Sunday, September 14, 2008

The "You've come a long way, baby" moment of the week

Law, when it comes to gender issues, is a most amazing field of study - and work.

One very interesting thing is that, along with medicine, law used to be a predominantly male bastion of the workplace. Don't get me wrong, our noble profession is still in many ways run like an old boys' club (think "billable hours"). However, young women are graduating from law school and are being called to the Bar in gargantuan proportions (in Québec, there are roughly 3 female law students for every male, and guys are becoming an endangered species in Bar school).

The phenomenon is strikingly observable in the courtroom. In practice division (where lawyers show up at court in the morning to be either heard by a clerk or dispatched before a judge to present their motions), the great majority of lawyers in their 20's as well as a good proportion of lawyers in their 30's are female, while the lawyers with grey hair are almost all men.

10 to 20 years form now, if we keep this pace, we'll be running the business.

Until then, I guess we'll have to cope with our beloved patriarchal legal practice, as sexist and - sometimes - disappointing as it gets...


I was waiting for my case to be called in practice division the other day, when I had to momentarily leave the room to speak to the other counsel, leaving my briefcase and my documents on my seat behind me.

When I got back inside, a middle-aged lawyer was sitting on my chair, preventing me from getting to my stuff. I politely whispered: "Excusez-moi, mais ce sont mes affaires."

He got up, smiling, started stroking my shoulder paternalistically and said: "Tu sais, tu peux t'asseoir sur mes genoux."

I managed to stay polite and not to let show how pissed I was from this verbal butt-slapping, and told him: "No, I don't think so."

Many people noticed, among them the clerks (all women) who, to my relief, frowned in utter disgust.

The lawyer in question, on the other hand, seemed blissfully unaware of both the lack of propriety of his conduct, and the fact that he's part of a - hopefully - dying breed.

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