Gender and the Law Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Only 17% of US Supreme Court Advocates Were Women

At the Supreme Court, Where are the Women Advocates?

Even as the legal profession pledges to bolster diversity in its workforce, the number of female lawyers who argue before the U.S. Supreme Court is still bafflingly low.

At a recent Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia panel discussion titled “Supreme Court Advocacy: Where are the Women?” Williams & Connolly partner Sarah Harris reported that in the last Supreme Court term, 31 of the 184 appearances were women. That amounts to 17%, lower than some other recent terms, as tallied by SCOTUSBlog.

The numbers are even worse for female lawyers in private practice, Harris noted. Only seven of the 90 appearances by private practitioners were by women, “which is not very great,” she said. And among the 31 lawyers who argued on behalf of corporations, only three were women. Harris clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas in 2015 and 2016.

The number of female advocates of color is also dismal, though that data point is more difficult to tally, said Kelsi Corkran, a partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and a former clerk to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “When I talk to my friends who are women of color about their clerkships, they can’t point to a single person who looks like them who has done this before. I think we’re losing talent before the court.”

Numerous reasons but few solutions for the low numbers were advanced during the discussion. At the end of the event, moderator Amy Howe, a reporter for SCOTUSblog, said, “I wish we could stop having to have these discussions.”

One reason discussed for the dearth of women is the client’s preference for experienced Supreme Court advocates, which often, in self-fulfilling fashion, can rule out women. “Clients aren’t, especially in the big corporations, that keen to take a chance on a more junior advocate,” said Loren AliKhan, solicitor general for the District of Columbia and formerly a lawyer at O’Melveny & Myers. 

October 8, 2019 in SCOTUS, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Conference "Gender Equity In Law Schools"

Conference, Villanova Law School, Gender Equity in Law Schools

Friday, October 25, 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Arthur M. Goldberg '66 Commons Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law

Despite the significant demographic change in the gender composition of law faculty during the last 25 years, persistent questions of unequal treatment and unconscious bias continue to hamper the ability of female faculty to achieve full equality in law schools.

  • The symposium will examine a broad variety of issues relating to gender equity in law schools, such as:
  • Teaching issues — whether excellent teaching is valued in law schools, whether women faculty have a disproportionate teaching load, whether women are disproportionately present/absent in particular substantive courses, whether women are evaluated differently by students
  • Scholarly issues — whether areas of particular interest to women are undervalued, whether the work of women is given equal weight by law reviews, and whether female faculty bring a different voice to legal scholarship
  • Service issues — whether non-scholarly tasks performed by female faculty disproportionately disadvantage them with respect to status and compensation
  • The gender disparity in legal writing and in clinical education, which also produces substantial pay disparities that fall disproportionately on women in legal education
  • Intersections with issues of race, class, gender, and sexual identity

The symposium will also examine recent pay discrimination litigation at Denver Law School and focus on best practices for law schools that want to avoid similar litigation in the future.

This event takes place on Friday, October 25 from 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. in the Arthur M. Goldberg '66 Commons at the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. The program is approved for 7 substantive CLE credits.

October 2, 2019 in Conferences, Law schools, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Examining Effective Negotiation Skills Through a Gender Lens

Andrea Kupfer Schneider, "What's Sex Got to Do With it: Questioning Research on Gender & Negotiation" 
Nevada Law Journal, Vol. 19, No. 3, 2019


Negotiation scholars and teachers often talk about negotiation skills through the metaphor of tools in the toolbox. This article focuses on the fact that negotiation scholarship primarily studies the hammer, the skill of assertiveness in negotiation. In fact, the majority of empirical negotiation studies take this even further—studying only the hammer and imagining only a single opportunity to hit the nail on the head. Based on those studies, we make conclusions that if one chooses not to use the hammer at all or does not hold it as well as another, one is not a good builder. And negotiation scholars’ advice is also too often focused only on this hammer—how to swing it harder, how to position your hands, the angle of the swing, and so forth. We see this as well in the study of gender differences in negotiation where the vast majority of articles examining gender and negotiation focus on assertiveness—the hammer—and how women need to pick it up, swing harder, or hold it differently. Women’s supposed lack of assertiveness has been used to explain the pay gap between the salaries of women and men along with a whole host of other inequities. This story falls short primarily because our research falls short. And when our research falls short—when we are only researching and emphasizing a part of the skills that are needed to be effective—this does a disservice to all negotiators.

