"Big Law Study Provokes Misogyny, Rebuke"
The Recorder news feed last week reported a study by ALM Intelligence (ALI) titled “Where Do We Go From Here? Big Law’s Struggle With Recruiting and Retaining Female Talent.” Guess what? Female attorneys are concentrated in fields that have time flexibility and are not gladiatorial. And, achieving anything like parity in Big Law will take decades.
I rarely look at what gets posted in response to these articles. This time, there was one comment and I clicked on it:
J. Goodall, Apr 18, 2017
C’mon, please end ALM‘’s obsessive, ongoing microanalysis of gender differences already, would ya? Since the onset of humankind and till the end of time, guys and gals will be different, bringing naturally differing strengths and interests to their work and personal lives. This is true regardless of radical feminist post-deconstructionists’ efforts to convince Obammunist regulators otherwise. But even the Great Obama can‘t fight Mother Nature, ladies. So let it go and just try to be happy you don‘t live in a majority Muslim country where you‘d really have something to gripe about.
I couldn’t stomach that. So, for the first time in my life, I did a counter-post. I did not disguise my name. We'll see what comes of that. Here it is:
C. Bird, Apr 18, 2017
As a man who was a partner in a regional firm that merged into a national firm that merged into international Big Law, where I'm still a partner, the summary of the study rings true to me. Even firms that are good at diversity (and I think mine is), can do little with client demands for constant connectivity and all-hours work. Working in a score of time zones makes it worse. Courts are part of the problem when they adopt schedules advocated by male opposing counsel designedly to make life miserable for a woman on the other side. The solution for that is to accept as a valid declaration of principle, not a confession of weakness, to say "your honor, I can't meet that deadline because of my child care duties." For the former, contrary to the vitriolic comment of the guy who adopted a famous woman scientist's name, Congress and state legislatures should study extending anti-discrimination employment law to personal services contracting, and not just in the legal profession. It should take a great mind to practice great law, not testosterone and willingness to let one's children go functionally fatherless to serve the greed that has made much of our profession miserable. In major part, the solutions need to be imposed from the outside because (i) greed has too much power in law firm leadership and (ii) even some clients that take strong stands for their outside lawyers' diversity do not apply those principles when women's social inequality inconveniences the C-suite.
Fast-forward one week, and the ALM study has faded out of the news cycle. My comment circulated quietly among friends, several of whom spoke of the banality of misogyny and fatigue at countering it. I am not a target, and I heard and saw little of it in the legal culture of the last decade. That I hear and see it since the last U.S. presidential campaign is evidence misogyny-at-law never went away and never became banal. It is a visible and audible force. Its consequences need to be exposed, as in the ALI report. It needs to be confronted, refuted, and rebuked, which I advocate as a role for LC and members.
Charles Bird is an appellate lawyer at Dentons US LLC, successor to Luce Forward—and a retired, amateur rock climber.