Turn and face the strange ch-ch-changes

As promised, a post about the dreadfully slow changes just on the horizon for lawyers seeking a reasonable balance between work and life.

As reported here, Reed-Smith, that monstrous BigLaw firm, launched a new initiative aimed at encouraging women's careers--just one day after sending Denise Howell of the Bag and Baggage blog, packing:
The series of workshops is a concept which was launched in the US and aimed at supporting women’s careers at the firm. The workshops, run in conjunction with non-profit diversity consultants Catalyst, provide a forum for female lawyers to discuss their careers.

UK partner Alison Dennis commented: “Central management wants this to happen and has provided a very big budget to make it happen.
She said the firm was committed to assisting working mothers progress up the career ladder, adding that she had worked part-time at the firm for five years and was made up to the partnership since she started working part-time.
Talk about fortuitous timing!

And, Reed-Smith isn't the first large firm to jump on the bandwagon. Others are doing it as well, since it appears that some large clients are now demanding diversity, not the least of which is that bohemith Wal-Mart:
Last year Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced that it would begin requiring law firms to demonstrate substantial commitments to diversity shortly before it fired a firm for having too few minorities in leadership positions. But the push for more diversity didn't start with Wal-Mart, says Janet Conley, managing editor of GCSouth magazine, an Atlanta-based trade publication for in-house counsel in the Southeast.

Conley credits Atlanta-based BellSouth Corp. for being among the first to demand accountability from law firms on diversity when BellSouth's former general counsel Charles Morgan came up with a 'Statement of Principle' for Fortune 500 and other large companies to sign.

More than 300 companies have since signed the statement, including local heavyweights like FedEx Corp., and Nashville-based Gaylord Entertainment Co.

"That essentially was saying the biggest companies in America wanted more diversity," Conley said. "They're looking closely now. They don't want to see window dressing -- they want to see minorities having more prominent roles on cases and within the leadership of their firms."
So, it would seem that the times they are a-changing. But, not quick enough for me.


Damn those stupid women who make the rest of us look bad!

Pamela Anderson. Need I say more?

Well, even though I don't have to, I will.

She's getting married to that weasly speciman of a man, Kid Rock, you know. And, as reported in this article about the nuptials, when asked how she was coping with her nerves before the big event, she replied "I have two words for you: champagne."

Damn you, Pamela Anderson, with your huge fake bazumbas, your bleached blond hair, your collagen lips, and your fake tan. Damn you for being dumber than rocks. And damn you for making men everywhere think that fake everything is beautiful. In more ways than one, you make the rest of us look bad.

(And, damn you for turning what was supposed to be a humorous post into a angry post. How the hell did that happen?)


Question answered

Here's a picture of attorney Rob Moodie, the cross-dressing-fighting the power-feminist New Zealand lawyer mentioned in my prior post. (Hat tip: Legal Reader).

It appears that Mr. Moodie is wearing men's shoes--black ones. Definitely a fashion no-no, wouldn't you say?


It's raining men!

Yet another man in our corner--a New Zealand lawyer-cross-dressing-fighting the good ol' boys network-feminist kind of man. My favorite kind of man! (Hat tip: Wandering Bell).

In this article, Rob Moodie proclaims that:
"I will now, as a lawyer, be wearing women's clothing," Moodie said. He said he wants the court to address him as "Ms. Alice" — and that his wife and three children support his protest.

His attire, he insisted, is to highlight the insensitive "old boys' network" of New Zealand's judiciary.

"My confidence in the male ethos is zilch. It's a culture of intimidation, authority, power and control," the high-profile lawyer said.
Amen to that sister--er--brother!

The outfit that he wore to court on the first day that he dressed as a woman was described in the article as follows:
Rob Moodie, 67, arrived at Wellington's High Court on Monday in a navy blue woman's suit complete with diamond brooch and lace-topped stockings over his hairy legs...
But, the important question is, of course, do you think that he wore navy or brown pumps with that suit? My bet's on navy...


A man in our corner.

Not surprisingly, some feel that the sciences are as biased as the legal field. And, Ben Barres, formerly Barbara Barres, is the first to agree with that assessment, as explained in this intriguing Newsweek article.

Ben, now a he, used to be a she, is a nueroscientist and tenured professor at Stanford.The scientist's physical transformation began at the age of 40, when Barres was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. When doctors recommended a mastectomy, Barres made a startling request: take the healthy one, too. With his cancer cured, Barres sought testosterone treatments to change his sex from female to male. He says he's lost the ability to cry (or at least cry a flood of tears), which he believes is purely biological. But the "psychic relief" of finally feeling comfortable in his own skin is huge: "I'm so much happier now."

