The release of the VEOHRC Report into women in the legal profession raises a number of important issues. We have already highlighted the concerning lack of progress in terms of women’s retention and progression in the profession. In this post, we explore the implications of these findings in terms of the health of the justice system.
Archive for the ‘Career’ Category
Nearly twenty years ago, the Australian Law Reform Commission, in its report “Equality before the Law: Women’s Equality (ALRC Report 69 Part 2)” examined the place of Women in the Legal Profession, and said
Women make up 50% of law school graduates, and 25% of the legal profession as a whole. However, women leave the profession at a much higher rate than men, and they are clustered in the lower ranks of the profession. [footnotes omitted]
Fast forward two decades and the VEOHRC has released its latest report into research on women in the law, entitled Changing the rules: The experiences of female lawyers in Victoria. This report focused on discrimination, sexual harassment and the accommodation of parental and carer responsibilities. Read the rest of this entry »
The gender card, so we’re told, has been played by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. In the context of contemporary debate about sexism in public life, I’ve had a few interesting conversations lately about issues concerning women. These conversations have been with educated men with whom I usually enjoy excellent interaction. I have to say though that their thoughts about sexism and women in the context of the discussions we have had, did surprise me. Mostly, it seems to me that not just in the public sphere but also more broadly, so many men (and some women) can’t (or won’t) see the issues as so many women experience them.
I have asked myself whether, perhaps, I misunderstand my own experiences. That the current public debate about sexism has it seems captured the imagination of so many women indicates that I am not alone. In addition, there is a lot of evidence, including scholarly study, that would back me up. Why is it then, that the way that women experience sexism is not acknowledged?
The last couple of weeks has seen the Lingerie Football League (‘LFL’) in the news. If you’re uncertain about what this entails, it is ‘Hot babes in lingerie playing footy!’ according to the Triple M website promoting it. (See also a spectator’s view here.)
So is it sexist? If so, why? Are there implications for women more broadly?
The Culture of Professional Dressing
There’s been a lot of talk on this blog here and here amongst others, of women’s (and some men’s) experiences as legal practitioners, in terms of what to wear. We could ask why these posts are so popular with readers. Is it because women love clothes? (I mean – you know what women are like, right?) Perhaps. However I have another theory.
It’s about culture – in particular, the dominant culture of the law. Read on. Read the rest of this entry »
I was sorting through a box of materials the other day when I came across a picture of the solicitor Sue MacGregor in polka dot tights. Many of you will recall that in 1993, Justice Smithers castigated Ms MacGregor for coming to court in polka-dot stockings and a suit with a skirt that finished above the knee. For a feisty response, see Magistrate Jennifer Coate’s protest. [Read on] Read the rest of this entry »
Reflections of a NKOTB: my first two months as a legal academic
After ten years of study, five years of practice (including private practice and homelessness lawyering), two undergraduate degrees, three postgraduate qualifications, two children, hundreds of clients and thousands (millions?) of pages of legal documents, I came to the conclusion that I don’t want to be a lawyer. For now.
It wasn’t that I was burnt out, mistreated or jaded; I just don’t have the passion for casework at this stage of my career. But I loved the research and advocacy part of my role managing Victoria’s Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic, and the impact the law can have on society.
And so, after searching my soul, I joined the academe. Read on… Read the rest of this entry »
In its annual survey of women partners, the Australian reports that one third of new partners are women here. The numbers of women making partnership are steadily on the rise. The Australian also reports that ‘family proves no obstacle to career’, with firms increasingly accommodating the needs of lawyers with young families without requiring them to sacrifice their career aspirations. Great news it seems.
Compare the insightful opinion piece by Roy Williams here, which questions the compatibility of the values of the modern legal workplace with the aspirations of many young lawyers.
In blunt terms: an Australian commercial law firm is no longer, for most lawyers, an enjoyable place to work
He concludes with 4 propositions, the final one is that rather than a ‘maternity wall’ women use their ‘common sense’ to bail out via a ‘maternity escape-hatch’.
Do you agree?
I have to admit to missing the TV show The Good Wife. If you haven’t seen it, the show stars Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick who assumes full responsibility for the financial well being of her family after her husband’s sex and political corruption scandal lands him in jail by entering a large law firm and restarting her original career as a defense attorney.
In many ways it is a ridiculous show but… I love the fact its about law and also has some older women characters struggling with life as well as legal issues.
Am I the only fan out there?
A recent article in the Australian (here) noted that there are fewer law students taking jobs in firms and more law students taking jobs in industry and commerce. The article is titled ‘Fewer graduates choosing practice …’.