First, researchers focus on assertiveness, a typically masculine trait, and only one of several important negotiation skills. Therefore, we assume that both men and women need only to master that skill to the detriment of the mastery of any other negotiation skills. Second, assertiveness has become the only regularly tested negotiation skill as it is easily quantified. By failing to study the impact of any other skills—including skills that women might be better at than men—the practice to theory to practice cycle is hijacked by this narrow focus. Third, we tend to study negotiation in one-shot interactions with distributive outcomes. Far less often do we study the possibility of integrative outcomes. Even when we set up studies that focus on repeated interactions, they are often limited to prisoner’s dilemma or dictator game scenarios—highly stylized and unrealistic structures. What this means is that while women are not recognized for the skills at which they might be inherently better, it also means that we are failing men by not highlighting opportunities for growth and improvement.

This article attempts to fill in the picture of the skills necessary for effective negotiation by examining the existing negotiation and gender literature discussing traits and skills related to negotiation and the gender literature of those traits outside of the negotiation context. Importantly, this article outlines what we know—and what is still missing—in terms of research on negotiation skills and research on gender differences in these skills. Understanding this gap is the first step toward recognizing what we should be studying and testing in the future.

This article will examine five negotiation skills—social intuition, empathy, ethicality, flexibility, and assertiveness—each of which has been shown to make negotiators more effective and add importantly to each negotiator’s toolbox. Each section will outline how the skill is generally defined in negotiation literature, what gender differences exist or research has been done under each category, and then where future research might be needed. Particularly, this article will note how much more research is needed in all of these other skills to help negotiators learn the specific behaviors that can increase effectiveness. Finally, the article will circle back to assess what we have learned about using a gender lens to study negotiation and the importance of broadening the skill base for all negotiators.

October 1, 2019 in Gender, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 30, 2019

Podcast: Law Professor Discusses Gender and US Asylum Law and the Difference Feminist Legal Thought Made

Signs, Ask a Feminist: Deborah Anker Discusses Gender and US Asylum Law

Aziza Ahmed: Hi, this is Aziza Ahmed. I’m a law professor at Northeastern University’s School of Law, and I’m so happy to be talking to Deborah Anker today as part of the Signs “Ask a Feminist” series.  Deborah, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us on this podcast today.

Deborah Anker: My pleasure.

AA: Your work has been so instrumental in helping advocates and lawyers acknowledge the complexity that gender brings to immigration and asylum law.

***

AA: I was curious to hear from you about when you felt like feminism really came to immigrants’ rights work. I’m sure in communities themselves it was there…

DA: I really thank the women’s movement for challenging the public-private distinction. That was key. And we learned that from the women’s movement—that so-called “private acts of violence” were of public concern and of human-rights concern, or were human rights violations. That was incredibly important.

AA: And became foundational to the types of gender-based asylum claims…

DA: It became very, very foundational for the cases that we brought. It was really the women’s movement that made us start thinking about it. People would come in and we would interview the man and find out what his problems were. We never thought that what happened to women would rise to the level of persecution or would be considered persecution by the adjudicators and by the authorities. That was incredibly important. That rape could constitute prosecution, that “private acts of violence” could constitute prosecution. I think we now understand that being forced to leave your child as a form of persecution.

September 30, 2019 in Family, Gender, International, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The Trump Bump Sees More Women Going to Law School

Trump is Driving Women Into Law School

A few short years ago, law schools were falling out of favor with young Americans looking for a route to affluence, influence, or both. Business schools, on the other hand, were attracting more students than ever. ***

This year, the number of applicants to U.S. law schools is up an estimated 3.2%, after rising 8.1% last year.
 
