A local law school Dean recently commented that women seem to be backsliding in the legal profession. She cited lower female enrollment in law schools, lack of women in law firm leadership positions, and stagnant growth in the ranks of women in the judiciary. Her comment surprised me. Are women losing ground in law? Perhaps it’s time to look at some statistics.
Over the Thanksgiving Holiday, I found myself with some reading time on my hands, and I picked up Susan Smith Blakely’s new book, Best Friends at the Bar: The New Balance for Today’s Woman Lawyer.
Full disclosure—I was dubious about the book’s promise to offer “practical guidance and helpful solutions” for young women lawyers. I mean, what was Blakely going to suggest that we hadn’t already read or heard five bajillion times from the likes of Ann Marie Slaughter, Sheryl Sandberg, etc.? Women need mentors; women need flexible scheduling; yada yada yada. I was, however, pleasantly surprised.
Alison Monahan, writing at Ms. JD, certainly thinks so. As the father of two little girls, I’m on high alert for anything that could get in the way of them being whatever they want to be. But as I reflect on my own law school and law practice experiences, I have to admit I’ve seen evidence of attitudes that could lead to the kind of sexism and harassment Monahan has experienced.
While women who find themselves in such situations do have some options, men can make a big difference just by speaking up when we see these attitudes and behaviors on display: “Hey dude. Not cool.”
When the weather gets hot, “must-have” fashion tends to get even hotter. While men are thinking about sporting their short sleeve dress shirts, women are getting excited about breaking out their peep-toe pumps. Last year, this phenomenon became known among women lawyers as “Peep-Toe Gate.” Will you grab a ticket to the peep show and dare to wear this controversial piece of couture during court appearances or at the office this summer?
Women lawyers, have you struggled to find a fashionable, yet professional, bag to bring to the office? Are you worried that your colleagues won’t take you seriously if your bag is too “cute”? Worse yet, have you finally managed to find a fashionable bag that’s professional enough for the office, but later discovered that it simply won’t hold your files? If any of these situations have happened to you, please take comfort in the fact that you are not alone.
Recently on Lawyerist, we discussed the growing silence of women lawyers in today’s classrooms and courtrooms. The article was met with a bit of backlash, especially from women litigators. These silent women, the critics claimed, must not be litigators. After all, women litigators are allegedly known to speak their minds at all costs.
Apparently, that is not the norm in New York, where the courts have recognized a dearth of female litigators in commercial and appellate litigation cases. The problem is so serious that the New York City Bar Association held a special program to address the issue and explore viable solutions. What say you now, women litigators?