Friday, October 15, 2021

#MeToo: Unintended Consequences for Sponsorship of Women in the Workplace

Ann C. McGinley, #MeToo Backlash or Simply Common Sense?: It’s Complicated, 50 Seton Hall L. Rev. 1397 (2020).

The #MeToo movement brought much needed awareness and momentum to societal and workplace culture change.  Indeed, some perceive that the “movement has led to increased employer response, including updating of sexual harassment policies, providing guidance about appropriate work behavior, providing information about reporting harassment, and stopping or removing problematic employees.”  Unfortunately, the movement has also led to unintended effects of decreasing sponsor and mentor opportunities for women by men in leadership who fear sexual harassment allegations. Such fears, as discussed in this article, arise from stereotypes prohibited by law and include an unsupported presumption of frequent false allegations, not to mention are predicated on a heterosexual worldview. These fears can lead to men in positions of leadership refusing to engage in common work activities such as “mentoring, socializing, one-on-one meetings,” and travel with a female colleague or subordinate, although they will engage in these activities with similarly situated male colleagues. While this article acknowledges that something needs to be done to address these fears, Professor McGinley is adamant that “refusing to mentor and sponsor female lawyers is not the way to go.” 

In fact, it is detrimental to the advancement of women in the workplace. “Research demonstrates the importance of sponsorship, particularly for women and people of color” and “[i]n order for women to succeed [equivalent to their male counterparts], men must actively mentor and sponsor them.”  This is because, as Professor McGinley points out, that with the “vast majority of manager and senior leaders” being men, they have a central role in whether women’s advancement is promoted or hindered at work, simply by their choice of whether to be a sponsor.  The importance of sponsorship is summed up in this anecdote:

One tax attorney described how he supported his protégé all the way to partnership, having hired her in the first place.  He was confident of her ability to deliver and when long-term clients demurred at liaising primarily with a junior person, this attorney vouched for her expertise.  When she became the target of unfair criticism by another partner, he intervened, extorting from that partner an apology and a promise to look at the evidence and be less judgmental. In subtle and overt ways, he ensured that she was able to thrive which indeed she did, making partner in four years.

Professor McGinley takes the reader through the current status of sexual harassment law and its drawbacks in addressing this problem and others.  The article also sets forth solutions for how the law and employers can move forward in advancing women in the workplace by addressing more effectively sexual harassment and its direct and indirect effects.

October 15, 2021 in Equal Employment, Gender, Women lawyers, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Accidental Feminism: Gender parity and selective mobility among India's professional elite

Accidental Feminism: gender parity and selective mobility among India's professional elite

Preface to: Accidental feminism: Gender parity and selective mobility among India's professional elite

By Swethaa Ballakrishnen

Princeton : Princeton University Press, 2021.

In India, elite law firms offer a surprising oasis for women within a hostile, predominantly male industry. Less than 10 percent of the country’s lawyers are female, but women in the most prestigious firms are significantly represented both at entry and partnership. Elite workspaces are notorious for being unfriendly to new actors, so what allows for aberration in certain workspaces?

Drawing from observations and interviews with more than 130 elite professionals, Accidental Feminism examines how a range of underlying mechanisms—gendered socialization and essentialism, family structures and dynamics, and firm and regulatory histories—afford certain professionals egalitarian outcomes that are not available to their local and global peers. Juxtaposing findings on the legal profession with those on elite consulting firms, Swethaa Ballakrishnen reveals that parity arises not from a commitment to create feminist organizations, but from structural factors that incidentally come together to do gender differently. Simultaneously, their research offers notes of caution: while conditional convergence may create equality in ways that more targeted endeavors fail to achieve, “accidental” developments are hard to replicate, and are, in this case, buttressed by embedded inequalities. Ballakrishnen examines whether gender parity produced without institutional sanction should still be considered feminist.

In offering new ways to think about equality movements and outcomes, Accidental Feminism forces readers to critically consider the work of intention in progress narratives.

September 28, 2021 in Books, Gender, International, Women lawyers, Work/life, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

CFP Rutgers Law, Feminism in the Law--An Exploration of Justice Ginsburg's Legacy

Call for Papers

The Women’s Rights Law Reporter is seeking submissions for its annual symposium entitled “Feminism in the Law: An Exploration of Justice Ginsburg’s Legacy.”

The symposium will be held on December 2, 2021 from 3-5 pm on the Newark campus in conjunction with Rutgers Law School’s ceremony for the renaming of 15 Washington Street in honor of the late Justice. As a Rutgers Law School faculty member, Ruth Bader Ginsburg served as the first faculty adviser to the Women’s Rights Law Reporter, which is the nation’s oldest legal periodical focusing on the field of women’s rights law.