Still, a law degree is rightly no longer seen as quite the path to a secure and remunerative career that it used to be, and a lot of today’s law school applicants seem less interested in their future earnings profiles than in using their legal skills to fight the power, or something like that. In one survey conducted by test-prep provider Kaplan, 87% of law-school admissions officers said “the current domestic political climate” was a significant factor in 2018’s applications increase. In another, 45% of students taking Kaplan LSAT prep courses this February said the political climate affected their decision to apply for law school, up from 32% a year earlier.

 

In legal circles this phenomenon has come to be called the “Trump bump,” which sounds about right. More precisely, with young people and college graduates both tending to give the president low approval ratings, it seems likely that most of these political-climate-inspired applicants are inspired by opposition to Trump and his policies. Also, all of this year’s and most of last year’s applicant gains were driven by women, who as a rule like the current president a lot less than men do. As recently as 2013, women were still a minority among applicants to U.S. law schools. This year they accounted for 55%. So U.S. law schools will for at least the next few years be churning out more smart, politically engaged, probably left-leaning lawyers, most of them women.

September 17, 2019 in Law schools, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 29, 2019

Rediscovering the First Woman Judge, Florence Allen

The Cleveland Plain Dealer has some recent articles highlighting Judge Florence Allen and calling for her recognition.  Allen is colloquially known as "the first woman judge" as she was the first woman elected to a trial court of general jurisdiction (Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, Cleveland), the first woman elected to a state supreme court (Ohio 1922), the first woman appointed to a federal appellate court (U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, 1932), and the first woman shortlisted for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Andrea Simakis, Before RBG, A Cleveland Judge Made History

Andrea Simakis, Women Lawyers, Judges of Ohio "On Fire" to Honor Judge Florence Allen

Allen is the subject of my current book project, "'A Manly Mind': Judge Florence Allen, The First Woman Judge."  The book is an intellectual biography of this famous first, seeking to exploring her ideas, motivations, and jurisprudence.  I've spent two years reviewing the historical and legal archives, and now am writing in earnest.  A shorter journal article summarizing some of the findings from the research and on Allen's life will be forthcoming in the journal of the new Ohio Legal History Project, an initiative of the Ohio State Bar Foundation.  

Florence Allen was an icon of the woman's suffrage movement as both an activist and an advocate.  Her suffrage work led to her inclusion as one of the inaugural members of the Social Justice ParkSocial Justice Park, in Columbus, Ohio.  Allen was a moderate, believing strongly in the nonpartisan nature of the judiciary, tempering her decisions with logic and reason, and searching within the system for a practical solution.  She prided herself on hard work, logic and intellect, and rejected society's limited role for women.  

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July 29, 2019 in Books, Courts, Judges, Legal History, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Why the ABA's New Rule Addressing Harassment and Discrimination is So Important for Women Working in the Legal Profession Today

Kristy D'Angelo-Corker,  Don't Call me Sweetheart!:Why the ABA's New Rule Addressing Harassment and Discrimination is so Important for Women Working in the Legal Profession Today, 23 Hofstra L. Rev. 263 (2019)

Popular culture has recently shone a spotlight on the inequality and discrimination faced by women in many professions. With the “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” campaigns in full swing, it is clear that women are ready to fight to be respected and receive equal treatment. Although there are a plethora of news stories highlighting the issues that women are facing today, this Article will focus specifically on the effect of bias, prejudice, harassment, and discrimination against women in the legal profession. This discrimination and marginalization of women finds its way into law firms, courtrooms, and the corporate arena generally, and impacts not only the female attorneys and judges themselves, but also the clients and litigants that these women are serving. The American Bar Association (“ABA”), long committed to diversity and leading the professional legal community regarding “appropriate” conduct, has finally put an anti-discrimination, anti-harassment provision into effect to combat
discriminatory behavior on a national level.


This Article argues that although the ABA’s adoption of Resolution 109 to amend Rule 8.4 is a necessary first step to remedy the issues that women in the legal profession are currently facing, education and training initiatives must also be established. This training should take the form of Bias Training in law schools (as part of the Professional Responsibility requirements), in law firms, and as mandatory CLE requirements for practicing attorneys.

