The Women and the Law Program is excited to announce that we will be continuing our Reproductive Justice Lawyering Webinar Series this summer. This series is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Women and the Law Program and If-When-How with the aim of engaging practicing attorneys with new concepts and developments in reproductive justice advocacy. The series will begin again in June; in the meantime, please keep an eye out for a schedule of specific webinar dates which will be posted shortly.
This past Thursday, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, a law firm specializing in a range of corporate law matters, hosted a panel discussion with female attorneys on how they got to where they are today. Panelists Alexandra Arango, a 2015 WCL alumni, Jenna Godfrey, a 2011 WCL alumni, and 2014 Georgetown Law alumni Jennifer Gindin, discussed different employment opportunities that were crucial in assisting them in their journey to big law. To this point, Panelist Jenna Godfrey emphasized the importance of taking every opportunity you are presented with and seeing each as a learning experience. In addition, the attorneys advocated for striking a healthy work-life balance by prioritizing the activities that are most important to you, finding and utilizing mentor relationships and ensuring any prospective place of employment provides a culture and atmosphere that fits your personality.
Thank you to our panelists for this insightful conversation!
According to Sweeney in “The Female Lawyer in Exodus,” despite earning about half of the legal degrees in this country, women lawyers continue to leave the profession in droves later on in life. Women in the legal profession are likely to earn less than their male peers, be given less visible and less challenging case assignments, and to experience sexual harassment at work. Research conducted by the ABA and others indicates a number of factors the hinder opportunities for sustainability in the legal profession for women, including “unconscious stereotypes, inadequate access to support networks, inflexible workplace structures, sexual harassment, and bias in the justice system.”
Today, speakers Becca O’Connor, Vice President of Public Policy at RAINN, and Manar Morales, President & CEO of the Diversity and Flexibility Alliance, joined us to discuss effective strategies to promote self-care and avoid burnout in the commonly high-stress careers that follow law school. Panelists spoke to the helpfulness of finding and cultivating a mentor relationship, learning how to navigate hostile workplace environments and how best to angle for the assignments you want and that will strengthen you in your position. Specifically, panelists suggested getting a feel for the work environment at any potential organization or firm before accepting a position with them. In addition, they stressed the importance of speaking up for yourself, both in situations where you want to ensure you are getting more, and more meaningful, assignments and in situations where you need support or need to adjust your schedule. The panelists also emphasized the significance of the impact within the legal community of the #metoo movement. They reassured the audience that while sexual harassment remains rampant in the legal profession, we are not alone and we can speak out and get help. O’Connor and Morales both emphasized using connections, conversations, and time effectively and strategically to ensure long-term professional success no matter what area of law you pursue.
Thank you to our incredible panelists for this pertinent discussion!
Last Tuesday, SJD candidates Ghufran Alqahtani and Lucas Martinez-Villalba presented their ongoing research on preventing violence against women. Interestingly, the panelists take opposite approaches to exploring legal responses to lethal violence against women. Alqahtani is in her 3rd year in the SJD program and has been researching potential legal responses to the tragic phenomena of honor killing in Jordan. Her research supports criminalizing honor killing in order to curb the number of honor related deaths in the country. Alqahtani emphasized the importance of a legal solution to begin a lengthier social shift against violence against women in all contexts.
Martinez-Villalba, who is in his 1st year of the SJD program, takes a different approach to legal responses to femicide in Latin America, believing that creating a legal category for femicide as separate from homicide or other charges infers inferiority of the woman. Martinez-Villalba recognizes that this approach is one that remains divisive within the Latinx feminist communities, and is hotly debated as scores of women continue to be murdered on a daily basis in the region.
Both presenters offered great insight into the contexts of their research and responded to probing questions from the audience members made up of students, staff members, and faculty. Many thanks to WCL’s SJD Program for co-sponsoring the event and to our presenters, Lucas and Ghufran!
On Monday, Courtney Arnold, a 3L JD/Masters of Public Policy student, guided a discussion with panelists Claudia Booker, Certified Professional Midwife (CPM), and Nnennaya Amuchie, social and reproductive justice attorney, about the devastatingly high rates of maternal mortality that plague D.C.’s most vulnerable communities, and the nation as a whole. Ms. Arnold inquired about the causes of high maternal mortality rates in the area and the disparate impact on communities of color. Ms. Amuchie remarked that hospitals and health care systems do not operate outside the institutional racism that plagues their society. Ms. Booker stated the main obstacle to ensuring low-income, and predominately minority, communities have access to prenatal health services is that “we do not invest money in those who do not have a voice.” Both speakers discussed the recent closure of two maternity wards in D.C., leaving many expecting mothers with limited access to prenatal care. Lack of prenatal care is a dire issue, but the speakers emphasized that the real consequences often come from the stress put on expecting mothers who are left to worry about how they will get to the hospital, who their doctor may be when they go into labor, and whether they can afford proper care, with or without insurance. This stress has disastrous effects on expecting mothers and contributes significantly to maternal mortality rates in the area. When asked what would need to be done to improve the circumstances for all expecting mothers in the D.C. Metro Area, the speakers stressed the need for investments in housing, transportation and neighborhood clinics, which would require “putting pressure on those who have the power to make change.”
On February 19th, WCL students, faculty and alumni, together with D.C. community members, gathered for a discussion on the current #metoo movement and what can be done to prevent discrimination and sexual harassment in law firms, courts and legislatures. Panelists Cara Greene, partner at Outten & Golden, LLP , Emily Martin, the Vice President for Education and Workplace Justice at the National Women’s Law Center, and WCL Professor Llezlie Green Coleman discussed the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in the legal workplace, often caused by significant power differentials common in courts and law firms. The panelists highlighted the importance of revising workplace ethics rules to explicitly prohibit discrimination, as seen in ABA Model Rule 8.4(g), the advantages and possible drawbacks of removing mandatory arbitration clauses from workplace contracts that keep victims silent, and some promising steps Congress has been taking to amend sexual discrimination policies on the Hill. This crucial conversation was beautifully summarized by our director Ann Shalleck, who spoke to the fact that “although the law can be an instrument for change, it also has profound limitations” and therefore that it is necessary to recognize the importance of ‘community and sharing’ in the fight for workplaces free of discrimination and sexual harassment. “Most importantly,” she stated, “our job is to not be stopped by the things that challenge us.”
Thank you to our incredible panelists for bringing their knowledge and insights to this conversation and giving the topic the consideration and awareness it deserves!
A video recording of the #Metoo: Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Legal Workplace event can be found here.
On Tuesday, students met with esteemed professionals in the field of employment law over lunch to discuss the intersection of gender justice and their practice. Lisa Schnall, Senior Attorney Advisor in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; Ellen Eardley, Partner at Mehri & Skalet; and Professor Sherley Cruz from WCL spoke about the opportunities and limitations of their jobs in government, at a firm, and within academia. The panelists also offered advice to the attending students with regards to the hiring processes and opportunities within their respective work environments. The panelists highlighted in particular the importance of the diversity of on-the-job work experience through clinic, multiple internships/externships, and volunteering while in law school to bolster your resume and set yourself apart from other applicants. Students then had the opportunity to ask questions of the panel regarding the professional life of an employment lawyer and to discuss challenges in job hunting and interviewing. Some of the concerns raised will be addressed in the Women and the Law’s upcoming Professional Development series, beginning on April 11th this semester. Stay tuned to our News and Events page for details.
Many thanks to our panelists for sharing their time and insights with our students to encourage their future success in the practice in employment law!