My generation of lawyers saw a major influx of women. My graduating class in 1975 was 1/3 women and the proportion has steadily grown in Canadian law schools to just over half of current law students.
The speaker said that the women lawyers, such as herself, who graduated in the 1970’s and 1980’s and stayed in the practice of law did not find a way to be lawyers different from men. She summed up her generation of women lawyers as “men in skirts”.
Do women lawyers practise law, especially in private practice, differently from male lawyers? At least in the structure of real life Canadian law firms I have not observed significant differences.
I am not going to venture further into the treacherous waters of real life gender issues. Her comments did inspire me to take a look at whether the fictional female lawyers I have read practise law as “men in skirts”.
Victoria Lord of the Solomon and Lord mysteries of Paul Levine is definitely a “man in a skirt”. She dresses like men in conservative suits of grey, blue and black. She is, as noted in my review of The Deep Blue Alibi, a “solid, diligent litigator”. She follows the rules and works hard. She is indistinguishable from male lawyers.
Fellow Floridian, Lily Belle Cleary, in the mysteries of Claire Matturro is just as clearly not a “man in a skirt”. She is flamboyant in personality, dress and language. She does not try to look like a male lawyer so she can be considered professional. She is not solemn in an effort to appear dignified.
I think the cover of Matturro’s book, Skinny Dipping which accompanies this post, is wonderfully stylish and perfectly reflects Lily Belle.
Maggie “McFierce” McPherson, former spouse of Mickey Haller, in the legal mysteries of Michael Connelly is a hard driving prosecutor. From the books I think of her as a “man in a skirt” as she sought out and earned a reputation of being as tough as any male assistant district attorney.
Barclay Reid, in Murder One by Robert Dugoni, is the managing partner of a large Seattle law firm. She is a classic male executive partner with her smooth in charge approach to running the firm.
Moving to Canada, in the books of Robert Rotenberg set in Toronto there have been a pair of prominent female lawyers.
Nancy Parrish is a single woman who is a defence counsel. I see her tending toward a “man in a skirt”. She is so hard working that she spends most evenings alone lacking the time to establish dating relationships.
Crown Prosecutor, Jennifer Raglan, was not a “man in a skirt”. She prosecuted well but is not trying to show she worked like the men. She had a spouse and children. She fully participated in family activities. (My comments are in the past tense as she is murdered in a suburban Toronto motel in the latest book, Stranglehold, waiting for her detective lover.)
Female readers will have to tell me if some of the character traits I associate with traditional male lawyers are actually female characteristics.
I will be watching in real life and fiction to see if the women lawyers of my sons generation can find a different approach to law so that they do not describe themselves as “men in skirts” a generation into the future.