June 13, 2019 in Equal Employment, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Register Now for Second Women's Leadership in Academia Conference

Registration Open: Second Annual Women’s Leadership in Academia Conference: July 18-19, 2019

Registration is open for the second annual conference on Women’s Leadership in Academia, to be held at UVA Law School on July 18-19, 2019. The conference is an event of the Women’s Leadership Initiative, which was developed with the goal of advancing women professors, librarians and clinicians in leadership positions in the legal academy. Conference programming is focused on building skills and providing tools and information that are directly applicable to women aspiring to be leaders in legal education. The conference will address the unique perspectives and challenges of women and provide programming that will be useful to developing leaders. Along with panels and workshops, the conference will feature CV review and advising with recruiters. Travel scholarships are available. Early bird registration is open through May 31, and regular registration continues until the conference reaches full capacity. More information is available here. For questions, please contact Leslie Kendrick at kendrick@law.virginia.edu.

 

Call for Panel Proposals

We are currently accepting proposals for panels on issues relating to women in legal academia for the second annual Women’s Leadership in Academia Conference, to be held at UVA Law School on July 18-19, 2019. The conference will address the unique perspectives and challenges of women and provide programming that will be useful to developing leaders. Conference programming is focused on building skills and providing tools and information that are directly applicable to women aspiring to be leaders in legal education. Proposals should include a panel title, description, and proposed panelists. Selected panels will be notified by May 15, and panelists’ conference registration and travel costs will be covered. More information on the conference, including a link to provide panel proposals, is available here. Proposals are due by May 1, 2019. For questions, please contact Leslie Kendrick at kendrick@law.virginia.edu

April 30, 2019 in Call for Papers, Conferences, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Opting-Out by Women Lawyers and How that is Detriment to Society

Jane Bambauer & Tauhidur Rahman, The Quiet Resignation: Why Do So Many Female Lawyers Abandon Their Careers?

Thirty percent of female lawyers leave their careers. The same is true for female doctors. Over time, an increasing number of married professionals have recreated traditional gender roles, and society has lost a tremendous amount of training and well-honed talent as a result. Neither workplace discrimination nor family obligations can fully and satisfactorily explain the trend. Both of those theories assume that women take a more dependent and vulnerable position in the household because of constraints, but in one important respect, men are more constrained than women, and they are better off for it: to maintain social status, men have to work. Women do not.

This Article advances a theory and corroborating evidence that the cultural acceptance of female under-employment is a privilege in the abstract, but a curse in practice. Even under the best conditions, the early stages of professional careers involve mistakes, mismatches, and disappointments. An opportunity to escape the stress of the public sphere by focusing on the family may have great appeal in the short run even though the longrun consequences are severe. Asymmetric cultural acceptance creates an easy off-ramp for females, to nearly everybody’s detriment.

April 25, 2019 in Family, Gender, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Shortlisting Women Creates the Appearance of Gender Diversity, But Maintains the Status Quo of Exclusion

Redressing Gender Disparity in Legal Leadership

Professor Renee Knake is on a mission to expose the increasing trend of women being shortlisted—i.e. qualified for a position but not selected from a list, a phenomenon that creates the appearance of diversity but preserves the status quo.

Speaking ahead of her keynote at The Legal Festival in Sydney in June, Prof. Knake says that leadership in the legal sector does not reflect the public it serves, even though women have entered law in numbers equal to men for decades.

“This phenomenon often happens with any pursuit of professional advancement, whether the judge in the courtroom, the partner in the corner office, or the coach on the playing field. Women, and especially female minorities, regularly find themselves equally or more capable than the other candidates on the shortlist, but far less likely to be chosen.”

The legal profession should reflect the diversity of the public it serves, argues Prof. Knake, who currently holds the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at RMIT University and is also the Doherty Chair in Legal Ethics at the University of Houston. “Having diverse representation is important for institutional legitimacy and the credibility of rule of law and access to justice.”

