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Clifford Chance Tells Female Lawyers to Zip It Up

Vivia Chen

October 27, 2013

Who knew this would be such a hot week for sex-related news?

Woman by druvo via istock(1)1. Is there a bimbo epidemic at Clifford Chance's U.S. offices? It seems so, judging by the five-page "Presentation Tips for Women" memo that was sent to female associates in its U.S. offices by a member of the Women’s Committee.

Above the Law, which calls it "one of the most sexist Biglaw memos we’ve ever seen," got its sticky hands on it. Among the highlights of the offending memo:

           - No boob flashing, please: "No one heard Hillary the day she showed cleavage." (But, hey, don't people realize that cleavage is the new power tie?)

  - Be serious, woman: "Don't giggle," "Don't squirm" and "Don't tilt your head."

  - Lose the Valley talk: "You’ve got to Lose 'Um' and 'Uh,' 'You Know,' 'OK,' and 'Like.' "

The memo also warns: "Watch out for the urinal position," though I have absolutely no idea what that means. (Is that some kind of British slang for making a smelly mess?)

The firm issued a statement to ATL that says "the offense caused by a small percentage of the suggestions in the tip sheet was entirely unintentional."

But the female associates at Clifford don't seem very amused. As one wrote to ATL: "We have never been a very female friendly firm, but this is beyond the pale."

Righto.

Mitchell_Lawrence courtesy of Western Case2. Who knew Ohio had such a swinging law school dean? Case Western Reserve Law School and its dean, Lawrence Mitchell (left), have been hit with a suit by one of its professors who claimed he suffered retaliation after he reported to the administration that the dean sexually harassed women. The National Law Journal reports that professor Raymond Ku is seeking more than $25,000 in damages.

Above the Law gives us the really juicy details. It notes that an exhibit to the complaint includes a flyer distributed at a City Club event, entitled “Questions Someone Should Ask Dean Mitchell,” which alleges that Mitchell "already had affairs with a Case graduate student, a recent Case law grad, a local lawyer, and the girlfriend of our personal assistant." What's more, the flyer also claims that Mitchell has been divorced four times and that one of his wives is a former student.

The university told Cleveland Plain Dealer that the suit "includes inaccuracies," and that the flier was also "materially false." ATL reports that Lawrence has issued a statement that says, "I would like nothing more than to explain my perspective in detail, but the nature of pending litigation means that I cannot do so at this time." 

Seriously, we don't know if the harassment or retaliation charges are true or not, or where this suit will go. But this Ohio dean with his alleged sexual adventures is certainly defying the Midwestern stereotype! It's hot in Cleveland! (See also Cleveland Plain Dealer.)

3. Sinning Protestants. Don't you find something deliciously kinky about traditional WASP repression? Now it turns out that Protestants work better if they feel they're doing something naughty. From the Harvard Business Review blog:

In an experiment, Protestants produced better, more creative work when they were induced to feel unacceptable desires and primed with words evoking depravity and damnation, says a team led by Emily Kim of the University of Illinois. For example, those who were exposed to words such as “dirty,” “punish” and “forbid” and then asked to make a clay sculpture and write a poem were judged to have created better art (2.63 versus 2.30 on a 5-point scale) than those who had seen words such as “clean,” “reward” and “virtue.”

Sadly, though, researchers say that Catholics and Jews don't respond to the same stimulus. What a shame.

  E-mail  Vivia Chen: [email protected]     Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lawcareerist

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I can't believe that put out that memo and then said, "the offense caused by a small percentage of the suggestions in the tip sheet was entirely unintentional." They should own the contents without apology. They clearly meant what they said. the female associates will just have to decide what they're going to do now. In many ways, working at BIGLAW is like doing hard time. You put your time in and then evaluate your options. At the end of the day though, the advice is sound. I'd just like them to include an admonishment to male associates to stop crotch grabbing...

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: [email protected]

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