I can do anything you can do better!
By Peg Johnston • June 12, 2007•Other Career Issues
So there's an article in the NYlawyer.com yesterday about women and law firm recruiting. The article is titled: Generation XX . (I'm not sure what that's about. Hey, NYL, is that some sort of reference to pornography?) Anyway, you can find it here but it requires a registration.
The article reports that a high percentage of law firms are reporting that their summer classes have equal or higher numbers of women than men. To me this makes perfect sense because law school classes are close to equal. So why is this news?
"Just from talking to attorneys at other firms, we all have the distinct impression that women are disproportionately represented in the upper ranks of the classes in terms of their grades," says Lovita T. Tandy, a partner in the Altanta office of King & Spalding and chair of the firm's Diversity Committee.
Oh, so that's why -- girls are smarter than boys?
So, the question is then, what is wrong with the brains behind law firm hiring and retention. Law firms still tend to hire based on USNews rankings and grades at those schools. This tends to lead to a high percentage of women summers and junior associates. This tends to lead to more women partners than men. Wait... strike that... the last part of this little logic train isn't right. This tends to lead to less than 20% of partners being of the female gender. Hmmm. This doesn't follow. Let me re-think this.
Femaleness = good law school and good grades
Good law school + good grades = good lawyer
Good enough lawyer to make partner = Maleness (huh?)
Nope, still doesn't follow any argument structure that I'm aware of, or even the dreaded slippery slope.
I'm not arguing that women are smarter than men. I am also not arguing that grades are the best way to make hiring decisions. (I happen to think life experienes are a LOT more important) However, the article does, at least superficially, make those arguments.
The article goes on to point out that there is a lingering retention problem when it comes to female lawyers at big firms. Duh.
It also points to the powerful Cheat Sheet authored by Debbie Epstein Henry at Flex-Time Lawyers as something that is really having an impact on the legal recruiting and hiring market. (You can find the Cheat Sheet on this site.)
...retaining women is smart business, and young women lawyers are working the demographics to their advantage. She notes a guide called "The Cheat Sheet," released last year by Flex-Time Lawyers, a consulting firm that specializes in the retention and promotion of women lawyers.
The nine page list of questions about leadership, workplace flexibility and mentoring, among other issues, bills itself as a "must-have tool" for female law students entering the interview process for their first job at a firm.
Okay, so this article isn't earth shattering. But instead of highlightly the success of women in getting summer associate positions or merely scraping the surface of failing female attorney retention, I think it once-again exposes the complete and utter failure of law firms to recognize the faults in the business plan and workplace environment that literally drives away the best and the brightest to a point that is purely illogical.
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Anna Lorien Nelson June 12, 2007
<div align=“left”>I think "Generation XX" alludes the female chromosomes, XX (as opposed to the male chromosomes, XY).</div><div align=“left”> </div><div align=“left”>It is interesting that XX means female and XXX means sex. Coincidence? </div>
one_elle June 12, 2007
I agree with your conclusion about the business plan. What great insight. I had no idea this was the case with women and high grades in higher proportion!
Failing female retention—perhaps it's the result of not being able to understand the empathy women feel for their families, and their own well being—something foreign to the male business model—or business man…?
Well they can empathize with this—They are failing to retain quality attorneys and that doesn't speak good for any legal business model!
ptlawmom June 13, 2007
It's like if they discuss the issue of females in a general, hands-off kind of way, that's enough. They're dealing with "womens issues". God forbid they should closely examine the discriminatory mentoring and retention patterns thriving at law firms nationwide.
