Is it macho for lawyers to put in long hours? ‘Too soon to tell’ about W&L curriculum, prof says

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Is it macho for lawyers to put in long hours? ‘Too soon to tell’ about W&L curriculum, prof says

Jun 28, 2013, 01:30 pm CDT


Last week, at the Careerist, Vivia Chen took notes a survey noted by Hastings College of Law professor Joan Williams at Harvard Business Review Blog finding that while 9 percent of mothers work more than 50 hours per week, 29 percent of fathers do.

“Why the sizable gap? Williams suggests that the American workplace—particularly in the elite circles of law or finance—equates working long hours at the office with virtue and masculinity,” Chen writes.

She also wonders if this is behind brutal hours that attorneys log at large law firms. She asks: “Do you believe Big Law will ever become saner? Is it the male work culture that dictates the hours—or is the job just inherently crazy?”

Daniel M. Lear, who practices at a small firm in Seattle, responded this week in a post at Right Brain Law that while he thinks machisimo might be partly to blame, it’s not the whole story.

“Lawyers of either gender, but particularly those at BigLaw, do what’s safe, and the billable hour is a very safe way of generating revenue,” Lear wrote. “You simply sit down, start working, and send out bills. Charging by the hour does not require risky investments in innovation or capital….It’s not hard to see why that risk-averse and driven population concluded that the number of six-minute increments accrued to one’s clients’ bills, and by extension the number of hours spent at work, would be the means by which success in BigLaw, and in the law practice in general, is determined: it’s easily measured and scalable, and can be very lucrative.”

Hiring partners need to catch on

After last week’s post at Law School Cafe which lamented the job stats for the first Washington & Lee University Law School class to pass through the reformed third year curriculum, Washington & Lee professor James E. Moliterno has responded in a follow-up post at Law School Cafe.

The title of the post, “Too Soon to Tell,” is also the thrust of Moliterno’s argument. “Ours is a slow-to-change profession,” he wrote. “Employers as a group do not change their settled practices on a dime. Nothing in the employment numbers that we see for the next three to five years should be seen as reflecting on the reception given to the curriculum reform.”

Employers need to buy what they have persuaded law schools to do as far as preparing students for practice, although perhaps they aren’t ready. “Employers’ behavior is long-entrenched and employers are being especially cautious due to the financial crisis, but eventually we remain confident that these reforms, adopted in the midst of the most turbulent market in legal services in modern history, will bear fruit for all constituencies.”

AMA shakes things up

A press release from the American Medical Association last week announced that the group has adopted policy recognizing obesity as a disease.

What does this mean for employment lawyers? “Now, employers will have to consider reasonable accommodations for anyone with a body mass index of 30 or over,” Jon Hyman wrote at at Ohio Employer’s Law Blog. “Also, anyone who appears to have that BMI will have potential protections from terminations and other adverse actions related to that perceived ‘disease.’ “

Littler Mendelson lawyers Shannon Morales and Liz Rudnick give some hypos at Washington D.C. Employment Law Update.

“So what does this mean for the obese applicant who is denied a job at the department store makeup counter because the employer believes customers wish to be serviced by a slender makeup artist? Or for the overweight corporate employee who is consistently passed over for promotion because the company thinks the individual’s weight does not project a professional image? If these individuals can show that the failure to hire or promote was because the employer believed the individual was impaired by his or her weight, the employee can articulate a disability discrimination claim.”

The silent left

David S. Cohen, a law professor at Drexel University whose scholarship explores gender issues in the law, writes at The Faculty Lounge that he would have liked to have seen an opinion in Windsor v. United States or Hollingsworth v. Perry from one of the U.S. Supreme Court’s four liberal justices: Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

“When it comes down to it, the liberals on the court owe the public nothing other than their votes,” Cohen wrote. But in this week’s two cases as well as Lawrence v. Texas (2003) and Romer v. Evans (1996) there have been 12 separate opinions, and “not a single one was written by anyone to the left of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.”

George Washington University Law School professor Orin Kerr offers a theory in the comments of the post. “It’s quite possible—if not quite likely—that at least some of the liberal justices agreed to join Justice Kennedy’s opinion only on the condition that he added pro-[same-sex marriage] language to his majority opinion. If that’s right, they weren’t silent: They just don’t have their names attached to the pro-SSM language that is now in a majority opinion of the Supreme Court.”

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