Barres is speaking out because of his deep commitment to science and because he believes he and other senior faculty have a responsibility to help women rise through the ranks. Yes, there are clearly physical differences between the sexes, says Barres, but there's no evidence that those differences are relevant to academic achievement. At Barres's alma mater, half of the undergrad science majors are women, says MIT biology professor Nancy Hopkins, but women account for only 13 percent of the faculty. The disparity exists nationwide. "It's leakage along the pipeline all the way," says Stanford president John Hennessy. In his commentary, Barres says selection committees need to be diversified, women need help in balancing family with career (Barres wants to start a foundation to fund child care) and academic leadership needs to break the silence about sexism. (Emphasis added).
Aren't those italicised statistics interesting? They're so damn similar to the statistics being bantered about lately regarding the number of women law students vs. women partners in law firms. Coincidence or evidence of an inherent bias in our culture? Or perhaps a combination of factors. But, bias is absolutely an important factor in the mix, regardless of those (usually men, but not always) who purport to offer any number of "rational" explanations for the phenomenon.

One way or another, our culture and the various professions are going to have to find a way to address the failure to retain women in the upper ranks. Otherwise, there will ultimately be a shortage that will be impossible to fill.

And, changes are already on the horizon. As I'll discuss in a few days, some major clients are already beginning to demand diversity and some law firms are making half-hearted attempts to make the workplace more women and family friendly.

But, I doubt we'll see any major changes anytime soon. Unless of course someone wins a major discrimination lawsuit against BigLaw. It certainly changed the field of accounting. But, for some reason, I can't see that happening. But, you never know...


How to dress like a lawyer, part 2

Here's an article for those of you wondering how to dress for success (hat tip: Precedent: The New Rules of Law and Style). It's from our friends on the other side of the border (well, one of our borders) and is chock full of style tips for the clueless professional women:

Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Style File!
By La Fashionista

You’ll note this column is written under a pseudonym. There’s a reason for that: Y’all are spiteful little bitches and I just know that if you knew who I was, you would rip me to shreds.

But what do you know anyway? I saw you last week at a motion, and you were wearing a suit from Fairweather – you know, the kind where the lining doesn’t reach the bottom of the jacket but stops halfway up the back?

The Style File will monitor trends, provide the profession with much-needed fashion tips, and arm you with fashion-forward information like where to buy the best suits and what actually counts as business casual. In short, the Style File is going to save you from fashion failure.

Let’s start with that age-old dilemma for women lawyers: What hosiery and shoes should be worn with a navy or light-coloured suit? It’s a killer. I know women who simply refuse to buy a blue suit just to avoid this issue. The answer: No white pantyhose. Ever. Unless you are a nurse. And practising health law doesn’t count.

Navy suits require sheer, nude hose (not the shimmery kind please – who are you, Beyonce?) and dark brown shoes. Not navy blue “pumps.” Are there exceptions? No.

And while we’re on the subject, do not buy / wear / go anywhere near “pumps.” Or “slacks.” Or a “jumper.” But I digress. It’s not about the language, it’s about the shoe. You are not your mother or your grandmother or June Cleaver. Here is an easy rule for all of you. If you are under 50, do not buy a shoe with a heel that you could walk 5 miles in. That is a pump.

If you work at one of the mega-firms (aka seven sisters for seven brothers … whatever) find the secretary who has worked at the firm the longest. She works for some old guy who the firm hasn’t yet squeezed out — that guy who just shows up to avoid his wife and children. Find her. Look at her shoes. Don’t ever be caught dead in those shoes.

Now go out and practice what I have taught you. Don’t make me catch you in First Canadian wearing any of the shit discussed above or I’ll call you out.
I'm not so sure that I agree with all of the fashion "advice". What the hell is wrong with pumps? I prefer to be able to walk at the end of the day, thank you very much.

And how about the blue suit advice? Is she spot on or totally off base? I'm not so sure that there's a hard and fast rule in that regard. I agree that white hose are a no-no, but I've nver been a fan of totally nude hose. I think that they're tacky--not sure why--they just are. I prefer hose that are sheer, almost off white-ish tan. Not sure if you get the gist, but they go with everything--tan suits, black suits, navy, you name it. And, I've never been a fan of sheer black hose at the office.--seems too "evening wear" to me.

How about that ban on navy pumps? I'm not buying that one either. If you find the right pair, they look ok with a navy suit, although brown looks nice as well.

So, what do you do with navy blue suits? Any hard and fast rules that you go by? Speak to me!


