Friday, April 30, 2010

More good news for women partners

Forbes has reported that a new study shows that not only is it hard for a woman to make partner, its hard to stay there. The joint study, conducted by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, and the Project for Attorney Retention, surveyed 700 female lawyer at regional and international law firms. According to the study, the majority of women who had made it partner had to attain the position by making a lateral jump to another firm--few were promoted from within.
It also reported that 9 percent of the woman partners lost their equity stakes.
The solution, according to Forbes--more women at the top. Sounds like a vicious cycle to me.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Myra Bradwell award goes to Mary Vasaly

Minnesota Women Lawyers has made an outstanding choice with its decision to present its highest honor, the Myra Bradwell Award, to its past president Mary Vasaly.
The award is presented to an MWL member who expresses the highest ideals of the legal profession and who possesses the qualities exemplified by Myra Bradwell such as courage, perseverance, and leadership on issues of concern to women. Bradwell went before the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to be admitted to the practice of law, which the court denied. Bradwell was admitted a few years later in Illinois.
Vasaly is also the former president of the Hennepin County Bar Association and a founding member of the Infinity Project. The award will be presented at MWL’s annual meeting in May.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Toobin predicts Kagan will get SCOTUS nod

Last night's Law Day dinner, sponsored by the Fund for Legal Aid, was a boffo hit featuring Garrison Keillor, who talked about Don and Arvonne Fraser, and journalist Jeffrey Toobin, who covers the Supreme Court and is the author of "The Nine." In good news for readers of Woman, Esq., Toobin predicted that the next Supreme Court nominee would be Solicitor General Elena Kagan, and then after her, Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security. That will make for interesting discussions, Toobin said, since Napolitano used to be Anita Hill's attorney. He also said that if Minnesota would elect a Democratic governor, Amy Klobuchar would be in the running. I think he was serious, although Klobuchar was in the audience and Toobin also remarked, "Nobody panders like I do."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

New Title IX Changes

The following is a post by Erin Davenport, an associate at Dorsey & Whitney:

Today, the Obama administration will reverse a Bush-administration policy regarding Title IX, which governs gender equity in athletics. Under Title IX, universities show their compliance with the law in three ways: (1) the number of male and female athletes are proportional to the university’s enrollment, (2) the university is expanding the athletic opportunities on campus, or (3) the university is meeting the interests and abilities of female students on campus. The third option initially required the consideration of several factors, but the policy changed under the Bush administration. The change allowed universities to meet the third option by using a model survey. Additionally, no response to the survey was allowed to be considered as a disinterest in athletics. The NCAA opposed the Bush administration policy.

With today’s announcement, using only the model survey will no longer be sufficient to show Title IX compliance. Universities can still use surveys but must provide additional information to prove that they are meeting students’ interests. The universities also cannot use students’ lack of response to a survey as an indicator of disinterest in athletics.

Although some disagree with changing the policy and think that students may not express their opinions, others think that the new policy will help female students. Perhaps, those in opposition are correct that students will not express their opinions under the new policy and that the administration assumes that it can gauge the level of interest better than students. Allowing a lack of response to a survey, however, to be considered a disinterest in sports is not an accurate indicator. Students have busy lives and may forget to complete the survey – especially when most people receive a large volume of email on a daily, if not hourly, basis. The new policy does not ban surveys as a tool; rather, the new policy merely wants universities to use multiple indicators, which could include the survey, to provide a balanced perspective. Thus, students could still have a voice in what athletics they are interested in if the university uses the survey. Ensuring female participation in athletics helps women realize their potential and may provide them with educational opportunities that they might not have had through athletic scholarships. This new policy likely will ensure that female athletes have an equal opportunity to participate in athletics of their interest and allow students’ voices to be heard.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Rumors that Kagan is a lesbian should be ignored, not disputed

Apparently rumors are circulating that Elena Kagan, the solicitor general who is widely viewed as a front-runner for Justice Stevens’ seat on the bench, is a lesbian. The response to this “news” should be a big yawn, but that’s not the real world. The first blog posting that Kagan is a lesbian was made by a Republican, so it wasn’t intended to be neutral information.

The White House, instead of saying, "so what," responded by asking CBS to pull a report on the blog posting because it made “false charges,” which the network eventually did . Not sure that really made the situation any better. What if the White House said, “Really? Who cares?” We don’t live in that society yet, but we have to take steps to get there. Might as well start here.

