Legal Secretaries Would Rather Not Work For Lady Lawyers (jezebel).:
Whether female lawyers are taking out their stress on female employees or falling victim to gender stereotypes governing appropriate boss behavior, the study is yet another indication that women’s problems in the workplace go far beyond overt discrimination.
The study mentioned in the Jezebel piece is Felice Batlan‘s work. Prof Batlan is Associate Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Institute for Law and the Humanities at the IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law (here is her SSRN link). Her research on the legal secretaries is fascinating. Here’s the paper citation – unfortunately, not available free anywhere, but downstairs in the Osgoode library. Felice Batlan (2010), “If you become his second wife, you are a fool”: Shifting paradigms of the roles, perceptions, and working conditions of legal secretaries in large law firms, in Austin Sarat (ed.) Special Issue Law Firms, Legal Culture, and Legal Practice (Studies in Law, Politics and Society, Volume 52), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.169-210. Although this one is 2010, it seems Prof. Batlan just presented the work at a conference and sparked interest from bloggers.
The above link from Jezebel is rather fun, and as usual Above the Law has a field day with it. See also the ABA Journal, and perhaps best of all, in Forbes, where Victoria Pynchon wrote:
So many of Batlan’s respondents described their work as requiring them to suppress their own emotions in response to attorneys’ emotional outbursts, that she characterized their work as “emotional labor” – work that requires the secretary to “project an outward appearance that ‘produces the proper state of mind in others.’”
For more juicy stuff, check out the comments on the links above, which seem to be lots of women bashing, but also I think the comments point to the brutal interlocking of gender and class (not mentioned, though in the NYC law firm I briefly summered at, so obvious, is race). Anyway, another thing that we could either treat as a titillating cat fight, or look deeper into. How do you treat the women you outrank at work? How do they treat you? I had a fun time clicking around for pictures for this post, I can tell you.
Another thing you might like – Prof Batlan also did a project with some of her students,Felice Batlan, PhD, Kelly Hradsky, Kristen Jeschke, LaVonne Meyer, Jill RobertsNot Our Mother’s Law School?: A Third-Wave Feminist Study Of Women’s Experiences In Law School 39 U. Balt. L.F. 124 (2009) available here (lexis link):
This article is about a journey and a process as much as it is about a product. In spring 2007, as part of our Gender and the Law class at Chicago-Kent College of Law, we read portions of Lani Guinier’s Becoming Gentlemen: Women, Law School, and Institutional Change, as well as more recent studies regarding women’s experiences in law school. n3 Guinier’s book generated strong reactions. Of the twenty-two women in the class, about three-quarters of them deeply related to the sense of alienation that the women law students at the University of Pennsylvania Law School spoke of in Guinier’s work. Many of the Chicago-Kent students commented that they wished they had read the article earlier in their law school careers, as they had assumed their own feelings of alienation, depression, and sinking confidence were individual problems. Importantly, Guinier blamed women law students’ problems on the law school as an institution rather than on personal pathologies. Yet, about a quarter of the class strongly felt that they had not experienced discrimination or feelings of alienation in law school and that the sentiments that dissatisfied women law students experienced were shared by all students – men and women.
This prompted a number of questions: Had women’s experiences in law school changed since Guinier and her colleagues first undertook their study in 1994? Were women’s experiences at Chicago-Kent different than those at more prestigious schools, especially since [*125] Chicago-Kent had admitted women since the 1890s? As we began contemplating conducting our own survey of student experiences at Chicago-Kent and its correlation to gender, a number of issues emerged. We wondered how we could employ a feminist methodology in conducting our work and how the survey might be animated by feminist theory. Conscious of our own roles and motives, we understood that we, in many ways, were both the subjects and the beneficiaries of our own experiment. By working cooperatively in a close group composed of four women students and a professor on issues concerning our own lived experiences, we were enacting many of the suggestions that a variety of gender studies had made for creating a more amiable environment for women law students. Thus, as we sought to examine other students’ gendered experiences during law school, we were exploring and transforming our own.
Maybe something for those of you who have wondered, am I the only one that feels this way? How to express that there are still issues without denying the undeniable change? And also, how to write while I’m in law school.
Finally, there’s quite a lovely and personal piece in Feminist Formations,or the NWSA Journal as it then was: Felice Batlan. “Weathering the Storm Together (Torn Apart by Race, Gender, and Class).” NWSA Journal 20.3 (2008): 163-184. Project MUSE. Web. 21 Jan. 2011