Getting back on the track...

Carolyn Elefant at Inside Opinions posted about a really interesting law.com come article that discussed the legal field's very recent attempt to make the return to law easier for women who chose to "opt out" for a few years. From the article:
Traditionally, it's been an arduous journey for attorneys who have stepped off the treadmill to get back on. "It's not impossible, but it can be very difficult for people who haven't kept their hand in, in some way," says Marcia Shannon, a career-transition counselor with Shannon & Manch, a Washington, D.C.-based legal-outplacement and legal-management consulting firm.

But the market may be lending a hand. With attrition rates for associates as high as ever, some lawyers are looking for ways to reach out to nontraditional pools of talent.

Both the American Bar Association and the University of California's Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco are launching initiatives aimed at helping attorneys who have stopped practicing maintain their connections and ease their transition back into the profession. Two attorneys from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom started the ABA project, Back to Business Law, in New York this past spring. The goal of the pilot project is to give nonpracticing attorneys a way to keep abreast of major legal developments and to give them opportunities for informal networking. The program will soon expand to Washington, D.C. Ann Ford, the managing partner of DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary's D.C. office, was so taken with the project when she read about it in May that she decided to organize a D.C. chapter.
Now that's what I'm talking about. It's nice to see that law firms are slowly but surely beginning to realize that in about 10 years or less, they're going to be shit out of luck unless they begin to get creative. Sooner, rather than later, I predict that they're not going to be able to fill the ranks with the newly graduated Gen Y-ers who seem to want more out of life than just cash--and lots of it. As I've said in the past, once the men begin to actively seek balance, then things will start look up for the other half of the human race.

Another interesting point from the article is one that I've also mentioned a few times in the past--the accounting field is an indication of what's on the horizon for law firms, and they're light years ahead of us:

Perhaps law firms should take a cue from the accounting industry.

"Law firms are using a flawed accounting system," says Williams, who, through her work for the Center for WorkLife Law and as co-director of the center's Project for Attorney Retention, has been trying to convince law firms that there are sound business reasons for them to embrace more flexibility in the workplace.

The accounting industry has come up with innovative programs to stem the tide of attrition it has been facing, Williams says. For example, one Deloitte & Touche initiative allows its employees to leave the company for up to five years while staying connected to the company and keeping their skills current through firm-sponsored training, mentoring, networking events and ad hoc assignments.

Other accounting firms have followed suit and adopted forward-thinking family-friendly policies. "The reason is that they do the numbers," Williams says. "They know how much it is costing them to churn and burn." They have realized that it is economically in their interest to retain and re-recruit the employees they have already trained, she adds. The Project for Attorney Retention estimates that the cost of replacing a second-year associate, for example, runs about $200,000.

"Law firms are driving up expenses by driving out valuable workers one after another," Williams says.
I can assure you that one thing law firm partners understand is cold.hard.cash. They're just not very good at managing it. And, they're aging dinosaurs that aren't at all comfortable with change and have a hard time spotting new trends. But mark my words, they'll figure this one out soon enough.

I have a hunch. A strong one.


Kids book blogging

It's time again for kids book blogging. This week my girls picked out just 5 books from the library. When we left the kids' area and headed towards the reception desk, we had six books, but by the time we reached the desk, one of them had lost a book along the way. Pretty typical for my girls!

Here are the books for this week and the applicable male/female character ratios:
  • Bob the Builder-Let's Find Colors: 5:2. The boys rule, as usual. Once again, I used Wikipedia's page on Bob the Builders to ascertain the sexes of the mostly machine characters.
  • I Love You: 2:1 (0:0), although I'm inclined to call this book gender neutral. There was a male farmer, and a page that showed the feet of a boy and a girl. All of the animals were androgynous, with the possible exception of two ducks, who were wearing swimming caps with flowers on them--strongly suggesting that they were female, although their gender was not entirely clear. Accordingly, even though this book may have had more males than females, I'm going to tabulate it as 0:0.
  • When Someone is Afraid: 2:2. The main character is a little boy, and he refers to a bunch of animals. Those whose gender is unknown to him (ie. wild animals) he calls "it" or "they", but refers to his pets by their gender. The cat is a girl and the dog a boy. And, he states that when he is afraid, he calls his mommy or daddy, although his mom happens to respond in the book when he is afraid. So, even though the female is in a stereotypical role in this book, the (female) author obviously gave some thought to gender issues, and I'd call this one gender neutral.
  • Jimmy's Boa and the Bungee Slam Dunk: 3:3. The main character is a little girls who recounts to her mother her day at school. There is a male coach and a female dance teacher, and a little boy named Jimmy who owned a male snake. Although this book has an even ratio, it has a number of stereotypical gender roles in place (female teacher, male coach, little girl in dance class, little boy involved in sports, mother listening to child's story), it's not exactly a great example of a gender nuetral book, in my opinion.
  • Bitter Bananas: 1:0. The main character is a little boy, and all other characters are andrgymous baboons.
Tally for this week: 11:7.

