Wednesday, January 29, 2014

my knight in shining... merino wool...

My beloved Daddy Mack ("DM") and his law school friends have an email group for their fantasy baseball team [insert eye roll here] and, as far as I can tell, spend between 2 and 6 hours a day talking trash and trolling the internet for random/amusing shit. A while back, one of the guys started forwarding messages from the San Diego County Bar Association list serve regarding an upcoming event - the “Lawyers Club Luncheon: Equality and Action: Dissecting the Trends of Female Attorney Representation in San Diego.” Here's a little snippet of their informed intellectual analysis of the subject matter.

Friend A: Here we go…
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“For some reason I bet the number of hours worked by men vs women will not be discussed as a factor.” – Tom, Male Lawyer in San Diego
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“The numbers are disturbing….None of us thinks we are sexist or bigoted.
 
BUT - the numbers don't lie.  Women make less than men --- in our own legal community.  So do minorities.
 
Please come and hear what the numbers are, what they mean, and some whys. 
 
Maybe, just maybe, when our own brethren and sistern [huh?] hear these things, we will soon be able to show the world and the business community that we as lawyers, who carry the banner of, and fight for equality, do not discriminate. 
 
We certainly cannot do that now.” – Dick, Male Lawyer in San Diego
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Friend A: keep it going people
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“Please take me off this mailing list. I do not wish to receive this Subject Matter.” – Harry, Male Lawyer in San Diego. Harry wants no part of this business.
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“Tom,

I have to ask – are you suggesting that women work fewer hours than men? Because I’m a trial partner who has been in practice almost 30 years, and I have never observed that.

Sally”
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Friend A: Heating up! Thank you Sally.
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“I have not been a trial lawyer for 30 years, but I am pretty sure that is exactly what he was suggesting.” – Joe, Male Lawyer in San Diego.
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Friend A: Giddyup.
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Friend B: Lawyer listservs are the worst. I want cuntpunting to occur. Stat.
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Friend C: Yes! Feed the trolls.
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Friend D: There really shouldn't be any controversy about this. They guy who commented on hours is spot on. [Editor's note - this is coming from a guy/group of guys who spend more time on the internet each day than I spend with my children.]
 
In big law, there are three types of women:
 
1. Normal girls [?] who aren't obsessed with the practice of law so they get married, knocked up at least twice, and end up billing at least 1/4 less than the average male colleague for about 2-3 years. They eventually go back to full billing, but will never have a huge (2300+) billable year. They can make partner but are obviously at a disadvantage to men in their class, and woman 3 below.
 
2. Women that follow the path of 1 above, but never make it back full time and eventually leave big law a few years after the first kid. No partners here.
 
3. Women who aren't interested in having kids and put 100% of their life into the law. They make partner unless they have no social skills. They make more than most men of their class.
 
1 and 2 are most common. 3 is very rare. Average this out and of course women get paid less then [sic] men!
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Friend A: I think there’s also a “2b” – women who follow path #1, never make it back full time, but stay at big law as “of counsel” or something similar.  I know some wives of some colleagues that essentially work part-time or from home at local BigLaw firms. They’ll never make partner and they’re cool with that – as is the firm because the firm gets work that is at or better than that of a junior partner, but doesn't cost as much.
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Friend B: These firms are also able to tout their diversity.
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DM: I would love to be 2b. That sounds awesome.
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Friend C: Or you could be 2b but masquerade as a 3 and demand more money and have round tables about how poorly women are treated.  They're like Karl Rove.
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DM: I mean, you guys are admitting that there are two sets of rules, one for men and one for women.
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Friend C: If DM’s wife knew he was reading this, he’d never be allowed to hang out with us again.
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I resent the implication, Sir. I am well aware that DM’s friends are Grade A, gin-u-wine Asshats. And I still like (most) of them.
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DM: She’s seen worse, and assumes even worse, out of this crowd.

