It was in the fall of that year that the #MeToo Time’s Up movement was born. Remember that? The goal was to focus on eradicating sexual harassment, initially in Hollywood with Harvey Weinstein, as just one example. Convicted of sex crimes in New York and serving time there, he’s now on trial for similar crimes in Los Angeles. The movement then spread to other industries and businesses, including ours.
So, how much have you heard about the movement in the past five years? Not much, I’ll wager. Early in the movement, there was a spate of mea culpas and dead silences from a bunch of famous and not so famous men who admitted their misconduct, or took a hike after confronting evidence against them, or just stonewalled. The bunch included, but was not limited to, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Louis C.K., Sen. Al Franken (Minn.), and judicial officers, most notably Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski.
The past five years also have seen a number of male lawyers and judges (along with Kozinski) crash and burn due to allegations of sexual harassment. Just type the words “sexual harassment” into the ATL search bar. Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York resigned his post just last year.
Remember the initial hysteria from men (and yes, I use “hysteria” deliberately) about how men would not have any meetings with women unless office doors were open (calling Mike Pence)? How many men are still afraid to have such meetings? Not many, I guess.
The movement has suffered from the usual growing pains, directions, leadership issues, infighting and all the usual stuff that accompanies an organization that is just getting started, but five years in, who even remembers Time’s Up? Yes, its legal defense fund, housed at the National Women’s Law Center, is still extant, but Time’s Up itself is almost extinct. That’s too bad, because sexual harassment is still front and center, especially in the workplace. I don’t care how many training classes executives, managers, and employees take, some of them couldn’t know, wouldn’t know, or even worse, wouldn’t care what sexual harassment is if it smacked them in the face.
So, the momentum propelling the movement has been lost. It’s still needed; while it may be less overt and publicized, the problem remains. Nonetheless, the furor and activity around it have subsided. So is the story of Times Up a cautionary tale about how even the best of intentions can implode?
Do you think that state laws requiring transparency in pay scales will help women partners narrow the pay gap with their male counterparts? We can hope, but don’t take any bets on it. In a partner compensation survey by Major, Lindsey & Africa and Law360, the results are still not great. Surprisingly, only 13% reported that their income was affected by the pandemic. However, to the surprise of no female lawyers, they still trail male partners in average income.
Here’s the nub of the findings: “At $1.21 million, average compensation for male partners continues to significantly outpace that of female partners, who earned an average of $905,000 in 2021. However, women saw their compensation increase at a greater rate (26%) than men (17%) over the past two years, and the pay differential between men and women continues to narrow consistently and substantially for our respondents (from 53% in the 2018 Survey, to 44% in 2020, to now a differential of 34%).”
Woohoo! Congratulations, women partners, you are now just a measly 34% (cough, cough) behind in the race for economic parity. Way to go, all those male partners, who don’t think that women partners ought to be paid equally. How about this as a final Jeopardy answer: “an oxymoron.” The question is “what is pay equity for women partners?”
A Bloomberg Law article states the obvious: if you start out at a low salary, then that’s where you will stay. (In other words, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.) Laterals with a book of business who join a firm can earn 20% to 30% more than their nonlateral colleagues. Pay inequity is real and creates hard feelings and resentment. For whatever reasons, companies value bright, shiny, fresh faces over those already on board. I’ve seen underperforming, bright, shiny laterals out on their keesters if they are all sizzle and no steak.
And ending on a positive note, a bench hug for this judge who told senior lawyers on a particular matter that they are to let junior lawyers (e.g., those with less than four years in practice) argue two motions on video that are set for early November in an Illinois federal district case. The judge said that if the senior lawyers can’t STFU (my words, not the court’s), it will cancel the video hearing and convert it to a telephonic hearing, ruling on the written submissions. If only more judges would do this.
Building confidence in making an argument, learning to think quickly in response to questions by the court or opposing counsel, and feeling more comfortable whether in a real or virtual courtroom are all skills you need. While you can certainly learn by watching, you learn so much more by doing.
Jill Switzer has been an active member of the State Bar of California for over 40 years. She remembers practicing law in a kinder, gentler time. She’s had a diverse legal career, including stints as a deputy district attorney, a solo practice, and several senior in-house gigs. She now mediates full-time, which gives her the opportunity to see dinosaurs, millennials, and those in-between interact — it’s not always civil. You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.