The symposium will explore Justice Ginsburg’s lasting legacy and the work that still needs to be done in the field of gender, sexuality, and the law. The symposium promises to be a very well publicized and attended event that will include opening remarks by Justice Ginsburg’s daughter, Professor Jane Ginsburg. We hope to include a wide range of scholars on the panel who can discuss how Justice Ginsburg’s achievements have impacted their own work and scholarship.

The symposium is being planned as an in-person event, subject to evolving New Jersey health regulations. In the event that the event cannot be held live, we will hold the symposium virtually. We are also open to a hybrid format if a panel member is unable to travel due to health concerns.

Those interested in participating should submit an abstract (~750-1,000) words and CV to eics@womensrightslawreporter.com with the subject “RBG Symposium Submission” by September 30, 2021.  Given the short timeline, decisions will be made by October 15, 2021. Those selected will be contacted via email and provided information about traveling to Rutgers Law School for the symposium. We will provide a modest honorarium per speaker as well as reimbursement for reasonable travel expenses.

Once selected, draft articles should be submitted by November 22, 2021. We are looking to have a final draft of paper submissions by January 25, 2021. We are, however, willing to accommodate you if you are unable to adhere to this timeline. Paper length should be roughly 5,000 words; however, we are willing to consider pieces that are either longer or shorter. Papers will be published in the spring edition of the Women’s Rights Law Reporter.

We look forward to reading your submissions and are anticipating a very successful, thought-provoking symposium.

Sincerely,

Samantha Arnold & Siena Carnevale

Co-Editors-In-Chief, Women’s Rights Law Reporter

September 22, 2021 in Call for Papers, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 3, 2021

Pandemic Practice - The Disparate Impact on Female Attorneys

Liane Jackson, How Pandemic Practice Left Lawyer-moms Facing Burnout, ABA Journal, August/September Issue (2021).

This article explores the pandemic’s effect on the “participation gap in the labor market” between women and men, and posits that “hard-won gains are disappearing,” “the gap is widening,” and experts posit that the effects “will be felt in the legal industry for years to come.”

It will come as no surprise that “women are America’s default social safety net” and have therefore “taken on the lion’s share of pandemic parenting,” as numerous studies have already shown.  This is due to a number of social pressures and norms, which this article addresses.  Of particular note is the “idealized version of intensive motherhood” which sets a standard by which “women are expected to sacrifice their careers, their well-being, their sleep, [and] their mental health for the good of their children.”  Competing with this social construct, is another equally pervasive standard to which female lawyers are held “of total commitment . . . this ideal worker norm that says you’re supposed to sacrifice everything for your job.”  It is no wonder, in this zero sum game, that increased drinking, stress, desire to leave the profession, and mental health issues are being reported in higher percentages of women than men as a result of a pandemic which left parents with few childcare options and a lead role in their children’s education. “The pandemic has disproportionately affected women and minority attorneys, with female lawyers of color feeling increased isolation and stress.”

So what can we do to alleviate the disadvantage experienced by female attorneys as we begin to return from pandemic-induced remote work environments?  Liane Jackson argues that flexible work options need to be accompanied by a genuine commitment to not allowing those options to come with a conscious or unconscious institutional/advancement penalty.  This requires a “recognizing that family has a value, households have a value and people have a value outside the workplace.”  To do otherwise will “continue[] to threaten retention rates.” We must be intentional as we begin to emerge from this pandemic to not penalize female attorneys whose "productivity" (as traditionally measured) may have fallen below that of male counterparts due to the unequal sharing of pandemic pressures discussed above.  Employers should focus on retention and advancement standards that are equitable to female attorneys who continue to be marginalized by disparate and competing social pressures.  “Women are still being marginalized, and they don’t always have the power base to fight back.” We must do better.

September 3, 2021 in Equal Employment, Family, Gender, Women lawyers, Work/life, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Bills Introduced in Congress to Allow Professional Licenses of One State to be Valid in State to Which Military Spouse is Relocated

Military spouses’ unspoken oath to America? Giving up careers that require them to stay put.

Military spouses, more than 90 percent of whom are women, often put their careers on the back burner because of their unspoken oath to America. Even before the pandemic, estimates put the unemployment rate of military spouses between three and six times the national rate.

But bills introduced in Congress by Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) would help ease that burden by allowing licenses issued by one state to be considered valid in the state to which the spouse or service member has been relocated on military orders. The House version, which has 25 co-sponsors, has been referred to a subcommittee within the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. If passed, the bill would impact all professional licenses, including those required to be a real estate agent, teacher and nurse.

Most states have some flexibility for military spouses who need to transfer professional licenses, experts say, but it’s a patchwork of various levels of exemptions for each industry. The Department of Defense has been working on the issue since 2011, and 26 states have agreed to at least issuing a license to a military spouse within 30 days with little upfront paperwork, according to Marcus Beauregard, director of the Defense-State Liaison Office.