She illustrates the point though. She is right in the thick of figuring out if she is 1, 2, or 2b.  The way law is practiced, having kids screwed her career, there's no question about it. The only question is how badly. It doesn't help either of us that we mostly like our kids and therefore don't want to work 60-hour weeks.
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Friend E: You guys work 60 hours a week?!?! I would have thought some lawyer would have made a law against that.
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Friend D: There are definitely tiers of male lawyers, but men don't ask to be paid for taking time off. The slackers only get paid more if they are good at fraudulent time entries or have a book of biz.
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DM: Do you have the impression new mothers are going on a freaking paid vacation when they leave their nice, structured professional life for a few months to stay at home with screaming thankless lumps of neediness while sleeping maybe a few scattered hours a day for months on end, only to come back to a work place where you've been blacklisted as a candidate for promotions because you have kids and will probably have to leave at reasonable hours to pick them up from their back alley daycare, which is the only one you can afford since you only got paid 50% of your salary over the last 3 months and have fallen behind on your mortgage? Because that would be a false impression. If you ever manage to knock your wife up, I'll be sure to bring her a home cooked meal a week after the baby's born, when neither of you even knows what day it is or which end is up, and I'll accept your belated apology then.
 
There should be universal family leave, open to both sexes equally. And there shouldn't be bullshit pretextual consequences when people take advantage of it.
 
Amen, brothah! This is one of at least seven reasons I love this man.
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Friend A: That joke was hilarious, DM.
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I don't have the time or energy to unpack all that is wrong with the above exchange. But I will say this. It's not just men who hold these beliefs. I have heard a lot of this rhetoric before - from fellow female lawyers. Those without kids snark about the women who have managed to defy this ridiculous, yet surprisingly apt, categorical scheme and make it to "the top" in spite of the fact that they have - gasp - kids. ("ew.") In their minds, she must have slept with someone (or several someones, considering how many damn babies she's had), only made partner to fill the "diversity quota" referenced above, and/or so the firm could avoid getting sued for gender discrimination. But never, ever, because she actually earned it. It bears noting that I have not once in my life heard anyone call out male laywers with children this way. If universal family leave were readily available, and men took an equal share of the burden of child rearing, and women were paid the same for the same amount of work, then the discussion would look completely different.

I can't tell you how many friends and coworkers have joked to me that they'd love to take maternity leave, that they're going to fake an adoption so they can get a "three month 'vacation,'" that they wish they could "get paid to take time off" too. I hear this from lawyers, non-lawyers, men and women - the only common thread is that none of them have ever actually suffered through the mind-blowing/mind-numbing, heaven-and-hell that is maternity leave.

My response to that is, "I double dog dare you." It's almost enough for me to bring my ovaries out of retirement, just so I can drop a colicky newborn on some smug lady lawyer's lap. Scratch that. I'll just give it to Thomas A. Hole, Esquire, above, or maybe "Friend D." Here. I'll trade you. You stay home in shit-stained sweatpants for the next 3 months, subjected to instruments of torture around the clock, such as sustained sleep deprivation, isolation techniques, and a particular tactic outlawed under the Geneva Conventions called "baby screaming in your face for hours on end, doctor has no idea why; otherwise known as colic." (YOU GUYS. I THINK I JUST SOLVED THE WAR ON TERROR. TERROR SUSPECTS MUST SERVE AS NIGHT NURSES UNTIL THEY TALK.) Meanwhile, I will wear pretty, spotless suits and have two martini lunches and interact with grown-up humans (granted, opposing counsel is often akin to an angry toddler) and bill my clients while posting douchey comments on the county bar association's list serve. Then come back and let me know how you enjoyed your "vacation." Deal?

And yes, yes, I know, we "brought this on ourselves." But guess what? Your mom made the same decision and she (probably) doesn't regret it. It's a dirty, thankless job, but somebody's gotta do it. (Though, I suppose, it isn't much worse than being a lawyer. See postscript, below.)

Anyway, like most things in life, I generally think the best policy is, unless you've experienced it yourself, you should probably just shut yer' yapper...
i've mentioned this article by anne-marie slaughter before-
but i love writer jessica valenti's take on it, and thought it was apropos:
"sad white babies with mean feminist mommies"
PS, a friend of mine from law school posted this article the other day. I guess maybe I should be thanking my lucky stars that I'll never be a "real lawyer" again: The 2014 U.S. News Job Rankings: Being a Lawyer is Worse than Being a Nail Technician. I wonder where 'Mom' ranks?

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