The Challenge of the Work/Life/Family Balance

A prominent blogger, Denise Howell, of Bag and Baggage recently posted a thoughtful and detailed post about her departure from Big Law and her plans to find a better work/life/family balance. (Hat tip: Evan Shaeffer's Legal Underground). She explains that:
Instead of shoehorning my most important job — being a mom — into the discrete chunks of time can be wrested away from the demands of being even a part time lawyer at one of the world's biggest firms, my professional roadmap henceforth will involve only things that are washed through a stringent "how much do I really love that?" filter, and can be comfortably accomplished in the limited, catch-as-catch-can hunks of time that fall serendipitously out of the sky during the course of my other "duties."
She also discusses her belief that there is a trend toward parents, both men and women, wanting to be more involved in their children's lives:
Though Kristin seems to think there is a trend afoot away from active parenting, my own experiences and observations lead me to disagree; I think exactly the opposite is true. However, and certainly in the case of parents who seek to maintain their engagement and investment in careers that represent the sum total of the education and training that has occupied their adult lives, the danger of falling into the trap of relegating, delegating, and too often abdicating the parenting role is all too real. While I know countless lawyers who have done this, and I continue to see people do it, what I more commonly see and hear today (and what undeniably is true in my case) is that people — men and women — are no longer content to adopt such an approach and philosophy; they increasingly discern that the consequences are too dear and potentially too dire.
I'm in complete agreement with her on that point and have found that to be the case. I, and many other professionals that I know have struggled with these very issues on a daily basis since the birth of our children.

Denise has some interesting and thoughtful ideas regarding the issues of the retention of talented parents at Big Law. The latter half of her post discusses a number of proposals in that regard, including the creation of a new position in law firms, a Chief Work-Life Balance Officer, that would act as a liaison of sorts between those on a non-traditional course and the law firm.

She raises some good points and offers creative solutions to pressing issues facing law firms and other professions as many professionals entering the work force appear to be recognizing the importance of balancing work and family and actively seek out solutions that work for them.

I wish her luck as she seeks out balance in her life.


For your own safety, wear nice pants

In the U.K apparently that's a strategy recommended by police to women who go out boozing. Or so says this AP article:
Women going on boozy nights out have been warned by police to "wear nice pants" in case they fall down drunk in the street.

A Suffolk police safety campaign magazine shows pictures of young women slumped on the ground next to messages urging them: "If you've got it, don't flaunt it."

"If you fall over or pass out, remember your skirt or dress may ride up," the magazine says. "You could show off more than you intended -- for all our sakes, please make sure you're wearing nice pants and that you've recently had a wax."
I think that the waxing recommendation is my favorite part. Wouldn't want to offend any passersby now would we? So, dammit, you drunken hussies, wax up!

The article mentions that the safety campaign utilized a style that was "tongue-in-cheek", but this comment from the police chief at the end of the article made me question how tongue-in-cheek the recommendations really were:
"We need to raise their awareness of potential problems," said Chief Superintendent David McDonnell. "They become more vulnerable whilst under the influence of alcohol."
So, avoid short skirts, ladies and make sure that you're clean shaven. You wouldn't want to invite any trouble. It's for your own safety, dontcha know.


Welcome The Happy Feminist visitors and those visiting as a result of comments made at Prettier Than Napolean. Take a look around and please, please stop back again soon! And, feel free to leave comments--that's one of the best parts about this blog.

If you like what you see, subscribe to my blog via e-mail or otherwise at the top of the sidebar on the left.

I'll post again soon. Again, thanks for stopping by!


Where are the women?

Karen Asner, an adminstrative partner at a law firm, apparently has the answer to that question and to a lot of others in this article from law.com. In it she re-hashes a lot of what's already been said regarding the low retention rate of women lawyers in law firms--women hit the "mommy track" and that women are more dissatisfied with life in a law firm than men.

What's interesting about this article and Asner's take on this issue is that she makes a lot of assumptions in favor of the almighty law firm. This is apparent at the very beginning of the article when she states that law firms really, really, really and truly want to make women partners, but we just don't stick around long enough for them to do so:
Most law firms these days recognize the importance of recruiting and retaining top talent -- regardless of gender -- particularly in an increasingly competitive job market. Thus, the problem isn't that law firms aren't willing or eager to make their women lawyers partners -- it's that so many of the women leave before such promotions can even take place.
And then she states that aside from the Mommy factor, another reason that women leave law firms is that they're "dissatisfied":
A 2001 study of top law school graduates by think tank Catalyst revealed that while women clearly struggle with work-family obligations, the biggest reason women lawyers leave a firm is because they are dissatisfied with work itself or feel stalled in their careers.
She seems to assume that the dissatisfaction with the job is an entirely separate phenomenon from the "stalled" careers, and proceeds to discuss the reasons for the dissatisfaction. She seems to gloss over the possibility that women are not simply feeling as if they're "stalled" in their careers--they are stalled--and as a result, maybe, just maybe, they're dissatisfied with their career track and their careers in general.

Perhaps watching the male associates around them get promoted to partnership on the "good ol' boys" fast track is disheartening and draining. Perhaps working on the third rate cases while male associates are working on the "important" cases can lead to dissatisfaction.

