Where Are You Ms. JD?

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Remember the “Ms. JD” website (logo below), launched with great fanfare last academic year?   (Ann previously blogged it here.)   The site describes itself as a service to “women in law school and the legal profession”:

Concerned by the rates at which women opt out of the legal profession, the lack of representation of women in the highest courts and echelons of the legal community, and the role of gender in the progression of many women’s legal careers, a group of female law students from Boalt Hall (UC Berkeley), Cornell, Georgetown, Harvard, NYU, Stanford, UCLA, UT Austin, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, the University of Virginia, and Yale came together and created Ms. JD in March 2006. Serving women in law school and the legal profession, Ms. JD is an online community that provides a forum for dialogue and networking among women lawyers and aspiring lawyers.

Lots of big law firms signed on as “Founding Corporate Sponsors” (Arnold & Porter, Paul Weiss, Hogan & Hartson, to name a few).   Ms. JD even signed up law school greats Barbara Babcock, Harold Koh, Herma Hill Kay and Elena Kagan as “featured bloggers.”    

The blog has been notable mostly for the paucity of its postings.   I understand that students are busy over the summer, but are there other possible explanations for Ms. JD’s thin content?    Is the blog not reaching its target audience?   Are  issues of women  in the legal profession too sensitive  to blog about?   Is a blog run by a group of law students subject to the same vicissitudes that plague almost all student groups?   Are student-bloggers worried that their postings will be used against them in the future?   Do legal personnel folks at the corporate sponsors not  have any issues to raise or even brag about?  

-Bridget Crawford

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0 Responses to Where Are You Ms. JD?

  1. Bridget Crawford says:

    There’s no real mystery why this blog is going nowhere. First, there are so many blogs and so few hours in a day. Law students rarely have either the desire or the time to blog. That major law firms would have rapidly signed on as sponsors is no surprise. It costs them nothing and gives them a brownie point in their lavishly illustrated brochures trumpeting their commitment to diversity.

    More to Prof. Crawford’s queries is the reality that a huge percentage of female law students, those in their early to mid-twenties, simply do not view their gender as a barrier to whatever career aspirations they entertain. This has been obvious to me for a very long time. Commitment to social justice is divided among subjects ranging from saving trees to protecting oppressed simians but even abortion is hardly the spark plug issue it was in the classroom twenty years ago. Of course there are committed pro-Choice feminists, male and female, but vocally they are in a clear minority. Gay and lesbian rights are far more at the forefront at my school and, I suspect, many other law schools.

    And I hear far more young women students than before talk about “trying” to have both family and career and frankly wondering if the latter need not be shelved, at least for a period of time, to achieve the former. There’s no right or wrong here-for many the pendulum of life is not where it is for feminist academics, in the legal profession or not.

    Currently I’m helping a graduate who was at the top of her class here, a law review editor, to start an appellate practice from her home so she can leave her full-time job. She has decided that raising her young child while working full-time (as does her husband) just doesn’t work for her. She’s not alone. Blogging about women and the legal careers would be a total waste of precious time for her.

    Of course it’s important to move forward and make legal employment more fair and balanced for ALL parents so that women can be adequately represented without sacrifices that an increasing number simply won’t, these days, accept. That’s more improtant than online chats.

    Ralph Michael Stein

  2. star2007 says:

    I am also disappointed by the msjd blog. Student turnover doesn’t help, and I know most law students feel overwhelmed with their regular workload. Still, I was hoping for more of a connection between current students and lawyers. My guess is that a lot of people still don’t know about it. Maybe it would help to expand the number of law schools involved?

  3. bob coley jr says:

    although much of what Mr. Stein says is absolutly true, the economic siituation most people find themselves in does not allow this kind of choice. One does what is required to see the family survive. For many, that means working (overtime) when it is offered at the expense of family time. So the job and the family are forced to coexist. Can’t blogging take the place of, let’s say, 2 hrs. a week of time spent in less meaningful endeavers and be shared with family or school and provide learning, bonding and insight that working or learning outside the home does not. I mean, not all of our choices are exclusionary or incompatable. The list of priorities may have to be rethought. I know my spelling would be better if my chidren and I had shared keyboard time. One can think of many ways the digital age can now be used to enhance both career and family simutaniously. This kind of foward move would seem to acomplish more than picking between things of value. This appears to be what is happening with the law school grad he speaks of but there may be more going on there than meets the eye. Of course, it is up to the individual to decide what is of value for themselves.

  4. @ Bridget: I’m a law student who’s worked on Ms. JD since it started, and you guys (Ann, everybody at Fem Law Profs) have been wonderfully supportive. Certainly law student schedules have been a challenge. No law student knows quite how time-consuming law school is until she’s through it, so bright-eyed 1Ls became sleep-deprived 2Ls working at firms, and 3Ls graduated to monasterial isolation so they could study for the bar, etc.

    Beyond that, yes–student bloggers are worried that their postings will be used against them, and legal personnel are very careful about not biting the corporate hands that feed them. Some of my classmates who blogged for Ms. JD got nervous during the Autoadmit scandal (where three of my classmates were subject to terrible cyber-harrassment and their presence online was used against them) and asked to have their names removed from their blog posts, even totally innocuous stuff. So that almost certainly has had a chilling effect since. Lawyers I know who have blogged (or chosen not to) almost always cite potential conflicts of interest between criticizing big-law structures while working for firms.

    Students at Ms. JD have been working on other, non-blogging projects–we’ve funded scholarships for public interest work (for students) and sponsored attendance at women’s law-leadership training (for practitioners), been contacting women’s student groups at law schools all over to create a national law student coalition that can speak coherently about student concerns, and building a networking website that works a little like Facebook, but with a more professional tone, so that women can find each other by affiliations (schools, employers, locales, practice areas, etc.) for advice and networking. But the blog is the public face of Ms. JD, and it hasn’t been what it could be.

    Mainly, I think you’re right that we haven’t found our whole audience yet, or figured out what structure and incentives will bring together lots of busy people talking in one place. The web is so decentralized, how do we draw bloggers who can as easily be writing elsewhere on their own separate blogs? I hope that will be changing with students back to their extracurriculars this autumn. I am always looking for ideas. How we can get the project working better?

  5. Ann Bartow says:

    Hi Anna – we met at your conference. I’m no expert at blogging (don’t I wish!) but I think one important element is having new content up at least a couple of times per week. Maybe you could try drawing in variety of law school grads who would be willing to write a post or two about their jobs and lives, especially if you mapped out a format for them (what they got right, what they’d do differently, etc.)

    You could also maybe attempt a series on different practice areas, again getting lawyers to talk about the ups and downs of family law, patent law, etc. I’d be happy to help you put out a call for guest contributors if that would be helpful.

    best,
    Ann

    Note to Ralph Michael Stein: I’m deleting your current registration, so that you can re-register here and hopefully avoid the spam filter curse and post under your own name. Sorry for the difficulties.

  6. @ Ann: Of course I remember you. Thanks for the ideas. Hope you are well!