A congressional bill would create uniformity, advocates say.

September 1, 2021 in Business, Legislation, Women lawyers, Work/life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 27, 2021

Building Bridges: How Law Schools Can Better Prepare Students from Historically Underserved Communities to Excel in Law School

Amy H. Soled and Barbara Hoffman, Building Bridges: How Law Schools Can Better Prepare Students from Historically Underserved Communities to Excel in Law School, AALS Journal of Legal Education, Volume 69, Issue 2 (Winter 2020).

“As a poor, first-generation student, I constantly fear the judgment of my peers. . . . For me, the challenge of law school is not only overcoming the rigorous coursework.  I must also overcome the social and financial barriers seeking to steer me away.”  This reflection of a current Rugers Law School student, captured by Professors Amy Soled and Barabra Hoffman, is unfortunately an all-too-common sentiment for a number of students in your law school classrooms.  Students who are members of historically underserved communities, those whose circumstances “disadvantage them in relation to their classmates whose privileged environment better prepare them for law school,” often find the law school challenging in more ways than just academic rigor.  These students, who are historically underserved based on circumstances including but not limited to “economic status, race, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or education background,” encounter “social and cultural isolation” in an environment that unconsciously or otherwise has “an invisible and assumed perspective that is largely white, male, heterosexual, economically advantaged, and able-bodied.”  This isolation can lead to significant barriers to academic success in law school and ultimately passing the bar.

So what can we as legal educators do to address the needs of our students of different backgrounds and bridge this gap?  Professors Soled and Hoffman suggest “[b]uilding bridges to enable students from historically underserved communities to thrive in law school requires law school professors and administrators to implement a multiyear plan from orientation through graduation.”  This plan can include academic success programs starting in the summer before law school and extending through the entirety of the 1L year; creating mentoring programs of faculty, staff, and local practitioners; and fostering a sense of community in the classroom and beyond.  

For example, professors can create community and inclusion by holding mandatory individual conferences once a semester, which creates a space for students to engage with the professor in a low-stakes one-on-one environment.  “The more contact students have with their teachers, the better the students do and the more connected the students feel to their school.”  Professors can also address the pervasive and insidious “imposter phenomenon” which describes students who are “unable to internalize [their] accomplishments [and have] chronic feelings of self-doubt and fear of being discovered” as a fraud.  Students of historically underserved communities disproportionately experience this phenomenon. That is “[w]omen suffer from the imposter syndrome more commonly than do men, first-generation college students experience it more often than do multigeneration college students” etc.  Professor can help by discussing this, and other common challenges, openly in their classrooms and student conferences.

These and many other concrete suggestions for building these bridges of success for historically underserved students are addressed in this article.

August 27, 2021 in Education, Gender, Law schools, LGBT, Race, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 19, 2021

The Male Measure of Gender Diversity in Big Law Firms

Alissa Rubin Gomez, Mismeasure of Success, 94 St. John's L. Rev. (2021)  

Using feminist standpoint theory, this essay explores the idea that solutions proposed by big law firms to retain women miss the mark because they are still framed from the viewpoint of a white man. This is not because the white male perspective is bad; it is simply not the lived experience of the women for whom the proposed solutions are intended. Reframing the measure of success using a feminist standpoint would have us reconsider whether the primary reason women leave big law firms is actually a “problem.” Instead, having multiple demands on one’s time outside work might be viewed as both normal and an indication of well-roundedness. Building workplace cultures using personal fulfillment as a baseline has the potential to make for happier workers who stay in their jobs longer, and in the time of COVID-19, we may just be at an inflexion point that makes such a culture shift possible.

August 19, 2021 in Theory, Women lawyers, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 13, 2021

Perceiving and Eliminating Discrimination in the Legal Workplace

Robert L. Nelson, Ioana Sendroiu, Ronit Dinovitzer, and Meghan Dawe, Perceiving Discrimination: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation in the Legal Workplace, Law and Social Inquiry, Volume 44, Issue 4 (2019).

In this article, the authors discuss workplace inequities based on race, gender, and sexual orientation.  To do so, they combine quantitative and qualitative data to go beyond “analyzing unequal outcomes” and delve further into “the mechanisms that produce and maintain workplace hierarchies of race, gender, and sexual orientation.”  The qualitative component uses perception as a measure, that is, the authors “examine[d] whether lawyers perceive that they have been the target of workplace discrimination.”  

Although some might be hesitant to consider perceptions as a reliable measure, consider that “[p]erceptions of discrimination by marginalized groups are significant in their own right as a matter of workplace equality, but will also likely affect their health and well-being, their job satisfaction, and their willingness to continue working for a given employer.” Additionally, these perceptions, with a few exceptions examined by the authors, tend to be supported by the quantitative data regarding measurable inequitable outcomes on the basis of race, gender, and sexual orientation. 