April 3, 2019 in Courts, Gender, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Model Rule 8.4 and Ethical Implications of Sexual Harassment for Lawyers

Ashley Badesch, Lady Justice: The Ethical Considerations and Impacts of Gender Bias and Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession on Equal Access to Justice for Women, 31 Georgetown J. Law & Ethics 497 (2018) [Westlaw link only]

Over twenty-five years ago, the American Bar Association (ABA) adopted a recommendation resolving to take action on the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace and legal profession. The report, compiled by the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, was released in the wake of Anita Hill's testimony during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Justice Clarence Thomas. These hearings sparked public debate about sexual harassment as a “matter of national concern” for the first time. Failed attempts to adopt an anti-bias amendment to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct punctuated the following two decades of limited progress in reducing issues of gender bias and sexual harassment. Then in August of 2016 advocates for efforts to increase inclusivity and prevent bias and discrimination in the practice of law toward women, minorities, and other groups garnered long-awaited progress with the American Bar Association's August 2016 adoption of Model Rule 8.4(g).
 
Model Rule 8.4(g) makes it professional misconduct for a lawyer to “engage in conduct that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status in conduct related to the practice of law.” Comment [3] expounds upon *498 the meaning of discrimination and harassment within the rule, indicating that “discrimination includes harmful verbal or physical conduct that manifests bias or prejudice towards others,” while “harassment includes sexual harassment and derogatory or demeaning verbal or physical conduct ... [such as] unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.” The rule's comments point to substantive discrimination and harassment law as a guide for applying Rule 8.4(g) in the disciplinary context.
 
States are currently considering whether to adopt 8.4(g) against a backdrop of unprecedented national media attention on sexual harassment in the workplace. In October of 2017, the New York Times broke an explosive story detailing decades of allegations of sexual harassment and assault against the powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein,igniting the viral “#MeToo” hashtag that took social media by storm. The ensuing flood of accusations against famous and powerful men across industries has brought the issue of sexual harassment under greater national scrutiny than ever before. Initial skepticism as to the significance and staying power of the “#MeToo moment” has been answered with a daily news cycle in which prominent figures are losing their careers and credibility within the media, entertainment industry, and political world as a result of allegations of misconduct. Whether this becomes a true watershed moment in our culture depends upon how the shifting understanding of what constitutes sexual harassment and how it should be addressed becomes codified into workplace codes of conduct, corporate governance, and the law.
 

April 2, 2019 in Business, Equal Employment, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Women in the Law Conference at Northeastern Law

2019 Women in the Law Conference

By Women.  For Women.

This conference provides career guidance and professional development growth to women attorneys and other professionals at all stages of their careers and brings together powerful decisionmakers from Massachusetts, Alaska, Canada, California, Illinois, New York, Washington, DC, and beyond.

We emphasize practical, useful information to take away from the full day's programming to further develop your career.

  • Top-notch panels, breakout sessions and speed mentoring with high level practitioners.
  • Learn how to position yourself to take the leap into a power role and be inspired by our expert panelists as they touch on topics such as civil rights, pay equity, economic and social justice, and best practices for advocacy.
  • Network, network, network – whether you want to advance where you are or move to a new opportunity, this is a great space to network for that next step

KEYNOTE SPEAKER

Nancy Hogshead-Makar
CEO, Champion Women
Advocacy for Girls and Women in Sports

Nancy Hogshead-Makar is an Olympic champion, a civil rights lawyer, and CEO of Champion Women, a non-profit providing legal advocacy for girls and women in sports. Focus areas include equal play, such as traditional Title IX compliance in athletic departments, sexual harassment, abuse and assault, as well as employment, pregnancy and LGBT discrimination within sport.

In December, the American Bar Association (ABA) included Nancy Hogshead-Makar in its ABA Lawyers Who Inspired Us in 2018 list. 

FEATURED GUESTS INCLUDE: 

Debra S. Katz 
Partner, Katz, Marshall & Banks 

Kristen M. Gibbons Feden
Associate, Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young

Kristen Gibbons Feden is an associate in the Philadelphia office of Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, where she concentrates her practice on general and complex commercial litigation, employment discrimination, SEC enforcement, internal investigations, Title IX compliance and corporate compliance. Prior to joining Stradley Ronon, Kristen was Assistant District Attorney in the Trials Division of the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office. Her most notable case was Commonwealth v. William H. Cosby, where she played a critical role in the first trial, which resulted in a hung jury, and the second trial where a conviction was attained. In September 2018, Kristen was honored with a Leadership Award by the Victim Rights Law Center (VRLC).  Past VRLC Leadership Awardees include: Gloria Steinem, Professor Anita Hill, Congresswoman-elect Ayanna Pressley, MA Attorney General Martha Coakley and actress and activist Ashley Judd. 