Is this trend really a matter of choice or a case of taking what is available? Certainly, the article refers to AAR development director Jane Lewis who noted that
‘Growth in law firm jobs had not kept pace with the sharp increase in graduate numbers … so it made sense that a greater proportion of law graduates were being employed in the corporate sector.’
Continue reading below: Read the rest of this entry »
Lest it not be a “winter of discontent” perhaps we should put on our thinking caps, sharpen our pencils and nominate some worthy women to the next round of law and community awards? Many women would never dream of asking someone to nominate them, or even nominate themselves, so don’t wait to be asked! Here is a round up of some Awards, why don’t you grab a friend, colleague or your mentor and submit a nomination?
As the Advancing Women guide says
If you know a woman who’s doing work that you admire, put her forward for an award. Australia will thank you.
A list of some awards follows below:
Emma McDonald wrote in The Age how life in the Law Firms is still ‘no picnic’ for women here. Work in a law firm is no picnic for anyone, but Amicae Curiae tends to agrees with Ms McDonald’s view. For our take on the issue, see our article on ‘Supergirl’s Plight’ at the page here. The Australian reports here that women are about to dominate the legal profession, at least numerically. The author, Ainslie Van Onselen notes
…while [the] growth rates aren’t bad, having a small percentage of women at the top of a profession they are coming to dominate is surely evidence of continuing gender problems in the law.
It must be addressed with flexible work arrangements and a shift in cultural and professional attitudes.
…The glass ceiling is cracking, but it is a long way from being shattered completely.
What do you think of work in a commercial law firm? For women does it make a difference being in a big city firm, a boutique operation or a suburban or country practice? We would love to have your comment on The Age or Australian pieces, or our article.
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I attended the signing of the Victorian Bar Roll for my brother last week, and the Chair of the Bar Council Mark Moshinsky SC made some interesting points in his speech;
The first woman to sign the Victorian Bar Roll was the late Joan Rosanove QC. She signed as number 207 on the 10th of September 1923. Of the 47 Readers signing the Roll this evening, just under half are women – 21 of the 47. They will join the 425 women on the practising list, bringing the total to 446 – a little under a quarter of the total practising list of 1,849.
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Continued, click below Read the rest of this entry »
If you are down by law, in-law, outlaw, legally blond, legal tender, below the bar, above the law or presumed innocent, you may be interested in some of the events coming up in Law Week (16-22 May) the official site is here.
All jurisdictions have law tours, open courts, seminars and a mix of serious and fun events, and most have a PILCH/Pro Bono Walk for Justice on the 16th May (see your local Public Interest Law Clearing House for details)
You can select your forum conveniens by clicking the link below.
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A career in the law: be prepared…
The NSW Young Lawyers have just released a great booklet on how to ‘Survive and Thrive in your First Year of Law’ (the pdf is available from their site click here). It is full of honest advice about starting life as a law student, and then as an early career lawyer. Have a look back at our post on Depression and the Dark Side of the Law.
Amicae Curiae has asked some of our ‘girlfriends of the courts’ on their top tips* for starting out in a law career, and here are the best ones (read on):
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Is your family resolutely not celebrating Mothers’ Day, in an ideological statement against retail enforced false happiness? Or do you do The Works, with visits, presents and flowers to all generations of women in your line? We would love to know! Fill in the poll, or just leave a comment. Read the rest of this entry »
Back in the olden days (er, the early 1990’s) a group of women barristers approached the Victorian Bar Council about forming a Women Barristers Association. Some of our learned friends were enthusiastic about the idea, but others grumbled about ‘those feminists’ and wondered aloud whether there should thus also be a Men Barristers Association. The retort echoed through Owen Dixon Chambers “there already is a male barristers association, it is called the Bar!”
In today’s paper are two reports about people trying to do things differently at the Bar, both involving barristers’ clerks “Trailblazer Norman O’Bryan meets resistance” and “Outsider finds Bar a closed shop for clerks”
So is the Bar an Old Boys Club?
Think of any of the women lawyers on the many American courtroom TV shows, from Ally McBeal to The Good Wife, and a common feature is what they wear. Neat little suits and great shoes are a staple. When I was working as a lawyer I too briefly aspired to that look. It was pretty unsuccessful. Those cute little suits didn’t make it easy to manage files, court books and discovery boxes and I wore my heels out running up and down Queen Street to get to court. But it turns out even ‘the suit’ as imagined by legal drama can be controversial. You can see the furor in the US from a few years ago at:
Thank goodness there is also a blog dedicated to fashion for corporate women: http://corporette.com/ .