Or, according to Asner, perhaps the blame for the crappy assignments lies with the women themselves, not the partners that assign the cases:
If they (women) are less likely to view themselves as top performers or take full credit for their work, they are less likely to be singled out for exciting, cutting-edge assignments. And it's the cutting-edge, high-profile work that gets the attention of firm management and leads to partnership promotions.
Well, isn't that an interesting perspective and, quite conveniently, a somewhat circular argument? We don't get the cutting-edge cases because we don't think we're any good, so we lose what (according to Asner) little confidence we had in ourselves, so we get even worse assignments, and so it goes--a self-fulfilling prophecy. What a tidy little explanation.

Although Asner gives a quick nod to the "complexity" of the issues behind the low retention rate of women associates in law firms, she oversimplifies the issues. And the "solution" that she offers in the article was a bunch of hot air.

But don't take my word for it. Give it a read and let me know what you think.



I've added Haloscan to my blog (twice now), and, as a result, all prior comments seem to have disappeared (including those from the past two days). I assure you that that wasn't my intent, and apologize to my regular readers and commenters for this. I'm trying to work out a bug with Haloscan and am now wondering if adding it was even worth it. But, what's done is done!

Please keep commenting--that's one of the best parts about this blog! Thanks for your patience.

The hullabaloo over the lack of female supreme court clerks

Well, Amber over at Prettier Than Napolean has certainly created quite a stir with this post (which was in response to this post at Feminist Law Professors): Why so few female Supreme Court clerks? A number of prestigious bloggers have referenced and/or responded to her post, including Prawfsblog, The Volokh Conspiracy (here as well), Ann Althouse, Crime and Federalism, and Point of Law.

I certainly don't have the answer to her question. But I am amazed by some of the hypotheses posited by both the bloggers and the commenters. Eugene Volokh suggested that the following was one factor that might explain the disparity:
Differences in innate ambition? Social pressures that lead men to be more ambitious than women (for instance, because less ambitious men face more condemnation from parents, peers, or prospective girlfriends than do less ambitious women, or because more ambitious women face more such condemnation than more ambitious men)?
The assumption being that men are innately more ambitious than women. Really? In other words, women are essentially lazy as a result of their biology. Now, that's a loaded statement! The latter half of the quote isn't much better. I have a hard time accepting the idea that men as a whole face more pressures to succeed than women. I think that that particular generalization ignores the many factors faced by each person as an individual person, as opposed to as a man or woman.

And, this post seemed to encourage a veritable assortment of men who were ultra-conservative and/or sexist and/or couldn't get laid to crawl out of the woodwork and offer gratuitous comments regarding the innately deficient characteristics of women. Here are a few of my favorite gems:
But why there are few women clerks is truly mysterious, since the major qualification is ability to kiss up. My female law school colleagues had no problem bedding down the professors, so why can't they get clerkships?***

Two reasons for the male disproportion at the top of the class are the greater male variability in intellectual performance that Eugene mentioned (more at the very top and more at the very bottom) and a greater aversion to competitive environments among women. (Lani Guinier wrote about this). ***

I have 2 kids and am about to start my final semester. (Finishing up in 2 1/2 years). I could easily go clerk for a judge. My wife (if she was a lawyer, thank God she isn't) could and would never even think about it.***

I have the suspicion that, if law school exams were as objective as those in the sciences, women would likely make up around 5% of practicing lawyers, just as they make up less than 5% of practicing hard scientists in the USA, Britain and Germany. ***

Alternatively, she can coast through law school, planning her wedding on theknot.com instead of taking notes in class (I saw a shocking number of women doing this), and still get a job at a top firm earning $135K right out of the box.***
Wow. So, what I've learned from all of this is that women are actually favored by the current system, sleep their way to the top, spend all of their class time dreaming about their weddings and still manage to do well (presumably because we're nailing the professors) and are innately dumber than men. That certainly explains a lot, not the least of which is why we're under- represented as Supreme Court law clerks.

And, the fact that we're not too bright certainly explains why I wasn't able to follow all the big words and complex ideas posited by the pompous asses quoted above. It's my damn double X chromosomes. All those girlie hormones are fogging up my synapses. Good to know.


Get your mentors where you can

This article from NYLawyer reiterates a a theme from the article discussed in the prior post and stresses the importance of mentors for young women lawyers. Here's the article in its entirety, if you don't happen to have a subscription (my commentary follows the article):

The Gender Gap: Don't Climb The Ladder Alone

New York Lawyer
June 30, 2006
Reprints & Permissions

By Melissa McClenaghan Martin
New York Law Journal

All attorneys, and especially women, need to seek out mentors. "You can't just sit back," says Ida Abbott, diversity consultant and author of "The Lawyer's Guide to Mentoring." "You must proactively get what you need to develop and succeed in your career."

