Post by: Craig Robson
When I was a junior lawyer, (back before computers) I worked in a firm with a senior counsel who was of an age to have fought in the first World War. At the time, one of my co-juniors was a very capable young woman.
One day, the senior counsel approached/tottered towards the two of us and interrupted our conversation to ask my associate to do some typing for him. She reddened and pointed out she did not know how to type. The counsel was shocked. He may never have had that response before from a woman employee in his office. He wandered away muttering comments that made it clear he did not understand how she could be employed in a law office as a woman and not know how to type. He became even more confused when I, a young man, took his notes and typed them out for him.
We are over these types of scenarios, right!? It’s a new age when men and women are treated equally in the legal profession? Maybe not.
In the last couple of years some of our firm’s senior law clerks and one of the firm’s lawyers (all women) have noticed something that tells me gender equality is still a good ways off. When these clerks and lawyer cannot get a response from a client or someone else that we are dealing with, they will eventually ask me if its “time for the man lawyer?”. When that time comes, I will send a short email or make a short call and 99 out of 100 times I get a response, sometimes while I wait. The recipients don’t usually know who I am, but it seems the fact that a man has contacted them makes all the difference in the world. This seems to be the case even when our clerks and lawyer are trying to get a response from other women.
I think we will be a lot closer to gender equality when women’s emails and calls are considered as important as a man’s. My hopes in that regard were dashed a little more today when the lawyer was asked if she was a “real lawyer”. I don’t know of many male lawyers who get asked this question.