Is It All About Gender Discrimination For Women Lawyers?

By now, you know that I welcome all people, men and women alike, under the discussion tent for the purpose of advancing important dialogue.  Every once in awhile, however, I feel the need to distinguish a position before it engulfs you.

Gender discrimination and its proper place in the discussion of advancing women in the law is something you need to think about.   You will hear a lot about gender discrimination and how it is the basis for most of the problems and challenges that women face in the law profession.  However, I am not sure that is true.

Case in point:  I recently heard an expert on workplace issues asked about the Queen Bee Syndrome (the issue involving women, who have “arrived” in the work place and refuse to help their female colleagues advance).  The expert’s answer was that the Queen Bee Syndrome is just another example of gender discrimination.  The support for that assertion was that gender discrimination has pitted women against women as they try to compete for recognition and the few opportunities for upward mobility, and that the behavior of the Queen Bees is the predictable outcome of that discrimination.  In other words, it is a problem created by men.

Would that have been your answer?

Tune into my next blog to find out if it would have been mine.

 

 

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Thought For The Day

For this observance of President’s Day:

I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.

George Washington

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Thought For The Day

Happy Valentines Day!

I like this proverb about the importance of love and caring:

It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.

Irish Proverb

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Thought For The Day

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and … I took the one less traveled by … and that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

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Law Reviews: To Be Or Not To Be?

This is not offered as a defense of law reviews.  There is a great controversy out there, as discussed on Above The Law, citing a recent article on the subject, and I do not intend to jump into the fray on the merits of these repositories of legal thought.  In the interests of full disclosure, I opted for a teaching fellowship at Georgetown Law, and I did not participate on law review there.  However, I am the author of articles on constitutional and statutory law, which were published in leading law journals and are listed on my web site, and my observations about student participation on law reviews and law journals is mostly derived from that experience.

I understand the arguments against having un-experienced students edit law review articles and get them “ready” for publication.  That can be a problem and potentially can affect the value of the article, particularly the value for practicing lawyers.  However, there are some important considerations on the other side of the argument — considerations that have nothing to do with legal scholarship or how often judges cite to law review articles in their opinions.  (Although, I have to tell you, having your law review article cited anywhere, by a court or by another law journal or legal commenter, is pretty heady stuff!)

First of all, let me say that the law students and editors, who worked on my law review articles, were top-notch thinkers and performers.  They definitely added value to one of those articles in particular, and I was more than happy to give attribution in the article.   However and of greater importance, the benefits were not exclusively to me, the author.

The students, who contributed to my articles, also benefited from gaining subject matter expertise while working on the article and improving their own analytical and legal writing skills in the process.  It was a true teaching experience for me, and it was much more valuable to the students than any experience I had teaching legal research and writing at a top-ranked law school.  One was like college, and one was like law school.  In spite of the fact that I worked very hard as a teaching law fellow at Georgetown Law, I had 15 students in my class and was paid a ridiculously low stipend.  I also was taking classes and working as a law clerk.  As a teacher, that experience did not provide the one-on-one teaching opportunities for the student as compared to an author working with a student editor.  

I am confident in saying that law review members and editors gain a lot toward becoming more effective and skilled lawyers by working with authors, who, in most cases, demand excellence for their publications.  And isn’t that what law schools should be trying to do after all … develop more effective and skilled lawyers while they are in law school?  Certainly, the recent push for more practice-ready law school graduates tells us that the answer to that question is yes.

For those of you who say that those same students could gain better real life lawyer skills by participating in trial practice and similar clinics in law school, I say you are comparing apples and oranges.  Those clinics also provide very valuable experience, but, more and more, law practices today require really effective legal writing, especially during motions practices in settings like federal court.  If you can’t write effectively to convince a judge about the merits of your arguments, you might find your matters being decided on the briefs more often than you like.  In that case, your abilities to dramatically “run to court” with a file and your brilliant extemporaneous oratorical skills may not get the desired exposure.

Last but not least, let’s not kid ourselves.  Law review experience still has big deal resume cache.  And, who among you doesn’t need that these days?