Good mentors can offer feedback on skills, introductions to important clients and networks, and access to the unwritten criteria for success within the organization. They can also advise junior attorneys on their long-term professional development and career goals.

For those who want to make partner, a good mentor will "be your champion and facilitate partnership," said Jane DiRenzo Pigott, a diversity consultant and former partner at Winston & Strawn. "That doesn't often happen for women in law firms."

With women representing only 17 percent of law firm partners but 44 percent of associates, there are simply not enough female mentors available to mentor junior women. Unfortunately, senior men are often reluctant to fill this gap, according to the Minority Corporate Counsel Association study "Mentoring Across Differences," because they fear the relationship will be misperceived as inappropriate or believe it is "too hard and uncomfortable" to mentor women.

With a limited number of potential mentors, how can women create and maintain the mentoring relationships they need to develop and succeed?

"Some women think that, as long as they do excellent work, they will succeed," said Ms. Abbott, who is also a co-author of "Mentoring Across Differences." But they also must proactively seek out mentors.

When women do seek out mentors, they may limit their search to senior women who are "leading the perfect life, that is, the life a younger woman wants," noted Ms. Abbott. But the search for a perfect role model means that women will miss out on significant benefits that other senior attorneys, including men, could offer.

A mentor can serve as a role model, teacher or advisor, but, perhaps most importantly, a mentor can be a power broker within the organization and profession, sharing wisdom and connections with a junior attorney. Because most power brokers are men, "women who are in an effective mentoring relationship with a powerful male mentor have a much higher likelihood of success," concludes Ms. Pigott.

Regardless of what role a mentor fills, "you can't work with only one person and think that's enough," said Susan Kohlmann, a Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman partner and former managing partner of the firm's New York office. "In most firms, that's not a recipe for success." Rather, junior attorneys need to assemble a network of mentors, taking advantage of formal programs and developing relationships informally.

While an associate, Ms. Kohlmann created such a network. She had female partner mentors who gave her advice, including about how they balanced career and motherhood. Her male mentors were particularly helpful when she was up for partner and guided her through the process. She considers this combined mentorship instrumental to her success.

After mentoring relationships are found, sustaining them is often the hardest part.

Diana Sen, a sixth-year associate at Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson, and Janice Mac Avoy, a partner and former hiring partner of the firm, developed an informal mentoring relationship while working together. But translating their initial connection into a sustained relationship required continued interaction, which Ms. Sen ensures by volunteering for pro bono cases with Ms. Mac Avoy.

And, when the two won an important case, Ms. Sen suggested they go out for drinks, creating another opportunity for quality time with her mentor.

Many junior attorneys don't realize they must continually develop their mentoring relationships, Ms. Mac Avoy said. "You need to check in before there's a problem." She suggests that mentees routinely "do a drive-by," stopping by a mentor's office.

"Touch base with your mentor in the same way you would with a client," she added.

Pillsbury's Ms. Kohlmann agreed.

"Don't send an e-mail," she said. "In-person contact is critical."

Women may be more likely than men to neglect this important step. Ms. Pigott recently asked the summer associates at a major law firm whether any had stopped by the office of an attorney they didn't know. The only ones who had were men.

"Men are very deliberate about networking," she explained, "so women must be equally deliberate about it."

Some women wonder how to connect and maintain contact with a male mentor.

"I don't follow the Yankees, I don't play golf, so there just aren't as many ways to connect with a male mentor and establish that rapport," said an eighth-year female associate who has worked at two New York City firms.

But finding and maintaining a relationship with a male mentor may present another unique problem, the fear the relationship will be misperceived. While senior men and their male mentees go out for drinks, fear of misperception may prevent women from having the same bonding opportunities with male mentors.

Women don't have to miss out on these opportunities.

"I think that's an easy excuse," said Pillsbury's Ms. Kohlmann. "It's the reality of the workplace that people have to maneuver those relationships."

Ms. Pigott suggested women talk to their male mentor about "the logistics of the relationship, allowing him the opportunity to say, I prefer to meet in my office or over lunch, rather than drinks."

This sort of formality can help any mentoring relationship. Although it is easy to "focus more on the friendship, rather than the utility of a mentoring relationship," said Ms. Abbott, women should be careful not to miss opportunities for professional development.

"Women tend to be very good at building personal relationships, but sometimes it is difficult for them to turn a social relationship into a professional one where they ask a senior attorney for help," she said.

In an informal mentoring relationship, the mentee should "label the relationship," suggested Michele Coleman Mayes, senior vice president and general counsel of Pitney Bowes. "Tell your mentor why you sought them out. Once they realize you have a purpose and it's not just an informal let's-have-coffee meeting, they'll feel responsible and will likely be more rigorous about the relationship."

