Susan Smith Blakely

Change in Policy at ATL is Good For Women Lawyers

The Washington Post newspaper recently included a letter from David Lat, founder and managing editor of Above the Law (ATL).  I rely on ATL as a legal news website to keep me up to date on happenings in the legal profession and to keep you informed about them as well.  David Lat, Elie Mystal and Staci Zaretsky do a fine job of reporting the news in an industry where there is always a lot of it to sift through.  They even have mentioned me and Best Friends at the Bar on a couple of occasions, and I appreciated the shout-outs.

David Lat's letter was announcing a change in policy at ATL.  The policy involves comments that readers can post on the website about the reported news articles.  It seems those comments have gotten out of control, and Lat says that "Above the Law was overtaken by on-line jerks" and that negative reader comments are "ruining the Internet."  He describes, at some length, how commenters have sunk to the depths of offensive dialogue, including racial and gender slurs.  As a result, ATL will no longer include a comment section to engage readers with new content.

This did not come as a big surprise to me.  I always have been bothered by the kinds of readers' comments posted on ATL, and my concern escalated recently with reference to an ATL feature blog, "The Pink Ghetto."  I wrote about it in a January 20, 2016 blog where I questioned whether the gender offenses in legal workplaces reported in the comments to "The Pink Ghetto" were true --- or whether those comments represented ATL readers having some fun with exaggeration and creative writing.  There is no accountability for anonymous comments, and they can provide false information and lead to unreliable influence, especially on young women in the first phases of their careers.

So, I am glad that ATL has made this decision and has followed other leading news services that have abandoned comments from readers.  I also am glad that I alerted my readers to this months ago.  It is important to be a critical reader, and I will always try to be that for you.

Susan Smith Blakely is the Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC and an award-winning, nationally-recognized author, speaker and consultant on issues related to young women lawyers, young women law students and young women interested in careers in the law.  She is author of Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2009), and Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today's Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012), which addresses the work-life struggle for women lawyers and includes twelve profiles of women who have successfully transitioned from one practice setting to another.  Her new book, Best Friends at the Bar:  Top-Down Leadership for Women Lawyers, will focus on the responsibilities of law firm leaders and will be released by Wolters Kluwer Law & Business in 2015.

Ms. Blakely frequently speaks at colleges and universities, law schools, law firms and law organizations, and she has been featured in media including the LA Daily Journal, National Jurist, Washington Examiner Newspaper, Forbes Woman, DC Spotlight, Daily Muse and Huffington Post Business.  Ms. Blakely also is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at conferences on women's issues and the law profession, and she has been a featured speaker at the US Department of Justice, Civil Division.  She is the recipient of the Ms. JD 2015 "Sharing Her Passion Award" for her work on behalf of women in the law.
Ms. Blakely graduated from the University of Wisconsin with distinction and from Georgetown University Law Center where she was a teaching fellow. She is a member of the CoachSource global network of leadership coaches and a career coach for the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy.   For more information, please visit 


Staci Zaretsky

All of the stories submitted to me for use in the Pink Ghetto series on Above the Law are real stories from real women in the legal profession. I’ve interacted with almost all of the women who have submitted stories about their experiences to me. It’s unfortunate, but sexism is alive and well in the legal profession. —Staci Zaretsky

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