This qualitative data is also important in determining “how inequality is created and maintained, rather than merely its extent.” By analyzing this data, the authors necessarily highlight areas and circumstances of perceived discrimination from which employers in the legal profession can derive solutions for combatting such inequities, or perception of inequities.  Examples could include instituting efforts or programs that foster community and belonging; formalized personnel structures and policies that produce consistency and transparency in employment law processes like hiring, promotion, and complaint procedures; and generally having sound hiring practices that lead to increased diversity in the workplace, which will in turn lend itself to greater emotional and informational support to members of traditionally underincluded groups.

The inequities and perceived inequities that this article illustrates poses a challenge to us all as legal professionals to understand the scope of the problem and implement strategies to remove these barriers. Indeed, as the authors point out, “[t]o the extent that lawyers of different races, genders, and sexual orientations are exposed to discrimination that limits their career development, it will erode the capacity of the legal profession to provide equal representation to all groups in society. . . . The fate of equal justice may be tied to the fate of equal opportunity in lawyer careers.”

August 13, 2021 in Equal Employment, Gender, LGBT, Race, Women lawyers, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Introducing New Editor at Gender and the Law Prof Blog, Dean Brenda Bauges

We welcome Dean Brenda Bauges to our Editor Team here at the Gender & the Law Prof Blog.

Brenda Bauges, Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Inclusion, University of Idaho

Brenda Bauges

Brenda Bauges graduated summa cum laude from both College of Idaho and University of Idaho College of Law. Professor Bauges began her career as a law clerk for the Honorable Karen Lansing of the Idaho Court of Appeals. She then joined Holland and Hart, LLP as a general litigation associate before spending six years in public service as a Deputy Attorney General and a Boise City Assistant Attorney. Professor Bauges spent a short time at a small law firm specializing in employment law before joining Concordia University School of Law as an assistant professor and Director of Externships and Pro Bono Programs, where she worked for two years. Professor Bauges has served on the governing boards of the Idaho Legal History Society, Idaho Women Lawyers, Attorneys for Civic Education, the Fourth District Pro Bono Committee, and St. Mark’s Home and School Association.  In 2016, she earned distinction with the Idaho Business Review’s “Accomplished Under 40” award.  She and her family are avid whitewater rafters and spend most of their summers enjoying Idaho’s wild and scenic rivers.

August 10, 2021 in Business, Law schools, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Meet the New Gender and the Law Prof Blog Editor Amanda Fisher

We welcome to the Gender & the Law Prof Blog editorial team Amanda Fisher.  Amanda has done some blogging for Above the Law, and we are excited to have her join the Gender Blog team.

Amanda M. Fisher

Amanda M. Fisher is an Associate Attorney at Richardson, Ober, DeNichilo and a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of California, Irvine in Criminology, Law & Society. She is researching gendered stigma in the legal profession and identity. Amanda is also a Visiting Assistant Professor at Western Michigan-Cooley Law School in Tampa, Florida. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her via email at fishera@cooley.edu.

August 4, 2021 in Business, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

New lawyer demographics show modest growth in minority attorneys

New lawyer demographics show modest growth in minority attorneys

 

There are now more than 1.3 million attorneys in the country, though that figure dipped slightly in the past year—a decline the ABA attributed to Vermont starting to count only lawyers who reside in the state and not those who practice there. The ABA on Thursday released its annual Profile of the Legal Profession, with updated data on lawyer demographics broken down by gender, race, geography and age. While the ABA issues new figures each year, it compares that data to the previous decade to highlight trends and changes over time.

The percentage of women attorneys increased to 37% from 33% in 2011, according to the report, and racial diversity in the profession has also made slow but steady progress. Lawyers of color made up 11.2% of all attorneys in 2011, and now comprise 14.6%. But those gains were not seen across all minority groups.

The percentage of Black attorneys decreased slightly from 4.8% in 2011 to 4.7% this year—far lower than the more than 13% of Americans who are Black. The percentage of Native Americans also declined, from 1% in 2011 to less than half a percent this year. 

August 3, 2021 in Gender, Race, Women lawyers, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 2, 2021

Meet New Gender and the Law Prof Blog Editor Professor Jamie Abrams

Today Professor Jamie Abrams joins the Gender and Law Prof Blog team of editors.  Professor Abrams has been a guest blogger in the past here at the blog, and we welcome her as a regular editor.  Meet the rest of the new editors later this week

 

Professor Jamie Abrams, University of Louisville School of Law

Jamie R. Abrams

 

Jamie R. Abrams teaches Torts, Family Law, Legislation, and Women and the Law. Her research focuses on reproductive and birthing decision-making, gendered violence, legal protections for immigrant victims of domestic violence, and legal education pedagogy. Her most recent publications include The Polarization of Reproductive Decision-Making and Parental Decision-Making forthcoming in the Florida State Law ReviewThe #MeToo Movement: A Feminist Invitation to Critique the Crisis Framing of Sexual Assault Responses published in the University of Richmond Law Review (2018), and Experiential Learning in the Era of Donald Trump published in the Duquesne Law Review (2017). A full collection of her publications is available below.