Women should also be clear on what they want from a mentoring relationship and share their goals with their mentor. These goals should be reassessed periodically, and women should consider whether the mentoring relationship needs to change in terms of substance or logistics.

Throughout their career, women must be both strategic and proactive in creating and maintaining the mentoring relationships they need to achieve their career goals.

"They need to reach out to the mentoring opportunities that are there and be comfortable using them," Ms. Abbott advised, even if doing so requires women to go outside their comfort zone.

Melissa McClenaghan Martin, a non-practicing attorney, writes about the retention and advancement of women in law and other professions.


My mentor at my prior firm was a man. I actually had two partners that acted as mentors of a sort, although I considered one of them to be my "primary" mentor. A modified version of that man is mentioned in this prior post.

Of course, contrary to what was described in the aritcle, I found it fairly easy to maintain contact with my mentors, since the firm wasn't huge, and I did a lot of work for the two of them. That being said, it wasn't always a relationship that felt "natural." These sections of the article above struck me as very applicable to my relationships with my mentors:
"I don't follow the Yankees, I don't play golf, so there just aren't as many ways to connect with a male mentor and establish that rapport," said an eighth-year female associate who has worked at two New York City firms.

But finding and maintaining a relationship with a male mentor may present another unique problem, the fear the relationship will be misperceived. While senior men and their male mentees go out for drinks, fear of misperception may prevent women from having the same bonding opportunities with male mentors.
That male/female thing (ie.--the unspoken possibility that we could have sex if we wanted to, or that others might think that we were in fact doing it) always seemed to sneak in. We rarely, if ever had closed door discussions, even though the male associates did it all the time. Drinks with just one of my mentors was out of the question. It just wasn't an option. And, I rarely had discussions with them that weren't business-related, although one of the partners was a bit more chatty than the other, and we occasionally did discuss issues that weren't work-related.

I think that the advice in the article, to have a candid conversation with your male mentor about the logistics of the relationship, is unrealistic, to say the least. That single conversation would have put a damper on the relationship in no time--no doubt about it.

I always found that no matter what I did--no matter how I acted--the gender issue was always there. I caught each of my mentors checking me out as I exited their offices on more than one occasion. And, one of them was clearly a boob man, while the other a leg man. In my case, the leg man had better eye candy available than the boob man, but I digress.

Another strange thing that occurred because of my gender was that I experienced outright catty, jealous behavior from the wives of a few partners on a number of occasions. I found it to be more than a bit humorous, since I had no intention of getting it on with men as old as my dad, especially since I was (and am) happily married to an intelligent, handsome, funny guy my own age, thank you very much.

I do wish that there had been more women partners at my old firm. That certainly would have made it easier for me when it came to finding a mentor. But, that wasn't an option, so I made do with what was available to me. And, it wasn't all that bad, all things considered. And, to this day, my ex-mentors continue to serve as references for me, so I guess all wasn't lost when I threw in the towel and bolted, now, was it?

So, in closing, I definitely agree with this advice at the end of the article:
"They need to reach out to the mentoring opportunities that are there and be comfortable using them," Ms. Abbott advised, even if doing so requires women to go outside their comfort zone.
I suggest that you take it to heart and find a mentor, regardless of their sex. A male mentor is better than no mentor at all.


Is the workplace structured around the idea of one parent working, with one at home?

That is an underlying premise in Lauren Stiller Rikleen's new book Ending the Gauntlet: Removing Barriers to Women's Success in the Law. From this article, you learn that Ms. Rikleen is a senior partner at Bowditch & Dewey in Framingham, Massachusetts, that she is married to another attorney, and they have two teenage kids. In the article, she states "that the workplace is essentially structured around the idea of one parent working and the other at home raising children. So the challenges that two-career families face are very significant because the workplace isn’t attuned to addressing their issues."

Ms. Rikleen notes the low attrition rate among women in law firms and asserts that one of the best ways to change that is to offer "more flexibility in...schedules - either part-time, telecommuting or a combination of both."

In her book, she focuses on three factors that she believes prevent women from succeeding in law firms:
She cites a number of structural issues inherent in today’s law firms (and, by extension, other professions as well) that pose impediments to women’s success. Among them are the way work is assigned, mentoring, and the question of working part-time.
She's hit the nail on the head, as far as I'm concerned, but the ideas are nothing new. Many others have cited the same factors as being largely responsible for the lack of women at the top of the field. It's harder for women to "fit in" to the workplace--especially at law firms--before they even have kids. It's an old boys network and if you're not a boy, then forget about it.

As an entry level attorney, the playing field is fairly level, but once your success becomes dependent on bringing in the clients (and money), the once-level field is anything but flat--it becomes an insurmountable mountain.