March 5, 2019 in Conferences, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 14, 2019

St. Valentine's Greeting to The Lady Judge

From the archives of Judge Florence Allen.  Allen was the first woman judge elected to a state supreme court (Ohio in 1922), appointed to a US Court of Appeals (6th Circuit), and shortlisted for the US Supreme Court. She saved this card sent to her from friends. 

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February 14, 2019 in Legal History, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 1, 2019

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

February 1, 2019 in Law schools, Race, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Book: Voices in History of Black Women Lawyers

J. Clay Smith, Jr., Rebels in Law: Voices in History of Black Women Lawyers

Black women lawyers are not new to the practice of law or to leadership in the fight for justice and quality. Black women formally entered the practice of American law in 1872, the year that Charlotte E. Ray became the first black woman to graduate from an American law school. Rebels in Lawintroduces some of these women and through their own writing tells a compelling story about the little-known involvement of black women in law and politics. Beginning with a short essay written in 1897, the writing collected by J. Clay Smith, Jr., tells us how black women came to the practice of law, the challenges they faced as women and as blacks in making a place for themselves in the legal profession, their fight to become legal educators, and their efforts to encourage other black women and black men to come to the practice of law. 
 
The essays demonstrate the involvement of black women lawyers in important public issues of our time and show them addressing the sensitive subjects of race, equality, justice and freedom. Drawing together many writings that have never been published or have been published in obscure journals or newspapers, Rebels in Law is a groundbreaking study. In addition, it offers historical background information on each writer and on the history of black women lawyers. Providing an opportunity to study the origins of black women as professionals, community leaders, wives, mothers, and feminists, it will be of interest to scholars in the fields of law, history, political science, sociology, black studies and women's studies.

February 1, 2019 in Books, Legal History, Race, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Podcast: The Ginsburg Tapes

The Ginsburg Tapes

The Ginsburg Tapes is a podcast about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s oral arguments in the Supreme Court—before she became #NotoriousRBG.

 

Specifically, from 1972-1978, Ginsburg argued six cases in the Supreme Court.  In each case, she and the ACLU Women’s Rights Project brought constitutional challenges to laws treating men and women differently.  Ginsburg’s goal was to show the ways in which laws which seemed on their face to benefit women actually perpetuated stereotypes and held women back from full participation in American life.

 

For all six cases, Lauren breaks down the real recordings of the oral arguments.  The tapes allow listeners to be a fly on the wall, to teleport to that moment in history.  Listeners can hear Ginsburg make her case, and listen to reactions from the all-male Supreme Court.  You’ll hear from liberal icons like Justice Thurgood Marshall and Justice William Brennan, and conservative icons like Chief Justice Warren Burger and then-Justice William Rehnquist, as they grapple out loud with what the Constitution means.  In each episode, Lauren talks about history, effective advocacy, constitutional change, the power of the Supreme Court, and gender equality.

January 17, 2019 in Constitutional, Judges, SCOTUS, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Role of the National Women's Lawyers Association in Advocating No-Fault Divorce in the 1950s

Laura Oren, No-Fault Divorce Reform in the 1950s: The Lost History of the "Greatest Project" of the National Association of Women Lawyers, 36 Law & History Review 847 (2018)

This Article is about the lost history of a campaign by the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) to achieve uniform no-fault divorce law reform in the United States. In one form or another, NAWL has existed continuously since before 1911, when it began to publish the Women Lawyers Journal. From its Progressive era origins until today, NAWL has pursued a women's rights agenda within a professional framework.
 
