Bernadette Meyler

Enfranchising the Classroom

“Why speak more than absolutely necessary in class?,” a law student might wonder with some justification. First-year exams are blind graded, and ill-phrased comments could result in embarrassment in class, or, worse, expose a student to subsequent derision among his or her peers. Women appear to take the potentially negative consequences of volunteering in class more seriously than men though. Several prominent studies have demonstrated that women speak less in law school classes, and word of mouth indicates that that tendency continues at least at some institutions. But why should this matter? The most important reason, I would contend, is…

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Jill Filipovic

On “Balance”

[The following is an email sent out over an NYU Law listserve. It references an event sponsored by a religious organization at NYU, which featured a white, male, Mormon attorney with five children and a stay-at-home wife speaking about balancing work and family.] Rebecca writes, "Nor does it address the fact that, whether you intend to or not, when you say that Mr. Belnap can't speak for women on the work-life balance issues, you implicitly depict the issue as mainly a woman's issue. Work-life is an issue neutral to gender and neutral to having children or 'family'. And while women…

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Jill Filipovic

Sexist Advertising in Legal Magazines

[The following focuses on an advertisement in Massachussets Lawyers Weekly, which featured a naked woman, covered by a man's suit coat, pulling a professionally-dressed man toward her by his tie, with the words, "A custom tailored suit is a natural aphrodisiac." Several female attorneys wrote in to complain, and a handful of "feminist" defenses of the ad followed. This is a response to some of those arguments.] If this ad is somehow represents the idea that women can be sexual, then that idea isn't really new at all, is it? Women's bodies have been used in advertising to sell goods…

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What’s Wrong With The Times

In the fall of 2005, The New York Times published an article discussing a relatively recent- and somewhat disturbing- trend among young women at elite colleges in the U.S. The article revealed that more and more female students at top undergraduate institutions are deciding (as early as freshman year) that they will opt for stay-at-home-motherhood over a career. The students interviewed shared the notion that it would be impossible to be a successful career woman and a successful mother simultaneously. As a senior in college at the time, set to attend law school the following fall, I was shocked by…

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Callie M. Vivion-Matthews

Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

The following is the text of the graduation speech given by Callie M. Vivion-Matthews in December of 2006 at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law. Her speech can be watched at Introduction Many of my fellow graduates told me that they voted for me to speak today because they think I am funny, and in fact, have demanded that I be so today. No pressure, right?! They want to laugh – laugh away all the anxiety and stress and craziness that has consumed so much of these last three and half years as a law students. They want me,…

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Mary Nienaber-Foster

My Mommy Wants to be a Lawyer

By Mary Nienaber-Foster, a 1L at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio Everyone thought I finally lost it. The kids or my husband's job had driven me to the brink of insanity and I had officially gone bonkers. I stood up in the spring of 2006 and announced to the world that I was going back to school. Law School. Fulltime. Granted, thousands of people around the country were announcing the same thing, but somehow, my little cluster of friends and family thought this was an earth-shattering announcement. After all, I wasn't a fresh-faced 22-year old. I was a mother. Of…

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AmLaw thinks practice area matters a lot (more) for female lawyers. Discuss.

Following up on "Obstacle Course" in the American Lawyer (which the WSJ’s Law Blog has linked and commented on the article in their post Women Litigators Battle Adversity and Stereotypes): The AmLaw article’s main contention is that female litigators have it even harder than not only other (male) litigators, but also by implication female corporate lawyers. I think this notion—litigation is very hard (the hardest?) in terms of balancing personal and professional life—is one that has a lot of traction in the workplace. That is why the article doesn’t even bother to come out and say what they’re getting at,…

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The New Professional Dress: Ladies, Leave Your Feminine Charms at Home

By a Third-Year Law Student In the ongoing skirmish to redefine the parameters of professional dress for women, the old battlefields were permission to go without nylons and abandon the skirt. Today, barelegged women in pantsuits are fighting a more internal battle for the freedom to act like something other than a female man and still be taken seriously. Perhaps with the exception of Martha Stewart, whose empire is, after all, built around the concept of creating a warm and welcoming home, the top female professionals often maintain their queen of the mountain status only by ruling like a king.…

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High Heels

Although it may seem a bit random - lately I can’t seem to get something off my mind: HIGH HEELS... No, I am not harboring some sort of fetish (although I do love shoe shopping). There are actually a few reasons the epitome of feminine footwear has been a thought provoking topic. It started as I prepared to start my summer job. I have never had a job that required more than a t-shirt and jeans. I have only donned a suit when forced to (ahem, oral arguments) and worn dress shoes only for fun. I am not very comfortable…

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Maybe It’s Us

By a 2L at the University of Michigan Law School Maybe the problem with gender inequality in the legal profession is that we, women, continue to insist that there is a problem with gender inequality in the legal profession. Many of the women’s law club meetings or legal symposia or even lunchtime conversations I have attended have focused on the obstacles facing women in the law – the differential pay, the less-stimulating and prestigious case assignments, the stigma that comes along with being a lawyer-mother. Perhaps it is our own obsession with emphasizing stigmas or prejudices that has led women…

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