Men can't behave the way that they'd like to when women are around. We cramp their style. So, either you insist on barging your way in to every gathering, despite the uncomfortable, and obvious efforts, by your male colleagues to "hold back" and refrain from the sexual comments, innuendos, swearing, etc., or you attend a few on occasion so as to get in some face time, but bow out gracefully after an hour, to the obvious relief of the men.

As a result, we end up missing out on the all-too-important networking opportunities after hours at the bar, at the country club, on the golf course, and in the strip clubs (yep, they network there, too). And, we fail to make the all-important connections upon which a client base is built.

And, that's all before you have kids. Once you have kids, the uphill battle becomes an all out war--one that has to be waged on limited ammunition, resources, and energy. The thought of waving that little white flag in surrender becomes all the more appealing as your career plummets into crappy-assignment oblivion.

Rikleen posits that a flex-time or part-time schedule is the solution, and she may very well be right. But she also recognizes that it's only a solution if attitudes change, as well:
And finally, on the all-important issue of part-time work, Rikleen said that women on reduced work schedules are treated as "less committed to their careers, and the ramifications are that they are just not given the same opportunities that their full-time colleagues are."
So, the task is to change that perception. But, that's the hard part, isn't it? I think it's happening, though, slowly but surely. But, it's happening. Because both women and men are seeking a better life balance. Because some of the men of our generation grew up beleiving in equality. Because law firms are starting to have very expensive attrition problems.

The good news is it's happening. The bad news is, it's a painfully slow process. I may have missed the boat. Maybe my kids will get to ride a better boat. I'll get back to you on that.


"The emancipation of swimwear has always been linked to the emancipation of women"

My immediate reaction to the quote in the title of this post was "Really?" The quote is from this article , aptly entitled "Bikinis still abreast of fashion 60 years on" (do you think the title was a play on words, or were they really serious?), which chronicles the history of the bikini in celebration of the 60 year anniversary of the skimpy outfit. The article also includes these quotes:
"The bikini is a snapshot of fashion in the second half of the 20th century,
at once scandalous and forcing women to become ever thinner," said Saillard.
"The bikini transforms women into an object of seduction and desire, such as garage pin-ups. But on the other hand it shows that women are becoming increasingly independent and masters of their own bodies.
"In fact the biggest gesture by women to prove their independence is when in the 1970s they throw away their bikini tops."
Is the bikini really a symbol of womens' lib.? Should it be? What kind of message does that send--that the objectification of women actually served to "liberate" us? That the fact that women are bulimic and anorexic is a good thing, occurring in part because of mens' adoration of our bodies in this ridiculously teeny weeny outfit?

Of course women are welcome to wear whatever they'd like, whenever they'd like. I've got nothing against the bikini and personally prefer them over one pieces. But the bikini as a symbol of feminism? I'm not buying it.


Should you dress "like your mother-in-law is coming to dinner"?

How should professional women dress in the workplace? What about lawyers, specifically? Should we dress differently if we're going to court vs. working in the office all day?

Interesting questions, I think. This Chicago tribune article explores these issues and begins with the following analogies:
The female members of the self-proclaimed "hot, young cast" of "Conviction," a courtroom drama that recently wrapped up its inaugural season on NBC, sometimes wear skirts as tight as sausage casings and a plunging whisper of chiffon under their suit jackets.
But Assistant District Atty. Leslie Hansen of Colorado is a longtime member of the bar who views the court as a place of reverence. Drawing attention to yourself by dressing provocatively, she says, not only is tacky but also demeans the entire legal process.

And Coroner Jo-anne Richardsonof Frisco, Colo.,says skirts would-n't be practical for someone crawling around the underbelly of a mountain car crash.

And "sexy" won't do. Wearing leather and a cleavage-enhancing top on the job is as plausible as a 10-minute toxicology test. It might happen on "CSI," but not in her office.

These professional women follow the advice of experts who say that if you want people -- of both genders -- to focus on your brains, then you can't dress for distraction.
Personally, I prefer pantsuits simply because they're more comfortable and I absolutely despise nylons--especially in the summer. But, skirt suits do look sharp and I always wear them when I'm on trial. Appearances are everything in front of a jury, and juries tend to be conservative and prefer women to "play the part." I also have a tendency to wear skirt suits if I know I'll be going to court on a given day.

And, in my opinion, as a general matter, suits or very well put together separates are a must for women lawyers, unless your office allows everyone to dress "business casual." I wish the legal field wasn't so conservative, though. Especially when it comes to hair styles. It's hard to find the right balance between a hair style that's not too severe from 9-5, and that can really loosen up after hours.

I think that the following observation from the article is absolutely true:
Initially, there might be benefits to dressing like a sex kitten, but there are hidden costs. "For young women starting out, it's a real temptation [to be sexy]. You get more attention; you might even get hired; but it will only take you so far. Eventually, it undermines perceptions of your competence."
Many young women don't realize that until it's too late. And, a lot of them come to work dressed like it's girl's night out at the local dive. Eventually that's going to backfire.