Although prior to ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 women's suffrage was a key issue for the women lawyers, even then it was far from the only one. Both before and also after suffrage, the Journal reflected the wide-ranging interests of NAWL members, such as legal doctrines in many areas of practice (including divorce), the education of female lawyers, the advancement of women in the profession and in society, and the protection of women and children. From the 1930s through the 1950s, NAWL also played an active role in two postsuffrage women's rights struggles, the campaigns for female jury service and for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
 
This history makes it particularly interesting that when the organization undertook what its own chronicler described as “the greatest project NAWL has ever undertaken,” it was about divorce law. In 1947, *849 NAWL voted “to draft and promote a bill that would embody the ideal of no-fault divorce.” Instead of the contortions and invitation to perjury in the existing patchwork of fault-based divorce statutes, NAWL sought a uniform model act that would check the evils of migratory divorce and promote national uniformity. It would reflect a more contemporary understanding of the complex causes of marital breakdown, it would operate in the modern spirit of conciliation, and it would be “therapeutic” in its procedure. Despite their belief in its innovative nature, the women lawyers later insisted that the bill that they had designed was “not as revolutionary as appears at first glance.” In their view, it was “new chiefly in its attitude and treatment of divorce and in the ‘therapeutic approach’ which has been adopted.” “Otherwise,” they said, “the Bill represents a restatement of the best case law and statutory law to be found throughout the forty-eight states.”
 
After NAWL formally approved its model bill in 1952, the women lawyers sought consideration for their proposed Uniform Divorce Act by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL). The conference, an influential private body of distinguished members of the legal profession devoted to developing and promoting uniform model acts for the states to adopt, refused to consider the NAWL proposal unless it was submitted by a section of the American Bar Association (ABA). It took years for NAWL to overcome that hurdle by successfully leading the way to the establishment of the Family Law Section of the ABA. Even when NAWL finally was able to submit its proposal, however, NCCUSL continued to bypass the women lawyers and their bill.
 
The lost history of NAWL's greatest project intersects with three historical inquiries about the 1950s. It interrogates narratives about (1) the history and state of divorce law at that time, (2) the alleged culture of “domesticity” in the decade, and (3) the continuity of women's movement activism in the so-called “doldrums” years. Although there are extensive historical literatures in each of these three areas, to date there has been *850 no scholarly study of NAWL's “no-fault” divorce reform proposal or of NAWL's role as an activist professional and women's rights organization. This article recovers NAWL's lost history and explores how it fits into the gaps.

January 17, 2019 in Family, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

New ABA Women Trailblazers in the Law Website

 Stanford Law School Launches the American Bar Association’s Women Trailblazers in the Law Website

 

Stanford Law School’s Robert Crown Law Library has launched a new site for the American Bar Association’s (ABA) oral history project entitled “Women Trailblazers in the Law” (WTP). The website offers open access to the oral histories of close to 100 senior women who have made important contributions to the law and have opened opportunities for other women in the profession.

 

In the last half-century or more, women in law have made huge strides, many of them making history by attending law school, sometimes as the only female in their class, and succeeding in the profession against the odds. Brooksley Born, JD ’64 (BA ’61), and Linda Ferren, WTP Director and Executive Director of the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit, set out to capture the stories of these remarkable women when they initiated the Women Trailblazers in the Law Project, a collaborative research project of the ABA and the American Bar Foundation, an independent, non-partisan, non-profit research institute for the study of law."

 

“By opening opportunities for women in the legal profession and in many cases using their skills to further women’s legal rights, these women made significant contributions to the equality of all women that must not be forgotten,” said Born, chair of the ABA Senior Lawyers Division WTP Committee, whose own story is included in the collection. Born was the first woman president of the Stanford Law Review and went on to have a successful legal career including serving as chairperson of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission from 1996 to 1999.

 

According to Linda Ferren, “Our goal from the start was to turn a spotlight on women who, because of their gender, had to struggle to secure a foothold in the legal community just a few decades ago.” * * * 

WTP captures the full-life oral histories of women pioneers in the legal profession nationwide, memorializing their stories in their own voices and preserving their experiences and observations for future generations. . . .  A book based on the collection, Lives in the Law: Stories from Trailblazing Women Lawyers, by Jill Norgren, was published last May by New York University Press.

