Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Just Plain Rude

One of our personal injury cases has turned into an insurance bad faith case seemingly overnight. This makes me happy. I love insurance bad faith almost as much as I love insurance coverage. Although a lot of other projects have been waiting in my work queue, I fervently drafted a letter to an opposing counsel on the bad faith case. I was very proud of my three page, persuasive letter which was brimming with legal authority and thoughtful analysis.

My boss gave me good feedback and told me I was starting to sound like "Attorney X," a notorious bad faith attorney in our area. Looking back, I took way too much pride in that compliment. My letter was addressed to a partner at a Big Law firm. A couple days later, opposing counsel responded to my letter. Except he did not address his response to me. He addressed it to one of the male partners in the firm. What? MY name was on that letter. Why would he respond to someone else? I was pissed. I turned down the opportunity to made a snarky comment in a follow-up letter. I almost wish I had. But that's not really my style.

I don't consider myself to be a shining proponent of feminism. Obviously, I'm not against women being considered and treated as equals in the work place. I'm just not very militant about it. I wouldn't turn down a male coworker's offer to help me nail a frame on my office wall or help me carry a heavy box. I think chivalry is awesome, not anti-feminist. I don't necessarily buy into the argument that women across the board earn less than male counterparts in the same circumstances (I may be incorrect in my thinking but I just don't have very high regard for the statistics and "studies" out there - in general I always take statistics with a grain of salt). I don't think being considered a "nice" person is a bad thing for a lawyer (not necessarily a feminist issue but more women tend to be labeled as "nice" or "gentle" than men, in my opinion).

BUT. BUT. Even if I will never win a gold medal for my work in advancing the plight of women in this country, I still hate when male chauvinism creeps into the work place. If I do good work, I want it to be recognized and acknowledged as MY work. And even if I'm not a partner and even if I don't have as much experience as my opponents, I would hope they would have enough respect for me as a human to deal with me directly rather than completely bypass me for a higher-up.

End. Rant.


  1. I definitely consider myself a feminist, especially where workplace issues are concerned. But I humbly submit to you that this may be more of a hierarchy thing than a gender thing. In Biglaw World, only partners matter. If they know you're an associate and there is a partner copied on the letter, there's a good chance they'll respond to the partner no matter who you are.

  2. I, also humbly, would refute your general rejection of the statistics that show women are underpaid. As anecdotal evidence, I will point out that at my last job (I did the payroll, so I know), all professional women were paid in the 10-20th percentile for their job. All professional men were paid at 100th percentile or more. This had nothing to do with "asking for more" - I went to all interviews, was involved in all hiring decisions. Men, without doing anything at all, were offered more than women for the same jobs, regardless of experience or education.

    When I politely but firmly asked for a raise after a year and a half and glowing reviews of my work, I was told that husbands make the money for their families, not wives. When I left my job, I was making $50k. They offered my position to a young man straight out of college with no experience, and offered him $75k, because "that's what the market will pay a man." He declined, and they finally gave the job to a woman with 25 years of experience. They paid her $50k, same as me with only 5 years. The man was offered a $5000 relocation package. The woman was offered $500 incidental expenses, for things like switching her internet provider. The man received a contract offer with bonus and company car. The women got neither of those things. This kind of behavior was rampant - all male managers had bonus plans, stock options, relo packages and company vehicles. None of the female managers or professionals were offered any of these.

    My sister, who has a degree, was performing a job at a workplace at a certain rate. The man who later became her husband, and who did not have a degree nor any experience in the field (or any professional field), was offered the same job at almost double the pay. They later figured this out when they married.

    Another way that women are paid less is that traditional "women's work" gets paid less than traditional "men's work." Teachers and daycare workers make less than many trash collectors, plumbers, carpenters, even though arguably their work is as hard. Also, women who were unable to serve in combat roles in the military were often excluded from the highest paid positions, which require combat training/experience. There are a number of insidious ways that women are kept from earning at the rates of men, from outright discrimination to unconscious bias to misplaced patriarchal protectionism. One place where it's least prevalent is in law firms that typically have some kind of lockstep pay scale - but my experience in other fields is that women consistently get the short end of the pay "stick," for myriad reasons. And because, for many years, I was the only earner in our family, that disparity has been a real detriment to our ability to provide.

    1. Yeah, I've seen this kind of stuff too. Sorry CP :)

  3. CM- I wondered if it's typical practice for some firms to always contact partners. But in this case the partner was not cc:ed on the correspondence and there had not been any prior correspondence between our firms. The partner is on the letter head (along with another partner) but that's pretty much it. Even if Big Law follows a hierarchy, it is still rude to not respond to the person that wrote you a letter! I wasn't even cc:ed on the response! RUDE!

    I admitted in my post that I could be wrong re: wage disparities. And I hold to it- I could very well be wrong. I guess I am very lucky to never have experienced anything like this. Of course there will always be some firms where this is just ingrained in the culture but I'm not convinced on a wide-scale/national level. And I wonder if this is more prevalent in some areas of the country. I just haven't read anything persuasive. Again, could be wrong. I'm not proclaiming to be an expert here.