“For now the fun is over.”

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From The American Lawyer:

Who’s the hottest young woman lawyer at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom? Last week that question sent the New York firm into a bit of a tizzy. On February 4, Skadden Insider, a blog written by two anonymous firm employees and dedicated, unofficially, to all things Skadden, announced the winner of its weeklong poll to decide the firm’s”Hottest Female Associate.”The contest was hardly Skadden Gone Wild:most of the photos of the eight contestants were relatively innocuous head shots. The winner, a blond litigator, drew 400 votes from Skadden cognoscenti.

But the firm was not amused. On February 7 Skadden of counsel Henry”Hank”Baer, the firm’s employment advisor, sent an e-mail to all Skadden lawyers in the United States, chastising the blog.

“Numerous attorneys at the firm have expressed their concern and, in some cases, embarrassment at such contests,”wrote Baer, who said the competition was”inappropriate”and inconsistent with Skadden’s”values and standards of behavior.”

Baer, the onetime head of Skadden’s labor and employment practice, told The American Lawyer that he sent the e-mail after hearing about the contest from other lawyers at the firm.

“Most of what [Skadden Insider] has on there is not objectionable and we had no problem with it,”says Baer, who adds that the firm is not trying to shut down the blog.”I just think they crossed the line when they put these women’s names and pictures on the blog without their permission.”(The eight finalists declined to comment.)

The two employees who write Skadden Insider did not respond to an e-mail request for comment. But the bloggers did post a response to Baer’s e-mail, noting that pictures of the contestants were culled from Skadden’s Web site, Facebook, Inc., MySpace.com, and other publicly available sources. When one finalist asked that a photo submitted by a friend be removed, the bloggers complied.”The contest, although sophomoric, was done all in good fun,”the Skadden bloggers wrote.

For now, the fun is over: Skadden Insider announced that nominations for”Hottest Male Associate,”which was to have followed the women’s contest, have been suspended.

How lucky that Skadden caught this in the nick of time, after eight female attorneys had been objectified “for fun”, and all other women lawyers regulated to “not one of the firm hotties” status, but before any men were negatively affected.

–Ann Bartow, via Tracy McGaugh

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0 Responses to “For now the fun is over.”

  1. ssladler says:

    How would you feel about a poll about who the friendliest attorney is? What about an “employee of the year”? People get hung up on beauty, but, for attorneys, it may actually be quite important. It’s really no surprise, or accident, that it was won by litigator. Check out Daniel Hammermesh and Jeff Biddle’s 1998 paper on the returns to beauty among lawyers: http://www.eco.utexas.edu/faculty/Hamermesh/Beautystuff.html

  2. Ann Bartow says:

    Internally ranking women lawyers within the firm on their “hotness” reifies the “importance” of “beauty among lawyers” over actual performance. It is my impression that most firms hire lawyers based on law school grades, using them as a proxy for intelligence and work ethic. It is also my impression that law firms retain and promote lawyers based on their perceived performance.

    But, maybe Skadden hires and retains lawyers on the basis of appearance instead, and the contest is supposed to inspire the uglier attorneys to try harder to be pretty. I wouldn’t know.

  3. Historiann says:

    Actually, I believe that studies evaluating gender and competence have shown that women’s beauty is used against them when being evaluated for executive and other high-status positions, and I assume that being an associate at Skadden is a competitive, high-octane, high-status job. (Beautiful women are seen as ornamental and therefore unserious. It’s true that beautiful women applying for secretarial positions enjoy an advantage, but clearly only because they’re not percieved as threatening to the status hierarchy inside work environments.) It seems like some of the on-line bullying of women students in law schools has now graduated and is gunning for partner! Great.


  4. ssladler says:

    Really, what studies? I cited one that deals directly with lawyers and shows that more attractive attorneys seem to make more money, especially those in litigation, controlling for a number of factors that may be related to both attractiveness and income. Now, maybe they make more despite their beauty being held against them at the firm. That would imply that the study actually underestimates the extent to which the market rewards beauty, so beauty is even more important than the estimates suggest.

  5. jenniferbard says:

    What strikes me about this is particular to the atmosphere of a mega law firm like Skadden where the demographics are such that women compose less than 20% of the partnership (Skadden I believe is 18%) so that by definition most of the women around are under 30 (in my experience this is the peak demographic for being called “hot” by strangers and acquintances). Given that everyone is well aware how disproportionately few women end up as partners, women are not seen by their fellow male associates (and certainly not by the partners) as peers but rather as decorative visiters. While it may, indeed, be true these bloggers were intending on choosing the “hottest” male associate, it certainly wasn’t what they did first. This incident is only in small degree different from a wet t-shirt contest and what it says about the marginalization of women in these large law firms is the same. Indeed there are many individual examples to buck this stereotype, but the numbers speak for themselves and no amount of explanation about how women don’t “want” to be partners really rebuts the presumption that they are not wanted.
    I wonder what we as law professors can do about helping our students change the atmosphere of these places.