Archive for ‘Equality in Law Firms’

December 31, 2010

Progress (sort of)

by Angela N. Johnson

The ABA’s Commission on Women in the Legal Profession frequently reassess women’s progress in the legal profession.  The 2006 report compares statistics from 1994 to 2002 and includes highlights of the Commission’s 2003 Hearings. 

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December 29, 2010

Women Lawyers Discuss Their Role in 1987

by Angela N. Johnson

ABA Journal May 1987

I enjoyed this 1987 edition of the ABA Journal which included articles on “senior lawyers shaking their heads about those young lawyers” and “how computers made us better lawyers – what the new technology can do for you.”  Most useful was the article, “Superwoman is Alive and Well” in which Yates and Benson Goldberg interview five women who discuss the joys and jolts of practicing law.  This article is useful despite being rather dated because it is written at a turning point in the legal profession when women are becoming widely accepted but harassment, discrimination, and inequality are still commonly feared.

Diane Geraghty, an associate professor of law at Loyola University feels fortunate to have graduated law school in the ‘70’s.  Geraghty states, “If you talk to people who graduated 10 years before we did, they knew what real discrimination was” (Yates and Goldberg 18).  She thanks the civil rights movement and a critical mass of women who pushed to open up the profession to include women.  Miriam Miquelon a business litigator, “It’s changed, but in the beginning you had to make sure you didn’t come off as a hysterical female and that you could be as businesslike as everyone else.  And once you were recognized as competent, the client could get past the sexuality issue, and accept you as his counsel” (Yates and Goldberg 18).  For Patricia Bobb, a graduate of Notre Dame Law School and a former Cook County prosecuting attorney, she decided “Early on that I would develop a tough exterior and a good sense of humor” (Yates and Goldberg 18).  She recalls working with “probably the most macho group of men in the world – not just the state’s attorneys but the cops” and how her humor fit nicely with her personality in such a way she never had problems with harassment.  However, Candace Fabri, who worked for the U.S. Attorney’s office, found greater resistance.  “For my first month on the job, there was a parade of agents from my office to my supervisor’s office: ‘Can’t we have a man prosecutor?’ . . . Over the years I got a lot of satisfaction out of seeing the agents come to prefer women prosecutors.  They would come to me when I was a supervisor and say ‘We find that the women take these cases so much more seriously.  They’re willing to work much harder and longer and they don’t pooh-pooh a case as not being significant’” (Yates and Goldberg 18).

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December 28, 2010

ABA Podcast: Fixing the Leaky Pipeline

by Angela N. Johnson

The ABA Commission on Women in the Legal Profession was created in 1987 and has become the national voice for women lawyers.  Current Chair, Roberta Liebenberg addresses troubling statistics and future plans to increase women lawyers’ participation and retention in law firms in a short 9 minute podcast available here.

According to Liebenberg, women lawyers made great strides but much work remains to be done. Women have been graduating law schools at approximately the same rate as men for the last two decades but women comprise only 16% of law firm equity partners; 14% of governing committees of law firms and just 6% of firms have women managing partners. 1/2 of all law firms have no women among their top rainmakers.

Liebenberg believes firm leadership must send a strong message that all actors (male and female) must be involved in securing equal opportunities and retention of female lawyers. Even clients can play a vital role in ensuring their female advocate is receiving the credit she earns for the work performed. 

Additionally, mentoring plays a vital role in career development – especially for young women lawyers. More seasoned female lawyers should reach out to young women lawyers to pass-on learned insights on office politics, work/life balance, etc. The commission is implementing a mentorship program by reaching out to 2L law students through an application process being handled by Ms. JD. The winning 2L’s will be known as Ms. JD fellows. Those fellows will be matched up with a committed female lawyer to serve as a mentor throughout their law school careers and beginning professional endeavors.  For more information about the Ms. JD fellowship, click here.