Professor Abrams was awarded the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law's Teacher of the Year Award in 2016 and the University of Louisville's Presidential Multicultural Teaching Award in 2014 for her demonstrated commitment to teaching, research, and service that integrate diverse perspectives. She also received the 2011 Innovations in Teaching Award from the American University Washington College of Law for her work spearheading an integrated curriculum skills simulation for 1Ls. She was also awarded the Mussey-Gillett Shining Star Award from the District of Columbia's Women's Bar Association for her work co-authoring reports on the status of women and women of color in the legal profession as part of the WBA's nationally recognized Initiative on Advancement and Retention of Women.

Professor Abrams previously taught at Hofstra University School of Law and American University Washington College of Law. She was a visiting faculty member during the 2017-2018 Academic Year at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C. where she taught Legal Practice: Writing and Analysis; Family Law II: Parent, Child, and State; and a Law Fellow Seminar. She has also been a visiting professor at the University of Turku in Finland teaching State Regulation of the Family and a visiting scholar at the University of Leeds researching the relationship between parental decision-making and reproductive decision-making.

In 2014, she co-founded the Brandeis Human Rights Advocacy Program, which works actively with other nonprofits and stakeholders in the community to advance the human rights of immigrants, refugees and noncitizens. She co-directed the program from 2014-2017. During her time with the program, it published a community resource guide, a comprehensive community needs assessment, and separate reports on educational access, language access, and media rhetoric studying how these topics impact the Kentucky immigrant/noncitizen/refugee immigrant community.

Before entering law teaching, she worked as a Litigation Associate at Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP where she specialized in complex civil litigation matters. She began her career at Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., specializing in white collar criminal defense and environmental law. She received her LL.M from Columbia University and her J.D. from the American University Washington College of Law, receiving the highest academic honors from both institutions. She received her B.A. from Indiana University–Bloomington.

 

August 2, 2021 in Guest Bloggers, Law schools, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The Importance of Equality on the Bench to the Legitimacy of the Courts

Judith Resnik, Representing What: Gender, Race, Class, and the Struggle for the Identity and Legitimacy of Courts 

This symposium addresses the relationship of diversity and pluralism to the judiciary. The phrase “Equal Treatment Under Law” was carved in the stone above the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court building, which opened in 1935. At the time, many schools were segregated by race, dozens of laws barred women from full participation in economic and political life, and discrimination based on gender identity was commonplace. The justices who sat on the Court and almost all the lawyers who argued before them were white.

Today, the Supreme Court’s stone inscription has become its motto. That phrase is read as if it always referenced an understanding of equality that has become central to the identity and the legitimacy of courts. Reducing the descriptive discrimination of prior eras, the judiciary now “looks” different than it did, and in that sense has come to be more “representative” by its partial reflection of the range of people appearing in courts.

Given judiciaries’ history of supporting legal discrimination, the sense that courts ought to belong to everyone is a major achievement. But to assess the impact of that shift requires analysis of three other major alterations in U.S. courts — the influx of a host of litigants newly entitled to pursue legal claims, the limited resources of many claimants, and the development of judiciaries’ institutional agenda, including supporting shifts away from public adjudication to more private forms of dispute resolution.

Research about diversification of judges has yet to look at the interaction among these changes. Much of the research has sought to tease out whether judges’ decisions in cases have changed in the wake of the entry of women judges. However, the “difference that difference makes” needs to be analyzed at institutional levels as well as by aggregating the decision-making of individuals. During the last century, judiciaries developed structural capacities to speak about the “administration of justice.” They gave meaning to this phrase through setting their own priorities, proposing new rules and legislation, developing education programs, and commissioning research and task forces on specific topics. Moreover, judiciaries honed their skills at lobbying for resources. As I detail, the entry of women and men of color into the legal profession affected these agendas. The affinity organizations they founded pressed courts to inquire into their own history and practices of bias and to respond through revising rules of ethics, doctrine, and practice.

Furthermore, a focus on a newly and partially diversified judiciary needs to be coupled with attending to other participants — disputants, lawyers, and the processes that courts use. That fuller picture makes plain that because so many people in courts have limited means, the aspiration that disputants have participatory participation remains illusive. The “justice gap” has become a shorthand for the point that courts and the social order in which they sit have yet to take steps sufficient to help under-resourced litigants.