 

The WTP collection is now housed at the Robert Crown Law Library at Stanford; two other WTP repositories are the Library of Congress and the Schlesinger Library at Harvard. The new WTP website allows easy online access to the collection and resources and will focus on long-term preservation of print and digitized WTP content. In addition, the oral histories have been added to the Stanford Digital Repository.

 

“The goal of the Stanford Law Library with this project has been to enhance public access to and discoverability of these important oral histories, not just for the benefit of law students and legal scholars, but also for anyone interested in the rich history of these trailblazing women,” said Beth Williams, senior director of the Robert Crown Law Library.

 

Click here for access to the WTP website: https://abawtp.law.stanford.edu.

 

November 28, 2018 in Legal History, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Merchandising of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

ABA J, Supreme Icon: From Shirts to Action Figures to Movies and an Album, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has Become an Unlikely Pop Culture Icon

On the website Etsy, which sells crafts and vintage items, typing “Ruth Bader Ginsburg” into the search bar yields more than 1,000 results.

 

You can buy a birthday card with the associate justice’s image and the phrase “small and mighty” written in pink. There’s also a tank top bearing her stern visage and “I dissent” written underneath. There are posters of her as Rosie the Riveter, peg dolls of her in full judicial regalia and even prayer candles portraying her as “the Patron Saint of the Supreme Court.”

 

If Etsy isn’t your thing, you can find a Ginsburg action figure on Kickstarter, complete with gavel, pointing finger and her “iconic jabot,” a frilly, fancy-looking collar perfect for making “fashion and judicial statements.” The initial funding goal was $15,000. As of September, it had raised well over $600,000. “She is a rock star. She is an inspiration. She is constantly fighting. She is brilliant and fearless,” the introductory video to the Kickstarter page states. “She is an icon.”

 

The items aren’t all kitschy. There are plenty of posters, coffee mugs and shirts featuring inspirational and even strident quotes from her speeches and opinions. One oft-used line came from an interview she gave shortly after Sonia Sotomayor was nominated to the Supreme Court in 2009: “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.” Another popular one for product designers is: “Fight for the things you care about.”

 

That latter quote was from a 2015 luncheon at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University in Justice Ginsburg’s honor. Oftentimes, these products will leave off the last part of Ginsburg’s sentence, which was “but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” That outlook may explain why Ginsburg has become a cottage industry, generating countless products—none of which she has likely endorsed but has often been a good sport about.

 

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There is a music album inspired by her life story. There are websites and memes that celebrate her jurisprudence, her fiery dissents and her dedication to civil rights, gender equality and social justice. There’s even a recent documentary and an upcoming Hollywood film chronicling her long and storied career as a litigator fighting on behalf of gender equality.

October 17, 2018 in Judges, Pop Culture, SCOTUS, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Women Owned Law Firms Surge Amid Gender Disparity in the Profession

Women Owned Law Firms Surge Amid Gender Disparity in the Profession

Work-life balance is often pegged as the reason women leave traditional law firms. But for the growing number of women establishing their own firms, their departure is often rooted more deeply in gender inequality in the profession than in raising children or having more free time.

 

“If women were feeling valued, were getting properly rewarded for their efforts, were getting their fair share and it wasn’t a constant struggle to get your origination credit, and feel you are part of the team—then you would stay,” said Nicole Galli, who in 2017 co-founded a trade association, Women Owned Law, which has already grown to 200 members.***

 

By founding their own firms, women are crafting new game rules that provide for fair compensation, equal promotions, full inclusion and better career development opportunities.

 

“There are women further along in their careers—partners in firms—who’ve done everything ‘right.’ They leaned in. They figured out the work-life balance, as it is. They made it to a measure of objective success. They have books of business. They have clients. It’s still death by a thousand paper cuts. It’s still a struggle,” said Galli, managing partner in the Law Offices of N.D. Galli in Philadelphia.

 

Data shows a mass exodus of female attorneys who leave traditional firms before they reach the upper echelon. The National Association of Women Lawyers found in a 2017 survey that women make up 46 percent of associates but just 30 percent of non-equity partners. Only 19 percent of equity partners are women, the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession reported in January.

October 10, 2018 in Business, Equal Employment, Women lawyers, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)