Equality, Sex and Gender

Feminist author Marilyn French, whose 1977 novel The Women’s Room added fuel to the fire of the Equal Rights Movement, died this month.

French’s death, coupled with speculation that President Obama will name a woman to succeed retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter, got me thinking of the court’s only current female member and how she also sought gender equality in the 1970s.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s feminism resided in the courtroom, where as a civil rights attorney she led the high court to rule that women are a “suspect class” under the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

Government may favor one gender over another in law or policy only when the favoritism is substantially related to achieving an important governmental goal, the court said.

The ruling led to the end of paternalistic policies, such as those that had permitted widows – but not widowers — to get Social Security benefits for their dependent children.

Ginsburg, now 76, waged this legal battle for equality with humor.

At her Supreme Court confirmation hearing in 1993, Ginsburg explained why the legal community should refer to the evil as “gender” discrimination.

“In the 1970’s when I was [teaching] at Columbia [University law school] and writing briefs, articles and speeches about distinctions based on sex, I had a  bright secretary,” Ginsburg told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “She said one day, ‘I have been typing this word, sex, sex, sex,  over and over. Let me tell you, the audience you are addressing, the men you are addressing’ – and they were all men in the appellate courts in those days – ‘the first association of that word is not what you are talking about. So I suggest that you use a grammar-book term. Use the word ‘gender.’ It will ward off distracting associations.’”

Connecting with: Derek Massey, real estate lawyer

This is the third in an occasional series of interviews with local businesspeople who blog or use social media to promote themselves or their industry. Our goal is to show the business and legal community how to harness the power of the Web professionally. If you’re interested in being profiled, contact @mddailyrecord on Twitter or email jackie.sauter[at]mddailyrecord.com.

dm.jpgIn step with Derek Massey, attorney and president of Mid-Atlantic Settlement Services.

Hi, Derek. Tell us about yourself and where you blog from.

I’m the president of Mid-Atlantic Settlement Services, a title and closing company headquartered here in Hunt Valley, MD. My main business blog is www.masettlement.blogspot.com. I have another blog in the works, but it’s not quite ready for public consumption yet!

What prompted you to start?

I believe in open, honest, timely communication, and I’m somewhat of a tech geek. Put that together, and why wouldn’t you embrace the blogging and social media world? I am somewhat new to this – maybe a year in. Twitter has really opened my eyes to how much my industry (real estate) embraces and utilizes blogging. Probably my biggest influence is the Real Estate BarCamp movement, which really showed me what social media is doing for this industry.

How long have you Twittered and what do you like about the service?

According to www.whendidyoujointwitter.com I joined on May 29, 2008. So it’s been a little less than a year. I tweet under @DerekMassey and my company, @MASettlement. To me, Twitter is the only one of the major social media sites that helps me meet new people, and not just keep in touch with existing friends. Twitter’s low connectivity barrier (no “request” and “accept” requirement) makes it very easy to reach out and shake hands with people you’ve never met, and then keep in touch and cultivate the relationship.

What’s your favorite part of using social media?

I’m always connected with someone when I want to be. Friends, clients, potential clients, co-workers…they are all a click or two away. And if I want to shut down, I can shut down. I love learning new things. I believe I actually do business differently now. I connect with people more regularly, and even when I’m in the office or at home, I’m completely in touch.

List three or four of the blogs you visit the most.

My favorite real estate blog is Continue reading

Law-firm layoffs: Should you be afraid?

From the American Lawyer by way of Texas Lawyer comes this short piece on how firms decide which associates to lay off. It’s worth a read, though there’s nothing earth-shattering. David Bario and Drew Combs write:

So how are associates marked for extinction? Who lives, who dies, and why?

It’s not simply a matter of hours. There is a calculus involved. Some firms really are “realigning,” or making up for lack of traditional associate attrition. Others are tossing deadweight as fast as possible from a sinking ship. But even though a number of agendas are at work, firms usually start at the same place: billables.

Still, firm leaders say it’s rare to simply draw a line and fire every single associate who falls below it.

The writers talk to one law firm chairman who tells them that one lawyer may be producing fewer hours than a colleague but doing better work. The competent attorney with low hours may be spared.

That’s a relief, at least. I know I’m hardly the first person to point this out, but isn’t there something wrong with a culture that rewards junior employees for taking a really long time to complete their work?

HT: ABA Journal.