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I thought it was common knowledge that, in the big law firm context, employment litigation was considered a more "undesirable" practice area. Most firms I've worked with have had more women in these practice areas, although I don't know if this was self-selection or not. The more "respected" litigators did general commercial ltigiation (breach of contract), securities and IP litigation. Employment litigation was seen as small pototatoes.

The Happy Feminist

You're right that employment would definitely be seen as small potatoes compared to securities, IP or commercial litigation, which are all I am sure male-dominated areas.

In my firm, it was sort of middling because we didn't do securities or IP, and self-insured employment clients paid higher rates than insurance defense cases. Still, your comment confirms what I was thinking about employment law as possibly a pink collar ghetto. Sigh.

Amber

The concept of employment law as a pink collar ghetto seems confirmed by some of the reactions to the unmasking of Opinionista, who I see is on your sidebar. Many people were dismissive of her work in that field because it was not as "prestigious" as the work the readers had been led to believe she did.

TangoMan

On reflection, however, it is troubling when one’s value to a case is explicitly tied to one’s gender.

I'm curious about how you would apportion the gender bias here. Was your boss completely biased because he thought your gender was an essential attribute or was he simply rational in that he thought the female you were to meet would react more favorably to a woman. Was he making a judgement about you or the woman you were to meet? Was his decision loaded with bias or did he have prior evidence on which to base his decision?

c.

Happy,
If it makes you feel any better, in the big southern legal market I work in, labor and employment law is a big money maker and highly respected. We have several "big name" firms around town that only do labor and employment law. I think labor and employment litigators are coveted (at least on the defense side) because they save their corporate clients so much money. The only negative attitude I've seen or heard amongst attorneys is the "sell out" factor where an attorney consistently defends a corporation against nasty complaints by employees. I think that comes up for most attorneys in private practice, though, at some point or another.

Chipmunk

I'm sure we can find some empirical research identifying whether there is a difference in legal specialization based on gender. There has been some work done looking at differences in law school faculty by specialization (women, generally, are in the less prestigious areas). It also raises many other questions. Can it be due to differences in problem solving? Is it simply due to closed doors (the old boys network). What will happen as more women enter the law (and, less men do - look at the stats, more women are attending college than men, it should have an impact on the future shape of law schools).

will

"DOES SEX DETERMINE SPECIALTIES WITHIN THE LAW?"

Of course. The partner in charge of each group is more likely to want you in his section if you are having sex with him.

However, I would have to recommend against having sex with your superiors or people who report to you.

As far as your intended question, I cannot really comment because it strikes me as a "Big Firm" question.

evil_fizz

Chipmunk: well, what you see in medicine is that specialties which demand longer and more insane hours tends to be overwhelmingly dominated by men, such as cardiology and surgery. Specialties which provide more flexible scheduling and limited phone calls at 2 am are much more popular among women. (I have to check, but I think the vast majority of people in family medicine are women.)

I wonder if fields that are seen as more demanding and time consuming (emphasis on seen) are less likely to attract women?

TangoMan

I wonder if fields that are seen as more demanding and time consuming (emphasis on seen) are less likely to attract women?

Perhaps, but the "seen" is in the eye of the beholder. My wife is able to shut down a pompous ass who is high on his field by telling him that he likely avoided specializing in radiation oncology because he couldn't handle the nuclear physics that goes along with it :) In the case of radiation oncology the field is certainly intellectually demanding but the time demands are far fewer (no one needs a zap of radiation at 2 am,) and the sane lifestyle that it permitted was certainly appealing. I have no idea what the national statistics show.

evil_fizz

I applied for a job as a research ethics advisor for the Department of Nuclear Medicine at my extremely prestigious local university. During my interview, they asked how I felt dealing with a bunch of arrogant men (quite literally), because I was going to be the 3rd woman in the department out of 30. I said I thought I could handle it and asked why there were so few women. She said that due to the nature of the work they were doing, any woman who found out she was pregnant had to take immediate leave. I dunno if that also applies to radiation oncology, but it's possible.

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