Worse yet, in some jurisdictions, courts have served as “revenue centers,” using court-imposed fines and fees as sources of income. Failure to pay “legal financial obligations” can result in suspension of driver’s licenses, the loss of voting rights, and other sanctions, levied disproportionately on people who are poor and of color. Instead of being seen as fonts of fairness, courts are coming to be identified as sites of inequality.

In addition, many courts have embraced alternative forms of dispute resolution that make both processes and outcomes less visible to the public, which has a place as of right in courts. Through doctrine and rules, U.S. courts have shifted their own practices and mandated enforcement of clauses imposed on consumers and employers that push them out of court and out of class or joint actions.

In sum, the new faces on the bench ought not obscure that the project of representation, inclusion, and equality is far from complete. The vivid inequalities in courts are problems for courts because such disparities undermine their ability to be places of justice.

July 21, 2021 in Courts, Gender, Judges, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 14, 2021

"Unentitled," The Power of Titles and Designation in the Legal Academy

 Rachel Lopez, Unentitled: The Power of Designation in the Legal Academy, 73 Rutgers L. Rev. 101 (2021)  

Last December, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed that questioned whether Dr. Jill Biden should more appropriately be addressed as Madame First Lady, Mrs. Biden, Jill, or even kiddo, characterizing her desire to be called doctor “fraudulent” and a “touch comic.” Many were understandably outraged by the lack of respect afforded to Dr. Biden, which had a distinctly gendered dimension. More recently, after a controversial decision by the University of North Carolina’s board of trustees to deny her tenure, Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer Prize and MacArthur “genius grant” winner, was instead appointed as a “Professor of Practice” on a five year fixed term contract. These high-profile examples put in sharp focus what many women of color in the legal academy already know all too well: labels have an innate power to confer or diminish status. This Essay explores the role that titles play in the legal academy and, in particular, their often depreciative consequences for women of color. Drawing from my story, those relayed to me by others, and other empirical evidence, I will show how titles perpetuate stereotypes and entrench existing racial and gender hierarchies in the legal academy, although they appear race- and gender- neutral.

It is no secret that the legal academy is extraordinarily hierarchical, with women and people of color often populating the lower ranks of the totem pole. There is a stinging irony to this. As Ruth Gordon eloquently put it, “many of us spend our professional lives contesting hierarchy and exclusion—whether on the basis of race, gender, or class—but when it comes to academia—and I would suggest especially legal academia—we appear to have finally found a hierarchy we can believe in.” There is a problem of academic exceptionalism in the legal academy—hierarchy and exclusion are others’ problems, not our own.

Labels, in the form of titles, help cement these disparities, concretizing them into a caste system that justify unequal pay, less power in faculty governance, and, at times, abusive behavior. While doctrinal professors are “Professors of Law,” the academic archetype, the legal academy has developed a virtual cottage industry of other professional designations. These titles denote “the other teachers” in the legal academy: Clinical Professor, Professor of Practice, Teaching Professor, and Legal Writing Instructor, to name a few. The message is that “Professors of Law” are the ones who really teach the law, while those with the other titles teach something else less important.

If law schools truly aspire to be anti-racist institutions, as so many have pledged to be, we must acknowledge and hopefully someday soon address the racial and gendered (often intersectional) dynamics of titles in the legal academy.

June 14, 2021 in Education, Equal Employment, Law schools, Women lawyers, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Women Law Deans, Gender Sidelining, and Presumptions of Incompetence

Laura Padilla, Women Law Deans, Gender Sidelining, and Presumptions of Incompetence, 35 Berkeley J. Law & Gender 1 (2021)

In 2007, I wrote A Gendered Update on Women Law Deans: Who, Where, Why, and Why Not? which examined the number of women law deans, including women of color, their paths to deanships, and what the future might hold for decanal leadership from a gendered and racialized lens. A Gendered Update reported that in the 2005 2006 period, thirty one law deans at the 166 Association of American Law Schools (“AALS”) member schools were women (18.7%).  Only three of the thirty-one women law deans were women of color (1.8%).***

 

This Article starts with updated data on the number of women law deans, including women of color, and demonstrates increased numbers of both women and women of color in deanships. It then shifts to plausible explanations for this growth: some optimistic and some more skeptical. On the positive side, it is logical that new appointments reflect women’s increased representation in the broader legal population, which serves as the source of most new dean hires. In addition, there seems to be some recognition that women bring something new and different to leadership: a greater willingness to change, be flexible, and approach old problems in new ways. On the other hand, running a law school has become more challenging because of a decline in applications and credentials since 2011, which has translated into smaller classes and budgets, voluntary and involuntary layoffs, more work, and less pay.  It may be no coincidence that as the job became less desirable, women were appointed in greater numbers.