I was thrown off by this tidbit from the article regarding inappropriate attire:
"A beautiful woman came into our office in a beautiful suit. She looked great. But she wasn't wearing a shirt underneath her suit jacket. [Before long] everyone in the office knew she wasn't wearing a shirt," says Drum, who promptly pulled the woman aside.
Didn't the employees have any work to do at that particular office, or did they all just stand around the water cooler and gossip about the newcomer? And, wasn't there anything else going on at their office that waws juicier than that to gossip about? Apparently not.

As for the issue of whether one should wear a shirt under a suit--it depends. I have quite a few suit jackets that have 4-5 buttons and I rarely wear a shirt that can be seen, if I do wear one, since the "V" ends high enough and the suits are well-fitted. There's nothing revealing about 'em.

What is inappropriate, per se? Ally McBeal skirts are too short no matter what, in my humble opinion. Lace camisoles are also a definite no-no, as is any form of visible lace. And, no, f*** me pumps are not acceptable. Keep it reasonable ladies, unless your office has a stripper's pole installed in it.

Another pet peeve of mine is suits that fit too snugly--so much so that you can almost hear the threads straining at the seams. It seems as if women who are a bit on the chunky side tend to favor snug suits, and I'll never understand why. My guess is that they think it's slimming, when it's really just the opposite. One woman I used to work with consistently reminded me of Miss Piggy. And, I know she thought she was "all that", even though she ended up looking "all fat."

But, enough about my pet peeves. What about yours? What is appropriate for professional women to wear? How about lawyers? What absolutely, positively should never be worn in the office?

And, guys--what do you think? Does sexy clothing on a woman colleague affect your ability to take her seriously? Does it even matter? Are we over-thinking this issue? I highly doubt it.


And, she's "easy on the eyes"...

The blog post that helped to push this blog in its new direction is this one--specifically the subsequent comments. (Thanks to Feminist Law Professors for the tip).

In it, the PrawfsBlawg welcomes the addition of a female law professor as a permanent blogger and the third comment (from someone purporting to be male) regarding that post is: "New permaprof is easy on the eyes as well."

To which Professor Ann Bartow of Feminist Law Professors replied: "I was going to wish you good luck even before reading that bit of assholishness. Now I wish you good luck more emphatically still."

At that point, the proverbial shit hit the fan. Some, all of whom were men, aside from a lone female who seemed to take the opportunity to solicit comments regarding her own appearance (and many men quite happily jumped at the opportunity), alleged that Ann Bartow was a "zero tolerance" feminist and that she overreacted. Others supported her comment and its basic premise--that the initial comment was uncalled for and unnecessary--and sexist.

And, someone else suggested that if you post a picture online, then comments on your looks are fair game.

The obvious questions that came to mind as I read the post and its comments:
  1. Was the initial comment improper, and if so, why? Was it harmless? Was it sexist?
  2. Was Ann Bartow's response over the top?
  3. Does a professor who posts his/her photograph online as part of one's online profile (as seems to be the custom for most professors) invite comments regarding his/her looks, no matter what the context?
As for the first question, I thought that the initial comment was totally improper, uncalled for, and irrelevant. It was inherently sexist and served to highlight one fact and one fact only--that Professor Orly Lobel, accomplishments and credentials aside,had a vagina, and that he, the male commenter, could conceivably (and apparently quite willingly) have sex with her. He may have just as well said "Who cares about her mind? It's her reproductive organs I'm interested in." And, no, it was not harmless. It demeaned and denigrated her. And, yeah--I think it was sexist.

As for the second inquiry, I think that Ann Bartow's reply was perhaps a bit harsh, but appropriate. Could she have been more judicious? Maybe. Should she have been? That's debatable.

As for the third question, I don't think that comments upon one's looks are "invited"by posting a picture of oneself--especially not when it's posted in a professional context. Belle Lettre has an interesting take on this issue, which was posted both at her own blog, Law and Letters, and at the Feminist Law Professors blog.

Of course, my take on this is not the end all and be all. What do you think?

New focus

I've decided on a new focus for this blog--women's issues--specifically professional women's issues. I'm not sure if it's a "feminist" blog, per se. But it will consist of thoughtful (I hope) commentary on issues issues that I believe will and/or do affect professional women. I'll highlight news articles, books (such as Linda Hirshman's recent and controversial book), and posts from other blogs. I'll post about 3 times per week, if all goes well.

So, expect to see a bit more of me, faithful regular readers. And, if you like what you see, tell all of your friends ( Happy Feminist, for example--I follow your blog, and although we may not always agree, I always find your ideas to be interesting).

So, check back in a few days, or even sooner. Looking forward to many interesting and spirited discussions!