No sooner did I hit “Publish” on my last blog, “Is Egg Freezing the Key to Gender Equality,” in which I talked about what it will take to make women equal participants in the work force, did I come across this gem:
This is what I’m talking about. I have heard so many of these stories in the context of the legal profession. I have lived a few of them myself. Until now, my favorite was from my first job out of law school with a BIGLAW firm – a colleague of mine was a litigator and she was required to wear a skirt of a very specific length (it couldn’t be too long – yes, you read that correctly) when she appeared before one particular judge in town. During that time, I can say without exception that every single time I saw a woman leave the office at night (yes, NIGHT) to pick up her children or decline to work a Saturday because of a family commitment, her dedication to the firm and to her career was questioned. Similarly, when a male attorney declined to work a Saturday due to a family commitment, he was considered to be “a great guy.”
In this story on Above The Law, a female sole practitioner had the NERVE to try to take six weeks of maternity leave. As a sole practitioner, she didn’t have partners to cover her court appearance so she filed a motion for continuance in an immigration case. Many immigration cases take YEARS to work through the courts, so asking for a six week postponement (less in this case) is not a lot of time. And her clients and opposing counsel were all cool with it. Don’t get me started on how six weeks is a completely inadequate maternity leave, but, nevertheless, that’s all she was looking for.
The judge sat on her motion for some time and then denied it one week before the hearing (after the kid was born). Apparently, in his opinion, having a child is not “good cause” to postpone a hearing. Like she had asked to postpone because she had a hair appointment that day.
Having no choice but to appear in court on short notice, she appeared in court with the baby. She was new in town and didn’t have family nearby, her husband was out of town, and a day care center will not accept a child younger than 6 weeks of age. Of course they won’t, because only a complete and total asshat expects the mother to go back to work that soon after having a baby.
THEN, in open court, the judge humiliated this lawyer by questioning her parenting skills . . . because she appeared in court as required by the same judge.
So, let me draw some conclusions about this judge’s perspective: (1) a competent lawyer cannot accept clients while pregnant, (2) a competent lawyer cannot take maternity leave without withdrawing from the practice of law entirely, and (3) when a judge, knowing an attorney just had a baby, compels a lawyer to appear and she is forced to appear with a baby in tow, it’s the attorney’s fault. Interesting.
How it is that a profession who, above all others, ought to know better, is so often on the “HEY I’M A STUPID JERK” side of this issue?
This story makes me so angry.
On the bright side, I am pleased to see that this lawyer filed a complaint against this judge. I hope they require this idiot judge to at least pretend he’s a better person in the future.
On the very bright side, this lawyer can now go work for Facebook and they’ll reimburse her for the cost of getting her eggs frozen . . . so she won’t have to inconvenience anyone with pregnancies until she’s older.