FYI - There's a comma in the link in your post where there should be a period. Should be: http://www.nylawyer.com/display.php/file=/news/07/06/061107a
The Ms. JD Editors June 13, 2007
Thanks for catching the URL typo. It's fixed.
victorious June 13, 2007
<div align=“left”>I like your posting, and wanted to point-out to other Ms. JD readers that last summer the Times had a multi-article series called "The New Gender Divide" that looked at mens and womens roles in society, work, and families since the women's movement. Some of the more interesting findings (even if we already knew it):</div><div align=“left”> </div><div align=“left”> </div><div align=“left”>1. More women attend and complete university then men, and do better in school (only 42 % of college students are men, and women get over a majority of honors degrees, for example) </div> <div align=“left”>2. Many people see all this as a "crisis" needing to be fixed ("what's wrong with our sons?" Nothing-your daughters are just smoking them) </div> <div align=“left”>3. Some colleges are now giving males a "boost" in admissions to get a gender-equal student body-since their pool of qualified female candidates is larger. Others even create football programs to attract more men!
</div> <div align=“left”>4. Men socialize more than women in college (possibly linking to higher post-graduation salaries?), yet women are seen as more driven and study harder.
</div> <div align=“left”>5. Men do better in pay and promotions (b/c among other things they work more hours and don't have the career interruptions of raising a family)</div> <div align=“left”>6. More than 70% of women aged 25-54 are working today, and women's income accounts for 43% of household income. </div><div align=“left”> </div> <div align=“left”> </div><div align=“left”>All of this tells me that we're in the midst of a big change demographically and socially, and I agree with the OP that the legal profession is going to have to adapt if it wants to retain its best (and increasingly female) employees. Yes, there are more women entering the profession, and their lack of equal outcome with men is largely attributable to those aspects of society and work that have not adapted to the post-women's movement reality of working, bread-winning women. For better or worse, this includes the reality for many of us that women remain primary childcare providers and homemakers in addition to their professional roles (there has been so much discussion on Ms. JD and other boards about the pros/cons of "opting-out" that I won't repeat).</div><div align=“left”> </div> <div align=“left”> </div><div align=“left”> </div><div align=“left”> </div><div align=“left”> </div><div align=“left”>Apparently this hasn't yet been enough of a problem for firms to radically change the system, since along with their big raises comes an increase in billable hour requirements traditionally thought to be most harmful to women (and their prospects of attaining partner). Discrimination (gender or otherwise) isn't economical, so if firms haven't changed their ways then there could be several legitimate reasons: first, there are too many lawyers and, unfortunately, we are not indespensible. I think everyone can agree with the first part of that sentence if not the latter. If, even with all the "opting-out" that is going on, if there is a more than ample crop of new associates to fill the ranks then there is no pressing reason for firms to change their ways. Remember, women working doubles the pool of potential employees than before, and thus doubles the competition. In a perverted sense, our bargaining power weakens with each additional freshly-minted law school graduate who seeks employment at a big firm, unless of course, everyone starts pushing for the same reforms. This is the chief reason why I think our efforts need to go beyond women and reach-out to all attorneys and law students to address many of the issues brought-up on this board as FAMILY issues, not women's issues.</div><div align=“left”>
</div> <div align=“left”> </div><div align=“left”> </div><div align=“left”>Second, men might bring something to the table that women don't in terms of sociability etc that firms find valuable. While this sounds of discrimination, I think we all know that there's more to getting the job or promotion than having the highest GPA or being the smartest person. Men might have more of this "je ne sais quoi" that firms are looking for than women do. This is another reason why I am against female-only networking events, for example: you learn better from others (yes, even men) and can actually interact with the male partners and attorneys you're trying to impress (and who still hold the keys to the kingdom). I'm all for pedicures, but we've got to play with the <i>whole</i> team if we're going to succeed.</div><div align=“left”>
</div> <div align=“left”> </div><div align=“left”> </div><div align=“left”>All that said, I'll leave you with some reading material. If you have TimesSelect, you can read a couple of the more relevant articles in the series:</div><div align=“left”>http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=F00712F93B540C7A8CDDAE0894DE404482</div><div align=“left”>http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=F00611FA3C5B0C748EDDA80894DF404482</div><div align=“left”> </div>