Women have come a long way in the profession of law. For example, four women have been appointed to the Supreme Court to date, and makers are even trying to convince Lego to create figurines representing these women to encourage young girls to think about legal professions. With this in mind, antiquated views of women’s role in law firms seem not only uneducated but also comical. Consider this memo from a 1956 law firm on interviewing new lawyers. It starts off very bluntly, stating that “the firm desires to be candid about its preference for male applicants”, and the memo only gets worse from there. According to the instructions for hiring new lawyers, the firm does “not rate a girl applicant on equal terms with the men applicants” and if a male candidate’s and a female candidate’s resumes appear identical, “the man is given preference, barring some personality defect, on the grounds that being a man, he has probably had extra-curricular experience in the business world.” Even the word choice in the memo is significant: while female candidates are referred to as “girls”, implying they are juvenile, male candidates are referred to as “men”. The memo ends with the writer expressing the opinion that the firm will “not suffer” from preferring male candidates and therefore will continue doing so.

While the memo and the ideas it contains are old-fashioned and outdated, sexism still exists within the legal profession. For example, BMC Group, which provides “legal, financial and corporate information management solutions”, released an advertisement last December featuring a woman in a revealing outfit meant to resemble a business suit. After some viewers express negative opinions of the ad, BMC Group, rather than changing their advertising approach, hosted a party at the American Bankruptcy Institute’s southwest conference featuring the “BMC Group Bikini Girls”. Understandably, some women at the conference were reported to be “appalled” at the idea. Expressing one’s distaste with sexism with law can have negative consequences, though. Charlotte Proudman, a human rights lawyer, received a message from Brown Rudnick partner Alexander Carter-Silk via LinkedIn expressing several compliments concerning her picture on the site. Proudman proceeded to call out Carter-Silk’s publicly for sending her what she interpreted as a sexist message, explaining that women should be regarded for attributes other than just their appearance. Since the incident, Proudman has publicly stated that she misinterpreted Carter-Silk’s message and has apologized to him. The damage has been done, though; many have told Proudman that this incident has essentially ruined her career. The incident shows what the repercussions of calling out sexism within law can be for women, and perhaps explains why some simply choose to ignore it.

So how can law firms go about trying to support gender equality? The Women in the Workplace 2015 report, published by LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company, offers several suggestions. Firms should begin by tracking metrics for both men and women within the firm such as promotion and salary amounts, how high-profile assignments are distributed, and how long members of different gender and minority groups stay with the firm. This allows each individual firm to assess and diagnose their unique problems. Additionally, firms should make it very clear that gender diversity is important by setting clear goals and creating training to reduce gender bias. Finally, firms should strive to level the playing field for men and women by dividing important assignments equally and encouraging networking and support programs for women.

Though true gender equality may still be a long way off—more than 100 years, according to the creators of the Women in the Workplace 2015 report—hopefully the legal profession can start making better strides towards reducing sexism.

Articles: Legal Justice League, n.d.; Above the LawSeptember 9, 2015; Above the LawSeptember 11, 2015; Above the LawSeptember 11, 2015; Above the LawOctober 2, 2015;

Photo: LEGO Legal Justice Team @ SCOTUS 03 via Maia Weinstock [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

The concepts of justice and equality were once determined only by judges and lawyers, but over time that has changed as technology has made it possible to connect individuals to important issues. PeaceTones, another project founded by the Internet Bar Organization in addition to The Center, works to make those issues even more accessible—by assisting musicians in releasing their music to the world in the hopes it will inspire global change and vitalization of their communities.

This could seem over ambitious. After all, many people listen to music to relax or relieve stress. Would people be receptive to music that connects people to issues or walks of life that are different from theirs? Are people interested in social problems around the world? Can music even have a profound effect? These are important questions, but I would argue that the actions of the general public have already answered them with a resounding yes.

Recently justice has taken on new definitions as individuals share information and opinions on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other popular online platforms. According to a New York Times article from 2009, “Social media can’t ensure social justice. But it can affect the invisibility that is the first barrier to achieving it.” Social media, already a large part of how people interact with their friends and family, has also become extremely important in shaping public opinion about certain issues. An article in the Astana Times explains, “Social media has established new ways of communicating and creating perceptions between businesses and consumers, organizations and their audiences, political offices and their electorate.” So if something that was once primarily used for catching up with friends or sharing funny cat videos can have such a large effect on one’s views, why not music?

An article published by NY Daily News argues that “music has always been a tuneful force for political change“. PeaceTones’ goal is not new or radical, but simply an organized effort to assist talented musicians in the work they are already accomplishing. PeaceTones seeks to provide musicians with the legal, business, and technological skills they need to create and release their music, become leaders within their communities, and share their stories with the rest of the world. Not only does PeaceTones provide mentors and training for budding musicians, the majority of the profits go back to the creators and into projects they choose to help their communities.  The arts have long been used to facilitate change and introduce new ideas, and the nonprofit explains in their mission statement that music especially has the ability to “transcend socio-political and economic divides and speak the universal languages of peace and justice.” Simply put, music is for everyone, despite their connection or background, and provides common ground for people to meet and learn from each other.

If you are interested in learning more about PeaceTones and some of their projects or would like to get involved, please visit their website.

Articles: New York Times, August 13, 2009; Astana Times, February 20, 2015;  NY Daily News, October 10, 2009;

Photo: RED HOT MUSIC- No Shallow thoughts via S Vikek [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]