determinative and motivating factors in the decision to deny tenure."
Childers took maternity leave during the 2003-2004 and 2007-2008 academic years for the births of her two children; she also took half-time, half-pay family leave in the 2008-2009 school year due to medical and educational issues her older child was having, the suit says.
She was denied tenure in February 2008 and again after submitting a new application in 2010.
Childers filed a grievance, and a panel in May 2011 found that the review process unfairly considered statements about the assistant professor's child-care leave in making its decision.
According to the lawsuit, the grievance panel found that the chairwoman of Penn's School of Arts and Sciences' personnel committee "inappropriately" wrote to the school's dean that "committee members found it especially hard to judge productivity in light of Dr. Stromberg Childers' family leave time and her junior leave." The dean later said in a letter that it was "difficult to give a balanced assessment" of the professor's productivity "because of the amount of family leave she has had."
Monday, April 14, 2014
Story from Texas:
....a Texas Lawbook study of 40 of the largest firms in the state shows that a serious gender gap continues to plague most law firms in Texas.
Only a small cadre of law firms have experienced extraordinary success promoting women to partner. A large majority of Texas firms continue to lag.
Nearly half of the law firms in the study (18 of 40) promoted no women or just one woman to partner in the last three years.
The number of women promoted to partner this year was up a modest 5 percent from a decade ago.
The rest of the story here.
A blog entry from Payscale:
Women deserve equal pay for equal work. There are laws on the books dating back to 1963 that are designed to protect women from being paid less than men for doing the same work. However, we continue to see complaints, such as the one against the owners of Kay Jewelers and Jared, from allegedly underpaid female employees. Is the answer more laws, or more enforcement?
Employment and labor lawyer Gerald D. Skoning writes in The Palm Beach Post that the plethora of discussions about a "need" for more laws against gender discrimination and pay equity are missing the point. There are plenty of laws on the books designed to protect women from being paid less than men. The problem is that they aren't enforced.
Check out the rest here.
Friday, April 11, 2014
As you know, the Democrats have been trying to close the gender wage gap while the Republicans have denied that such a gap exists, or that if it does, it doesn't merit legislative response at this time.
Of course, there is nuance in the debate which doesn't get much discussion by either party in their respective political rheotric.
Also interesting (to me) is how the GOP advocates try to justify the ostensive wage gap. Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kansas) said in a speech:
"Please allow me to set the record straight. We strongly support equal pay for equal work, and I'm proud that I live in a country where it's illegal to discriminate in the workplace thanks to the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964," said Jenkins. "Some folks don't understand that women have become an extremely valuable part of the workforce today on their own merit, not because the government mandated it."
Rep. Jenkins couches her arguments in the style of good old fashioned liberalism (women are men's equals and should be treated that way), rather than conservative ideals about women belonging in the home (admittedly, that sort of argument would have been weird for her to offer, given her own terrific success as an elected official).
I don't mean to imply that the GOP has a better argument than the Dems, but that both sides seem to be drawing from the same general vocabulary of liberal equality, something that surprises me a bit.
Thursday, April 10, 2014
After decades on the decline, the number of "stay at home" moms in the U.S. has risen, with 29 percent of women with children under 18 saying they don't work outside the home, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center.
The figure from 2012 is up from 23 percent in 1999.
Mothers With Children Who Don't Work Outside The Home:
1967 — 49 percent
1999 — 23 percent
2012 — 29 percent
"The recent turnaround appears to be driven by a mix of demographic, economic and societal factors, including rising immigration as well as a downturn in women's labor force participation," the Pew study finds.
"Stay at home" mothers includes women who remain in the home to care for family as well as those who say they don't work outside because they are unable to find work, are disabled or enrolled in school
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
President Obama on Tuesday is expected to sign two executive orders that will address the pay disparity between women and men. One will bar federal contractors from retaliating against employees who talk about their pay with each other. The other will require businesses to hand over data on pay, broken down by race and gender, to the Labor Department. The goal of both steps is to increase transparency, which is more important than it may sound. It’s hard to fight pay discrimination if you don’t even know what other people make.
That’s exactly what happened to Lilly Ledbetter, for whom the Lilly Ledbetter Act is named. She didn’t find out she was being paid less than the men around her until 19 years after she started at Goodyear. Even then, it was thanks only to an anonymous note. While President Obama has touted the fact that his first act as president was to sign that bill, it was a very, very incremental step toward gender wage parity. The law merely gives women more time to bring suits. The wage gap actually widened a bitafterward. Today, women who work full-time, year-round still make 77 percent of what similar men make, and progress has all but stalled for a decade.
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
There has been a flurry of focus on the overwhelming nature of work/life balance. E.g., Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time; I Refuse to Be Busy. The second shift of housework, the reification of an organic Betty Crocker, and male norms of ideal workers all combine to stress and fundamentally impair a happy and mindful life. Something's got to give. Opt-out? Out source ? Or maybe we can just ease up on the uber-parenting.
So suggests this article in the Atlantic Don't Help Your Kids with Their Homework. Some key take-aways of "essentially useless parenting interventions" based on the sociological research:
- Helping kids with homework. Especially from middle school on, it can actually hurt them
- Meeting with teachers and principals
- Observing a kid’s class
- Volunteering at schools
- Bake sales
- Helping a teenager choose high-school courses
- Disciplinary measures such as punishing kids for getting bad grades or instituting strict rules about when and how homework gets done.
The things that do seem to matter?
- Reading to your child when they are young
- Talking to your teen about college options
- Getting your child placed with a good teacher
- Surrounding kids with colleged-educated adults with interesting careers
- Encouraging kids to ask critical questions and advocate for themselves
Saturday, March 22, 2014
Though nothing's simple, AAUW provides more detail in The Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap.
You’ve probably heard that men are paid more than women are paid over their lifetimes. But what does that mean? Are women paid less because they choose lower-paying jobs? Is it because more women work part time than men do? Or is it because women tend to be the primary caregivers for their children?
AAUW’s The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap succinctly addresses these issues by going beyond the widely reported 77 percent statistic. The report explains the pay gap in the United States; how it affects women of all ages, races, and education levels; and what you can do to close it.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Perhaps the story could have originated only from a preppy New York City day school.
A highbrow Manhattan prep school is getting down and dirty to fight a former employee who claims he was fired for being straight.
The Trinity School on the Upper West Side called ousted coach Gregory Kenney a two-timing cad after he alleged in a lawsuit that he was fired by lesbian boss Pat Krieger in 2012 because he’s heterosexual.
School officials insist that Kenney wasn’t ostracized for his traditional lifestyle. But they don’t let things lie there.
In court papers filed last month in response to the teacher’s Manhattan civil suit, they say Kenney’s colleagues “overheard him lying to his wife about staying late for work events, only to attend bars with other women who were not his wife.”
Saturday, March 1, 2014
In WaPo, from Rosa Brooks (Georgetown), Recline, don't Lean In:
I had an epiphany the other day. I was in the middle of marking up a memo on U.S. drone policy while simultaneously ordering a custom-decorated cake for my daughter’s sixth grade musical cast party and planning my remarks for a roundtable on women in national security.
Suddenly, it hit me: I hate Sheryl Sandberg....Sheryl, have you ever stopped to consider that all this “leaning in” is ruining life for the rest of us?