Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 25

"Every study continues to reflect this very material
differential in pay, as well as very incremental progress
in equity partnership, so we have to really self-examine
and say, 'What is it that continues to hamper these efforts
and what do we need to change?'"
Founder and President, Bass Institute for Diversity & Inclusion

Of course pay or professional standing isn't the only problem compelling
women to leave big firms. In this era of the MeToo movement, women
are increasingly talking about sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and
frat house environments that may have been tolerated in the past but
no longer.
Formerly of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP, Cory M. Amron is CEO of
a group called Women Lawyers on Guard, which also includes Masters and
Parver. The organization is planning to take on the issue of sexual harassment
with a nationwide survey this year of women in all areas of the legal profession
- law firms, government, nonprofits, and in-house departments.
"We are trying to shine a very bright light on the spectrum of behavior that
constitutes sexual misconduct in a workplace or academic setting and negatively impacts the survivor's career," says Amron.
"Women Lawyers on Guard embarked on a 'listening tour' to determine how
we were going to address sexual harassment in the legal profession in a way
that would be impactful and not duplicative of others' efforts. We heard stories
that made our skin crawl. We were astounded that these things were happening here and now at big law firms, at government agencies, all legal
settings, nationwide," says Amron.
"It's kind of a dirty secret in the legal profession: The cobbler's children have
no shoes. Law firms in particular give advice about sexual harassment to their
clients, but in some cases, they themselves are not dealing with it at home.
It just needs to be addressed yet again, and we need to have more male allies
to do so successfully," she adds.
"We are looking beyond just the legal definition of sexual harassment," she says.
"We believe that the results will help people recognize, for instance, that what
may seem innocuous at the beginning can grow into an insidious and controlling situation. It could also substantiate the commonly held theory that most
of these behaviors go unreported."

"One of the most shocking statistics for me was the continuation of demeaning
and condescending comments and remarks," says Liebenberg. "We also found,
still, a high percentage of unwanted sexual advances and sexual harassment."

When a rainmaker is the worst harasser in the firm, that's a big challenge for
managing partners. But here's the larger problem for law firm management
teams, according to the women interviewed for this article.
Increasingly clients are demanding that their legal teams demonstrate greater
diversity both in race and gender. Managing partners are looking around the
room and asking where the women have gone. They're not there in the same
numbers. And worse, they aren't there in the lateral hiring market either. They
have left the profession altogether. "It is really critical that we start to see the
percentage of women in equity positions increase and [see] women in real
positions of power," Liebenberg says.
"If we don't focus on senior women, they will continue to leave, and we will
just never have enough bodies to actually get beyond the 18 percent to 20
percent equity women partners' threshold. There just are not enough women,"
Liebenberg says. "This has to be an enormous call to action. There has to be
a systematic effort to be sure that we can close this gender gap.
"Those in power think they are doing a lot better in addressing this problem
than they actually are. If you talk to management they think that, and it's true
also in board studies, if you have one woman on board ... 'Okay, the problem
is solved.'"
Considering the challenges women face in the profession, the ABA study
findings, and the future Women Lawyers on Guard survey, Parver says that
ultimately it is the mix of pressures that makes it difficult for women to maintain
an interest in the profession.
"It is just very, very difficult to be successful and be a rainmaker and have
a work-life balance. And the same situation occurs for women in-house
counsel in other environments," Parver says. However, "some firms are much
better at fostering women who have the potential to be rainmakers by taking
them to meetings, including them on client pitches, and sharing the compensation," she adds.

Once the survey results are published, Women Lawyers on Guard plans to
launch a series of conversations within the legal profession to open up a
constructive dialogue. "We will have professional facilitators convene small
groups of people: men on the one hand, women on the other, focused on
thorny subjects like backlash, fear of false accusations, and what it means to
work in an employment or academic setting in this MeToo environment,"
Amron says.

"Most of my closest allies and mentors were men. When I started as a
summer associate, there were no women partners at the firm. By the time
I left in 2004, there were 20," she recalls. Few of them survived the Blank
Rome merger.

Liebenberg, who has seen a version of the forthcoming ABA survey in advance,
says that the numbers of women reporting sexual harassment or misconduct
at law firms were an eye-opener.

William Roberts is a regular contributor to Washington Lawyer.

Photos courtesy of Lorelie S. Masters and Hilarie Bass


MARCH 2019




Washington Lawyer - March 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - March 2019

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
Calendar of Events
Government & Gavel
The Women's Wave & Its Effects on Politics
Features: #Me Too & A Time Of Reckoning for the Law
Feature: Righting The Gender Imbalance In Big Law
Feature: A Day in The Life of Two Women Lawyers
Global & Domestic Outlook
Worth Reading
Media Bytes
Attorney Briefs
Ask The Ethics Experts
Disciplinary Summaries
The Pro Bono Efect
Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 1
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 2
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 3
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 7
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 9
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 11
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Government & Gavel
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 13
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - The Women's Wave & Its Effects on Politics
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 15
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 16
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 17
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Features: #Me Too & A Time Of Reckoning for the Law
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 19
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 20
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 21
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Feature: Righting The Gender Imbalance In Big Law
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 23
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 24
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 25
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Feature: A Day in The Life of Two Women Lawyers
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 27
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 28
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 29
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 30
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 31
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 32
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 33
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Global & Domestic Outlook
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 35
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Media Bytes
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Ask The Ethics Experts
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 41
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 42
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 43
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - The Pro Bono Efect
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 45
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 47
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - 48
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - March 2019 - Cover4
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