Equal: Women judges to the rescue

More posts from Equal. See the last one here.

24. Seeking Equal Judicial Firepower

VAWA turned to the National Association of Women Judges, which had pioneered research into gender bias in the court system, not only from judges but from male attorneys. They took their work back to their states, sometimes to the chagrin of their male colleagues. New Jersey was first, followed rapidly by other states, including Minnesota. Slowly, the federal courts became involved. “Nourse [recognized] the potential power of almost a decade of surveys and investigations into judicial gender bias led by America's National Association of Women Judges.”

25. Women Judges to the Rescue.

The National Association of Women Judges was led by Minnesota Hennepin County District Court Judge Cara Lee Neville at the time NAWJ agreed to back VAWA. It stood at the intersection of the judiciary, led by Rehnquist, and the young women lawyers who supported VAWA. After the association voted to support VAWA, Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Mary Schroeder and University of Southern California Law School Professor Judith Resnick were two influential women who threw their influence toward VAWA and got the resolution supporting it passed prior to the ABA annual meeting where the ABA Judicial Administration Division was expected to attack it. NAWJ supported four parts of VAWA as written, and supported the civil rights provision if it was narrowly tailored to cases where a federal forum was necessary and appropriate. This wording would give Judge Norma Shapiro, a member of the ABA house of Delegates and the Judicial Administration Division, a chance to influence the division to accept the women judges language regarding a civil remedy. Judge Schroeder would work on tailoring the civil rights language.

Right before the climactic ABA meeting, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor addressed the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference and told them to think more expansively about the reach and responsibility of the federal courts in addressing discrimination against women.

The ABA seemed poised to vote against VAWA, even thought the Board of Governors supported it, when attorney Brooksley Born, chair of the ABA standing committee on the federal judiciary, told the House of Delegates this would be the first time the ABA opposed civil rights legislation. In the end, the judicial administration was defeated and VAWA had survived its worst moment en route to Congress.

Then, in 1993, in a move that many saw as miraculous, the Judicial Conference reversed course from Rehnquist and shifted from opposition to VAWA to no position, opening the way for moderate judges to push for an acceptable and constitutional civil rights law for women. Judges began to see that closing the courthouse doors to women was not good for the judiciary.

A final challenge to VAWA came in meeting the concerns of judges by narrowing the scope of the civil rights provision but still affording the remedy that Nourse and the others involved with the bill sought. They wanted to draw on legal precedent but avoid the obstacles created in the 1880s civil rights cases and the early pregnancy cases. Eventually they reached the definition of crimes that VAWA covered: crimes committed because of gender or or the basis of gender and due, at least in part, to an animus based on the victim's gender. VAWA became law on Sept. 13, 1994.

Avoid engagement right catfights if you want the job

The What Not to Wear Fashion Show recently held in Chicago attracted all sorts of blogosphere attention. I’m a person who still wears pantyhose (when I can find them in stores) so I’m not the best to comment on the overly-casual dress I see everywhere that irritates me to death. Still, isn’t this kind of weird advice to job seekers: “do not wear your engagement ring if it is large because it may anger your women interviewers and cause jealousy (and perhaps rage).” Apparently that is advice from a woman lawyer.
However, this is my favorite comment and one I kind of agree with, although I haven’t been in Express in years (it’s not for the 50-something). “Maybe you bought your suit at Express or somewhere… and you bent over to get a Danish and I can see your tramp stamp.” Click here for Above the Law’s full coverage.

Monday, April 12, 2010

MWL Supports Retention Elections

The following is an update from Kelly Francis on MWL's recent public policy decisions:

At MWL's March Board meeting, the Board of Directors voted to support legislation proposing a constitutional amendment to move from contested judicial elections to retention elections. The proposed amendment stemmed from the recommendations of the Quie Commission, a group tasked with evaluating the potential ramifications of recent Supreme Court decisions on impartiality in Minnesota courts. In particular, the Commission was concerned that political and financial influences that had previously been restricted would start to interfere with judicial elections and outcomes. The resulting bills, SF70 and HF224, would change our current election process to an appointment and retention system with a Performance Evaluation Commission to evaluate appointed judges' qualifications.

The Board of Directors also voted to add MWL to the Coalition for Impartial Justice as a supporter of the pending legislation. The Coalition for Impartial Justice currently consists of 27 supporting organizations, both legal and non-legal.