We know there are quite a few Shoe/Law and Fashion/Law blogs that our readers enjoy, please leave your favorite links for us to share below:
The GFC and the pay gap: We just read author Anne Summers’ June 2010 speech to Our Community (many thanks to Leanne O’Donnell for forwarding it). In it Anne discusses the GFC, or Gender Fairness Crisis;
There is a million dollar penalty to being a woman. Recent research shows that if current earning patterns continue, the average 25-year-old male starting work today would earn $2.4 million over the next 40 years while the average 25 year old female would earn $1.5 million. Over a lifetime of working, a woman will earn almost one million dollars less than a man. How fair is that? Read the rest of this entry »
The team at Survive Law have helpfully collated those dates, click here.
Some of the positions are with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (May 2011), the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (21 April 2011), the Australian Government Solicitor (15 April 2011) and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (17 April 2011).
But there are many more federal departments (aside from the Commonwealth small arms factory) that are looking for law graduates, and April is hunting season!
I couldn’t help noticing the piece in the Hun yesterday about women with children feeling stigmatised when they went back to work after having kids, and others feeling stigmatised if they stayed home, and didn’t go back to work!
Almost 60 per cent of working mums were made to feel they weren’t taking parenting seriously enough, the survey, conducted on http://www.careforkids.com.au, reported.
Stay-at-home mums did not fare much better – 40 per cent experienced negativity about their decision not to work.
continued> Read the rest of this entry »
The federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, and adviser on women’s issues to the Australian Chief of the Defence Force, Elizabeth Broderick wrote a piece in the SMH/Age today about the profound culture of disrespect for women and ‘gender imbalance’ within some workplaces, specifically here she was discussing the Armed Forces.
Research has found workplaces and communities that are heavily male conform to masculine norms that are emphasised to varying degrees.
Men should always ”be a winner”. Men should be ”tough” both physically and emotionally. Men should never be seen to be in any way feminine or acknowledge their ”feminine side”. They should be ”a man’s man” – one of the boys.
She focuses on the industries that are remote and ‘tough’ environments, but we wonder whether at the top end of town whether attitudes are much better.
Until (Defence) recognise that strong effective leadership has both a male and a female face, the desired change will be difficult to achieve.
For the whole piece click here.
On 5 April 2011 the Law Report (ABC Radio National) had very honest and frank discussion about alienation and depression among lawyers. http://www.abc.net.au/rn/lawreport/stories/2011/3181665.htm.
The recent study by Tani Massimiliano and Prue Vines law students also showed troubling tendencies towards depression in law students. http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/UNSWLRS/2009/51.html
Follow @amicae1 Continued… Read the rest of this entry »
Last year Victorian women lawyers released another installment in their series of practical reports on flexible work practices, “Do you Manage”. This report looks at support for flexible work practices by partners and managers. Click here.
Considerable focus on this issue is warranted given the somewhat sobering assessment of such practices in the study by Margaret Thornton and Joanne Bagust, reported in ‘The Gender Trap: Flexible Work in Corporate Legal Practice.” Osgoode Hall Law Journal, Vol. 45, No. 4, pp. 773-811, 2007; ANU College of Law Research Paper No. 08-15.
The concern is that flexible work practices should be a real career pathway not a dead end.
Yale professors Judith Resnik and Dennis Curtis have written a book titled ‘Representing Justice’ on the changing face of justice; images of Madame Justice are shown here, and the review in the Guardian is here. We have always wondered why if Justice is a woman, how is it that so few women practicing in law can find the right ‘balance’ (That’s what the scales are for right?). What do you think?
My friend Fiona (@Soshoemi) has just posted her thoughts on whether ‘You can really have it all‘. She says
When I went through law school more than 50% of students were female. Twenty years on, I am one of the few still in practice. And with the difficulty of achieving work/life balance in the Law it is hardly a surprise.
Her conclusion; sometimes a Killer Python in the office is needed.
Victorian Women Lawyers and Victorian Women Barristers invite all female second-final year Law students to participate in the 2011 Law Student Mentoring Program.
Now in its fourth year, the Program has developed into a celebrated vehicle for encouraging the next generation of female lawyers to gain valuable insights into the legal profession. This year, registration will occur online via the website: www.vwl.asn.au with registration open until 8 April. The invitation is here: 2011 Female Law Student Mentoring Program Info Flyer
From Supergirl to Invisible Woman: The divide between student perception and professional reality in corporate legal practice by Melissa Castan and Jeannie Paterson in the Alternative Law Journal 2010
Young women are prominent and successful at Australian law schools, yet women remain under-represented in the senior echelons of the legal profession. In this article the authors examine factors affecting the attrition of young women lawyers from corporate legal practice, and make suggestions regarding the responsibilities of law firms and law schools to address this issue… (Long version here).