 

Next, this Article provides narrative descriptions of women’s experiences in leadership, including experiences unique to women of color, such as common stories of presumptions of incompetence, and gender sidelining. The stories are culled from surveys sent to all women law deans.  The survey responses reveal challenges in leadership roles, risks taken, and battles won and lost, and display increased obstacles for women of color.

 

The next Part of this Article develops ideas on how to continue increasing the number of women law deans and provide them support for success

June 8, 2021 in Education, Equal Employment, Law schools, Women lawyers, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 6, 2021

The Gender of Gideon and the Right to Counsel

Kathyrn Sabbeth & Jessica Steinberg, The Gender of Gideon, UCLA Law Review, Forthcoming

 

This Article makes a simple claim that has been overlooked for decades and yet has enormous theoretical and practical significance: the constitutional guarantee of counsel adopted by the Supreme Court in Gideon v. Wainwright accrues largely to the benefit of men. In this Article, we present original data analysis, which demonstrates that millions of women face compulsory and highly punitive encounters with the justice system but do so largely in the civil courts, where no right to counsel attaches. The demographic picture that emerges is one in which the right to counsel skews heavily against women’s interests. As this Article shows, the gendered allocation of the right to counsel has individual and systemic consequences that play an underappreciated role in perpetuating gender inequality.

We revisit well-known doctrine, and, in contrast to all prior literature, we place gender at the center of the Court’s jurisprudence on the right to counsel. Liberty principles have been paramount in the Court’s opinions, but the liberty interests of women have been devalued. In Lassiter v. Department of Social Services, the Court refused to recognize the termination of a Black mother’s relationship with her child as deserving the right to counsel. Prior scholars have shown that the Gideon Court aimed to protect Black men from abuses of state power, but protecting Black women from such abuse is nowhere in the Court’s jurisprudence.

Since Lassiter, the Court has refused to recognize a constitutional guarantee of representation for civil defendants with fundamental interests at stake, and the largest categories of these cases—family law, eviction, and debt collection—all disproportionately affect Black women. As we show, the gendered deprivation of a right to counsel relegates women to a secondary legal status and impinges on the functioning of American democracy. Drawing on the example of housing deprivation, a highly visible collateral effect of the pandemic, we illustrate how lawyerless defendants are now the norm in the civil justice system, with women most severely impacted by this crisis. First, their individual rights are routinely trampled. Powerful governmental and private adversaries of these women have captured the civil courts, with the result that judges regularly fail to enforce even well-established law. Second, without lawyers, appeals are scarce, and the law fails to evolve in areas of particular importance to women’s lives. Third, women’s ability to act in the world, protected by the rule of law, has been disproportionately compromised, resulting in women’s entrenched subordination. Finally, without lawyers to serve as watchdogs in the civil courts, constitutional doctrine has rendered women’s most important legal problems invisible. This has undermined opportunities to identify the system’s shortcomings and agitate for reform.

May 6, 2021 in Constitutional, Courts, Family, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Future Effect of Legal Technology on Women in the Practice of Law

Kayal Munisami, Legal Technology and the Future of Women in Law, 36 Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice 164, 2019

Much has been written about how automation will change the legal profession as a whole, less so about how automation might affect women in legal practice. This paper briefly maps the likely changes that legal tech (legal technology) will bring to the provision of legal services, and explores how these changes might affect the barriers to advancement that women face in the profession. It determines that, while the use of legal tech may improve women’s work/life balance and overall job satisfaction by bringing about more flexible working hours, positive changes to the billing hours’ system, and fairer hiring and promotion mechanisms, an unfettered inclusion of legal tech might lead to increased working hours for less wages, increased competition for case files among associates, and the perpetuation of existing gender biases when using algorithms in the hiring and promotion process. Finally, the paper makes several recommendations on how law societies, bar associations and other relevant regulatory bodies could ensure that legal tech promotes rather than hinders Equality & Diversity in the legal profession. It proposes that:

(1) detailed data on men and women lawyers should be collected to better inform equality and diversity policies;

(2) law firms should be required to report on their progress in pursuing equality and diversity;

(3) management techniques to promote work/life balance and more flexible pricing systems should be encouraged;

(4) female entrepreneurship in legal tech should be promoted; and,

(5) technological due process procedures should be required when using algorithms in law firm management to ensure fairness, accuracy and accountability.

