Thanks for the overview, Happy. One question: I note that you describe the other women in your first job as "gun-slingers" and later refer to your own style as "assertive, but not off-putting". I'm just curious whether these women were seen by you or others as unfeminine because their assertiveness took a more classically "male" type. Are you elevating your form of "non-offputting" assertiveness over theirs? I'm not disagreeing per se about the benefits of an approach that gets things accomplished without being unnecessarily agressive, but I'm wondering how much you've internalized the need to be "nice" such that you are critiquing "less-nice" forms of female assertiveness?? Or are you merely criticizing the fact that your first boss only seemed to appreciate the male form of assertiveness??

On another note, the need for self-promotion is huge. I'm battling it right now b/c I need/should/want to ask my boss for a promotion to the next attorney level (its very structured in my agency) and I keep struggling with how to present my case (for advancement) and waiting "just until I get the opinion back in the X case - if I win THAT one, then I'll go ask him." Ack. I need to just DO it!!

Looking forward to the third installment . . .

The Happy Feminist

What a great question! I should clarify that I don't consider a "macho, gunslinging style" to be particular masculine or feminine since I have seen plenty of lawyers of both sexes who use this style. I find this "macho, gunslinging style" problematic whether I see it in men or women.

What I mean by "macho and gunslinging" is a style that is opposed to giving reasoned responses to things that come up in litigation. The example I gave in one of my prior posts was the habit of a lot of my prior colleagues saying to me, "Tell the defense attorney to pound sand!" even if they didn't necessarily have a legally sound basis to tell the defense attorney to pound sand and even if they didn't have a good reason for doing so. In sum, I guess what I mean by "macho and gunslinging" is a habit of being aggressive just for the sake of being aggressive. It's being aggressive just to "one up" the other side rather than to achieve something for your client or, if your a prosecutor, for your victim or for the public good.

Being assertive, however, is about standing up on issues that you have determined are important and valuable to you or important and valuable to your client's interests.


I think that professional men have a moral obligation to make sure that their female colleagues feel welcomed into the fold! (Or vice-versa in female-dominated professions!)

I'm new to your blog, and just wanted to thank you for your continuing recognition of the 'two way street' of gender relationships. Not all of your compatriots are so inclined, and it makes you a 'much stronger witness'.

The Happy Feminist

I dunno, ballgame. I can't and won't try to speak for every feminist out there, but my sense is that feminists do very much view gender relationships as a two-way street, even if our emphasis is on issues that tend to adversely affect women. That having been said, thank you for the positive feedback!

Nicole Black

Thanks for the reference, H. You should check out Carolyn Elefant's comments on the article at My Shingle and at Legal Blog Watch. She's got an interesting perspective. I also liked Jeremmy Blachman's point the it's strange of the femalw partner in the article to be proud of the fact that "at least one" parent usually made it home for dinner. I thought the same thing when I read the article. That woman's perspective has been completely skewed by her experiences as a women partner.

As for negative female stereotyping, it's not just limited to "timid" or the like. I know one person, a very competent and assertive attorney, who only received one negative comment at the last annual review before she left the firm (prior to that she'd never had a negative comment of any sort). She was told that they'd noticed that she was a bit of a pessimist and "whined" a bit. Do you think that that sort of comment would have ever been made to a man? Not bloody likely.

Nicole Black

Oh, and I probably should have added that my friend then ran around like a maniac buying books on optimism, trying to "change her attitude" and telling all the partners about her efforts until she realized that the partner that told her that was one of the most pessimistic people she'd ever met.

And, ironically, it was those books on optimism that made her realize that in most of her life she was fairly realistic, but, in the context of her job, she was actually a bit pessimistic, all things considered, and it was likely a correct assessment, albeit sexist and innapropriate (especially given that the pessismism was then written off in part by the reviewing partner as possibiy related to her pregnancy), in light of the absolute lack of other substantive criticisms. As she pondered why she'd be more pessimistic in her job than in the rest of her life, she realized that she disliked her job immensely. She quit shortly thereafter. Best decision of her life.

Nicole Black

Oh, and check out Opinionistas.com . Her comment is right on. I haven't been a huge fan of her latest line of posts, but this one is perfect.


Thanks for the clarification HF. I definitely agree that the "agressive for the sake of being aggressive" type of attorney is not useful - and often harmful to said attorney's client's interests.

The Happy Feminist

You're dead on Nicole. I have only just had a chance to glance at opinionistas take-- but it looks like she beat me to the punch. My part 3 of this series was going to be what I think is hands down the crucial factor -- the dehumanizing aspects of billable hours and how those are more likely to lead women to leave law firm life.

And boy do billable hours suck royally, lemme tell ya.


What's with lawyers and pounding sand? I've never heard anyone who WASN'T a lawyer use that phrase!

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