So, think about these things when you read about how law reviews are out of fashion and lack value.  Make up your own mind. 

Exercise your freedom of thought!

 

 

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One Law School Gets Down To Brass Tacks

Finally, a law school that is taking a progressive and sensible approach to the problems facing law schools and law students.  That school is Villanova University School of Law, which made headlines this week by announcing free tuition for fifty applicants.

The free tuitions, however, is not what got my attention.  We have heard that before.  It is not breaking news that law schools are competing for students with strong academic credentials, and we also know that the result of most of those tuition-cutting programs is to raise tuitions for the rest of the less-fortunate and less-credentialed students.  That kind of tuition cutting falls far short of the preferred goal of lowering tuition for all students.

But that was not all that Villanova Law announced.  The school also announced a reduction in class size to provide more interaction between students and faculty and a pledge not to raise annual tuition on any incoming class during the student’s three years of study.  That pledge not only potentially brings down the cost of law school, but it also helps to take the guess work out of what a law education will cost and how to address that debt.

And there is more, and this is the part that resonates the most with me.  Although I applaud efforts to reduce tuitions and class sizes motivated by high quality education, I am very impressed when I see initiatives to create more practice-ready lawyers.  Villanova Law’s strategic plan also includes an emphasis on business skills that is missing in most law school curricula today, and that is noteworthy.

The simple fact is that law IS a business.  It is the business of law, and students need to understand basic business concepts to help them be successful in practice and to better understand the problems their future business clients will face.  In the revised Villanova Law curriculum, students will study these business concepts and the structures of various types of legal service entities.

The Villanova Law students will have an opportunity to study subjects like law firm economics, overhead, profit and loss statements, and law practice management, all subjects that are addressed in both of the Best Friends at the Bar books.  It is validating to see that the idea is catching on.  As a practicing lawyer for years, I recognize that a background in these subject areas is critical to finding success in today’s highly competitive legal profession.

So, Bravo! to Villanova University School of Law.  The leadership there has made an impressive start toward the kinds of reforms that are necessary for law schools to remain relevant in a profession that, more and more, is based on basic business concepts, and the tuition initiatives are more than minimal efforts toward addressing the tuition crisis.

It is a call to action, and one thing is for sure.  We will be watching to see which other law schools answer the call.

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Listen Up, Ladies, and Be Safe

This morning I was in a favorite coffee shop, working on my lap top and waiting for an appointment.  I overheard a conversation that I want to pass on to all of you.  This is in the category of “For Your Own Good,” so please read on.

A young woman, who seemed to be in her mid to late 20’s, was seated next to me at the coffee bar and also was working on her computer.  A young man was sitting on the other side of her, and he started  talking to her and asking her questions.   I could hear the conversation, and it was clear that the two of them had not met before today.  He was persistent with his questions, and she was somewhat reluctantly answering them.  By the time that he left, he knew the following:  Her first name; where she worked; that she telecommuted on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and that she had a boyfriend — in response to his very direct question.

Ladies, DO NOT DO THIS!  No matter how bad you feel for some awkward or lonely guy, who is trying to get to know you, just DO NOT DO IT!  This guy may be perfectly harmless, but he has a lot of information now and can presume to find this young lady at the same coffee bar on Tuesdays and Wednesdays or at her place of business on the other days of the week.  He can find out a lot of other things about her on line with a first name and the employee pictures that so many companies and firms put on web sites today.

You know, without asking, that I mentioned this to her before I left.  I did it very unobtrusively and politely, but I had to do it for all of the reasons that I know you understand.  She could have been my daughter, and I would want someone to protect my daughter in that way.  She thanked me at least three times before I left.  She said that it does not happen to her much, and, you can bet, that is exactly what he was counting on.  It can be flattering, and he knows that.  But it should not be.  It should be scary.

Be smarter.  Be creative.  Tell him that you are on deadline and cannot talk to him.  If it persists, get up and move or leave.  If you are followed, go to a safe place.

There are plenty of ways to get introduced — even to people who may interest you — that do not involve this kind of random risk.  Just DO NOT DO IT!

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Thought For The Day

If you think that education is expensive, try ignorance.

Unknown

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