February 24, 2021 in Technology, Women lawyers, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Findings of the ABA Women in Criminal Justice Task Force on Gender Equity in the Legal Profession

Maryam Ahranjani, "Toughen Up, Buttercup" versus #TimesUp: Initial Findings of the ABA Women in Criminal Justice Task Force, 25 Berkeley J. Crim. L. (2020)  

"Practicing criminal law as a woman is like playing tackle football in a dress.” Andrea George, Executive Director of the Federal Public Defender for Eastern Washington and Idaho, began her testimony to the American Bar Association’s Women in Criminal Justice Task Force with that powerful observation. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, the ABA has focused on ways to enhance gender equity in the profession and in the justice system. The Criminal Justice Section of the ABA has invested significant resources in the creation of the Women in Criminal Justice Task Force (WCJ TF), which launched its work in January 2019. Written by the WCJ TF Reporter, this Article describes the current status of women criminal lawyers by situating the Task Force’s research within the larger literature on gender equity in the legal profession and in criminal law in particular, sharing unique original qualitative data from the project’s listening sessions, and proposing solutions and next steps for supporting women who choose the important societal role of criminal attorney.

February 4, 2021 in Courts, Gender, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 1, 2021

Recovering the Aspiration of the Equal Rights Amendment to Overcome Gendered Disempowerment in the Work of Pauli Murray

Julie C. Suk, A Dangerous Imbalance: Pauli Murray's Equal Rights Amendment and the Path to Equal Power, 107 Virginia L. Rev. Online 3 (Jan. 30, 2021)

This Essay recovers the aspiration of the 1970s ERA to overcome gendered disempowerment, which was most acutely experienced by Black women. That aspiration did not become part of the “de facto” ERA through Fourteenth Amendment litigation. Whether the ERA would sufficiently respond to “intersectional” discrimination, as it later came to be known, became a point of contention in Illinois’s 2018 ratification debates. This Essay begins by highlighting the leading roles that African American women legislators have played in sponsoring and framing the 1972 ERA in the three states that have ratified it after the statutory deadline. It posits that this should matter to the ongoing debates about the legitimacy of these post- deadline ratifications.  These states ratified the ERA long after the deadline imposed by an overwhelmingly white male Congress, but they did so as soon as women—including women of color and LGBTQ women—accumulated the modicum of power necessary to insist on their constitutional inclusion. These legislators’ twenty-first century vision of the ERA resonates with Pauli Murray’s testimony in favor of the ERA in congressional hearings in the 1970s, which built on her work as a member of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, as a founder of the National Organization for Women in the 1960s, and as a board member of the ACLU.12 Murray built a strategy for women’s empowerment using the race equality victories under the Fourteenth Amendment as a template. Her writings laid the intellectual architecture for the gender equality victories won by Ruth Bader Ginsburg throughout the 1970s. Murray argued that African American women had the most to gain from an ERA,15 which could end their disempowerment, beyond merely winning litigated cases. The quest for empowerment, more so than doctrinal legal change, is driving the ERA’s twenty-first-century resurgence. Women seek empowerment not only to help themselves but also to help save democracy from dangerous abuses of power that threaten its legitimacy.

Part I begins in the present, highlighting the leadership and opposition by Black women in the state legislative debates leading to ERA ratification since 2017. Part II analyzes Pauli Murray’s 1970 written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, in which she articulated African American women’s stake in the ERA for a congressional audience. Part III situates Murray’s vision of the ERA in the context of her 1960s writings for the President’s Commission on the Status of Women and as a co- founder of the National Organization for Women. Coining the term “Jane Crow” to focus on discrimination faced by Black women, Murray’s initial ambivalence about the ERA centered her work on a litigation strategy based on the Fourteenth Amendment. But by the end of the decade, she persuaded ERA skeptics, including colleagues at the ACLU, where she served on the Board, to pivot and support the ERA. Part IV develops the implications of Murray’s analysis of equal rights as equal power for contemporary efforts to overcome women’s underrepresentation in positions of power.

February 1, 2021 in Constitutional, Legal History, Race, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Symposium: COVID Care Crisis and the Impact on Women in Legal Academia

Symposium, COVID Care Crisis, Jan. 14 & 15 (Zoom) (registration free)

In the months since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, women’s scholarly output and publications have dropped in various disciplines, while service and care responsibilities that fall disproportionately on junior or marginalized faculty and staff have likely increased. Compounding these pressures, Black faculty and faculty of color more generally have also been coping with the emotional effects of the police killings of George Floyd and others, at the same time that COVID-19’s health effects are concentrating along lines of race and inequality in these communities specifically. All of these factors threaten the output, visibility, status and participation of women and other primary caregiving faculty and staff in legal academia.

Left unaddressed, these disparities also have the potential to alter the landscape of legal academia and further marginalize women and the perspectives they bring to legal scholarship, education, and public dialogue. This symposium seeks to raise awareness of the current COVID care crisis and its impacts on academia, and to begin a dialogue on concrete and innovative responses to this crisis.

January 12, 2021 in Conferences, Equal Employment, Healthcare, Law schools, Women lawyers, Work/life | Permalink | Comments (0)