Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Musings: Legal Education in a Different Vein

I was watching "Horrible Bosses" on the Jaywalking segment of The Tonight Show last night and it brought a rather unpleasant memory out of hiding.  Not as bad as some of those, but unpleasant nonetheless.

There weren't a whole heckuva lot of lady lawyers in Arkansas when I graduated from law school.  I was only the second to be hired in my firm (even though most of the new-hire associates and clerks in the next few following years were ladies.  Or women, at least.)  In those days, the late 70s/early 80s, there was still a "Men's Grill" at the Little Rock Club where a whole lotta gender-segregated business went down during the lunch and cocktail hours -- the Men's Grill was open only to folks with external plumbing.

I had done a lot of grunt work on one case -- research, writing pleadings and motions, tracking things down.  I remember, two senior partners (one of which was my cherished mentor -- a friend of my father; the other was Daddy's fraternity brother) and I had been in the large conference room for hours with opposing counsel, working on settlement negotiations, when it got to be about lunchtime. 

At a break, just as we were getting really close to a settlement, Fraternity Brother stood up, stretched, and announced, "Let's take this over to the Club."  Everyone stood up but me, gathered what they needed, and headed for the door; Mentor was the last in line.  I'm certain that my face flashed twelve different shades of red. 

As they filed  out of the room, I stood, and as I straightened my files and picked up my coffee cup, Mentor turned to see me preparing to head to my office upstairs.  He said, "Oh.  Moogie.  We can go to the regular dining room instead of the Grill."  I thought it over for a minute and told him, "No, that won't be necessary; just let me continue to bill over lunch while I get these notes cleaned up."

I'll never forget the expression on his face.  He finally got it. 

I didn't then, nor do now, object to gender-specific, or race-specific, clubs in general; but I did, and do, object to using them to conduct business to the detriment of a player via exclusion.

That particular scenario didn't play out again, either with me or with any of the other women -- probably because, of course, the "good ol' girls' network" was quickly made privy to that incident.  Along with the named and managing partners, I'd bet.  Accordingly, I like to think I had something to do with the education of the partners of my old firm.

I also like to think I had something to do with the rather generous maternity policy for lady lawyers at the firm.  Since I was the prototype (the first pregnant associate), the senior partners asked me what I needed, so I told them: since I would do a little work at home (which I did, including testifying for one of the partners 1 1/2 weeks after Younger Daughter was born), I expected to be paid, and that I needed at least the standard (at that time) six weeks off, clearance from my OB to return to work, time for doctor appointments, continuation in benefits, and deeming the pregnancy in the same light as they would any other disability.  They had no counter.  See The Pregnancy Act of 1978.

They also had no ammunition to argue against continuing the paid leave when I needed an extra four weeks with Elder Daughter due to some recovery issues.  Or two weeks of bed rest before Younger Daughter was born due to a serious lung infection, complete with at least one visit to the ER before I was scheduled to give a dinner party.  But, that's another story.

So, I guess "horrible bosses" don't have to be horrible if they're schooled appropriately, even if one of the senior partners insisted on putting his arm around me when I was great with child and explaining to me how Cherokee women just stepped off the trail, gave birth, and kept right on moving along the Trail of Tears.  He was not exactly a sensitive 70s kind of guy.  (not like Buck!)  Arm-arounder's wife left him and he wound up leaving the firm, living on a boat on the Arkansas River.  Literally.  (But considerably nicer than a van down by the river!)

I guess they don't have to be totally horrible bosses.  It just takes a good teacher.  With thick skin.  ;-)


  1. What a great story! Thanks for paving the way. The old days were SOOOO different. I paved the way for women in another area... sports. It was fun to be a pioneer!
    But in 6th grade, I REALLY wanted to be a crossing guard and was told that "girls can not do that job". Instead, I was stuck in the office... bored... answering the phone... yuck... no cool uniform for that job.
    Today's girls should be taught how others had to suffer so they could have opportunity!

  2. Yes you did, cuz!! I remember being so proud of you as you helped transform ladies track and field! Yep -- I kept up. It's a different world. Better, and still "interesting."

    Believe it or not, I was "THE" Fire Marshall at Forest Park in 6th grade, and another girl was Captain of the Safety Patrol! We were featured on a tv news report as being girls in non - traditional roles, but the actual practice of the"job" never really morphed into what the job should have been. Probably a model for what's happening, even today.

    But, there are real opportunities for women today, in most arenas. So, I guess I'll step off of this particular (and usually innocuous) soapbox for now.

  3. That Sensitive Seventies Guy sez...

    Great story.

    I went through the gender-integration process when the AF admitted women into "non-traditional" career fields back in the '70s, which included the radar biz, where I worked. We had a LOT of acceptance issues with old grizzled sergeants and not a few mid-grade ossifers, too. It was the MOST interesting of times, lemmee tell ya. I became something of a "female airman's friend in court" in the process, seein' as how I was all liberal at the time (The Cause, and all that) and had several young females working for me. Like I said... interesting.

    All that said... I can't begin to relate, really. I was there and I helped, but I didn't LIVE it like all y'all did.

  4. That was a great story. Thanks for being a leader.

    Hey, when I was in the 6th grade, I was chosen as one of the first girls to do crosswalk duty. The street in front of the school became a one way street during after-school hours. Not only were we suppose to help kids cross the street, we were to stop cars from entering the one way street. One day a police car came along, and I stopped him and told him that this was a one way. He chuckled and said he was on his way to a wreck. I thought he would probably get there much faster if he were not going against traffic, and he might cause another wreck. He did not see things my way and went on through. I'm sure he thought I was a silly girl, but you know what I though of him.

  5. There had to be guys willing to watch our backs back then, Buck. Thanks!

    I would've loved to see you instructing the cop! Great example he set for you, huh?