I'm always amazed by the total each week. Even on weeks such as this one, that didn't seem as overwhelmingly male character dominated, the girls still end up trailing by quite a bit.

Overall tally: 53:27. *sigh*


Bias hurting women in science? Say it ain't so!

Oh yes. It's true! As reported in the New York Times here:
For 30 years, the report says, women have earned at least 30 percent of the nation’s doctorates in social and behavioral sciences, and at least 20 percent of the doctorates in life sciences. Yet they appear among full professors in those fields at less than half those levels. Women from minority groups are “virtually absent,” it adds.

The report also dismisses other commonly held beliefs — that women are uncompetitive or less productive, that they take too much time off for their families. Instead, it says, extensive previous research showed a pattern of unconscious but pervasive bias, “arbitrary and subjective” evaluation processes and a work environment in which “anyone lacking the work and family support traditionally provided by a ‘wife’ is at a serious disadvantage.”
(Hat tip: Bitch Ph.D.)

It's the same old story, same old song and dance, my friend.

I'm getting kind of tired of hearing the same old refrain over and over. Aren't you?

Top firms failing women attorneys? Say it ain't so!

Oh yes, it's true! As reported here:
Dozens of the nation's top law firms are failing their women attorneys when it comes to advancement, training, work-life balance and more, according to a report released by members of the Women's Law Association at Harvard Law School....

The report found that many women believe their firms don't provide opportunities to make partner or foster an environment that values diversity and family.
But we already knew that now, didn't we?


Let's party like it's 1991

Because, apparently, it may as well be. According to this article, there has been little or no improvement in the pay disparity between male and female attorneys since 1991:
According to the data for full-time lawyers, only about 5 percent of women lawyers earn $350,000 or more while 20 percent of male lawyers earn at that level. One-fifth of the women earn less than $50,000; just 8 percent of men are in this category.

No female 1990s graduate is above the $200,000-$249,000 level while almost 10 percent of the male graduates from that decade are above it.
I guess it goes to show that the more things change, the more they stay the same.


What I didn't expect.

UPDATED: Here's a link to the full Hirshman article that is referred to on her blog, thanks to Feminists Law Professors.


I've been thinking about the recent Linda Hirshman post that I discussed here. Something else that she said merits discussion:
I recently wrote a piece in the National Law Journal suggesting that an awful lot of women I interviewed had gone to law school with seemingly little understanding of what it meant to work in the legal profession. (Emphasis added).
She's right in a sense--at least as it relates to me. There was a lack of comprehension on my part, but not as it related to the practice of law. I was well aware of the expectations and the workload. And, I had no problem working 70 hour weeks as an Assistant PD and as an associate in a law firm. I understood those expectations. I knew what life would be like as a practicing attorney and wasn't a bit surprised by the reality of the situation.

What I didn't comprehend was how much work and time was required to run a household that included children. Once kids and a decent-sized home are added to the mix, life becomes increasingly more complicated. Even when the tasks are equally split between two working adults, it's hard to manage.

And the reason I didn't understand this factor was because our culture--and Ms. Hirshman's brand of feminism--denigrates and dismisses this aspect of life. Caring for children and managing a home are equated with eating bon bons 24/7. I can assure you, that's simply not the case. It's hard work. And, children are a huge responsibility. As they should be.

I wish that I'd known how much time this aspect of our lives required. And I wish I'd known how important those contributions are--both to my family and to society. And I wish I'd known how inflexible many legal employers can be. And, I wish that I hadn't pulled the wool over my eyes, with the idea that I'd deal with those issues "down the road."

So, yes, there was something that I didn't fully comprehend when I was in law school. And, I still don't quite get it today--why the domestic sphere of life is dismissed as unimportant, unfulfilling and frivolous, when just the opposite is true.


I've found a manifesto that makes sense.

The Feminist Law Professors blog recently highlighted what is likely to become my very own manifesto, aptly entitled "The Motherhood Manifesto: What America’s Moms Want—And What to Do About It".

From the book:
Frankly, we are at a transition point in American history. While most mothers work in this country, we simply don’t have sufficient supports in place for parents and families. To suggest that mothers just need to find the proper balance between work and family is to profoundly misunderstand the issue. The truth is that our society hasn’t caught up to support the unprecedented diversity of roles modern women take on in a single day. At the heart of the matter is the need for change.
National policies and programs with proven success in other countries—like paid family leave, flexible work options, subsidized childcare and preschool, as well as healthcare coverage for all kids—are largely lacking in America. These problems are deeply interconnected and often overlap: Without paid family leave parents often have to put their infants in extremely expensive or substandard childcare facilities; families with a sick child, inadequate healthcare coverage, and no flexible work options often end up in bankruptcy (indeed illness is one of the top causes of bankruptcy).
Bravo! My newfound manifesto. They get it. They really get it!

And there's a website devoted to the cause: MomsRising.org. Follow this link to learn what it's about.

And, there's a blog, too!. I've already subscribed.

As an aside, I plan to update my sidebar and include links to website and organizations like this one. Check back soon.



UPDATE: Here's the link to the original Hirshman article that she refers to in her blog post. (Hat tip: Feminist Law Professors).


As I read this post from Linda Hirshman's blog, all I could think was "Give me a f*cking break."

First, her main thesis is outrageous:
Men and women should get the same access to law school-same tuition, same scholarships, etc. If, however, 10 years after graduation, the law school graduate is not working full-time at some job for which law school is a reasonable preparation, he, or more likely, she, will have to give the school back the money that it spent educating him or her over and above whatever was paid in tuition. The refunds would be put in a fund for scholarships for law students who could not otherwise afford to go to law school.
I didn't attend law school so that I could give back to society, and I don't owe anyone or any institution anything simply because I graduated from law school.

I obtained a law degree in order to empower myself. I obtained my law degree for me; not society, not feminists, not Ms. Hirshman. One of my goals was to give back to society, and that I did. I gave more than my fair share during my years as a public defender and intend to give back to society throughout my career. But, it doesn't have to be on Ms. Hirshman's regimented schedule.

And, as for her denigration of the women that emailed her regarding her outrageous assertion--don't even get me started. I can't even begin to fathom what goes on in her mind--who says this stuff about other women?
If the letter writers, who are authentic (each of them signed the letter and included the name of her firm), did read the article, it is a little scary to think that practicing lawyers can read this or any text and so completely misunderstand its content...

I read these letters and wonder whether next time I go for legal advice I might get a lawyer unable to understand a simple opinion piece or, if this last writer is telling the truth, an accountant who cannot read the opening paragraphs of Get to Work or, indeed, any non-fiction.
This woman purports to be a feminist? Selective misogyny is a more fitting description.


Kids book blogging

We went to the library a bit late this week, so this post is also a bit belated. But, it's time for the weekly analysis of the ratio of boy to girl characters in the books that my kids randomly selected from the library. As usual, the girls didn't fare too well.

This week's round up:
  • Tiger on a Tree--3:0. Not a female in sight in this book. All main and peripheral characters were male.
  • You Can't Take a Balloon Into the Museum of Fine Arts--2:2. This book was just the way a book should be--and the way that the world is. It had a grandma and a grandpa and 2 grandkids, one of each sex. The peripheral characters were a good mix of each sex.
  • The Field Beyond The Outfield--3:1. The main character was a boy, he had a male coach, a dad, and the obligatory female--his mom. A prime example of a female character being included only when she fulfills a stereotypical "feminine" role.
  • No Such Thing--2:2. Two male main characters, a little boy and a boy monster, with the two female characters, their mothers, playing a supporting role.
  • Snow Music--2:0--A little boy who loses his male dog. There was a picture of a female deer, but it wasn't a major character. All of the boy's friends appeared to be male as well.
  • Three Little Kittens--2:2. The mom is, of course, female. Of the three little kittens, the pink one is--(Can you guess?)--a girl of course. She has long lashes just like her mom. The other two kittens (blue and orange) are boys.
Total for this week: 14:7. Of the 7 female characters, 4 were mothers, which doesn't even really count in my mind. But, I'll count them nevertheless, because if I don't, the numbers will be absolutely pathetic this week. Oh, wait a minute. They're already ridiculously pathetic.

Total count thus far: 42:20.

It's a sad, sad commentary on our culture, isn't it?


I'll be back

Sorry posting was light over the last week. I've been a bit swamped with work.

I'll post within the next few days. I promise;)