An article in today’s New York Lawyer, entitled Forming A “Feminist Law Practice,” describes an unusual Canadian law firm:
While more women may be starting their own firms, Galldin Liew of Ottawa has taken the unique step of calling itself a “feminist law practice.” * * *
Karin Galldin, 31, and Jamie Liew, 30, who graduated from the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law in 2005, said none of their past employers embodied the kind of environment they wanted from a law firm.
“We feel very strongly that we’d like to be an all-service shop as much as we can be for women in the community so they are not getting bounced around from lawyer to lawyer,” Galldin said. “We’d like to be able to get them a full and complete opportunity and appropriate representation instead of saying we only do X and Y. So holistic service is very important to us.”
Both lawyers said they made a commitment to give back to the community, so they serve on boards of local organizations and conduct free workshops, such as “What the Eff Am I Signing? Clever Girls’ Guide to Copyright Contract Law.” * * *
In order to be true to their feminist philosophy, Liew said she does not defend men in criminal cases, the exception being smaller infractions that do not involve violence.
The firm’s feminist policy is included in its retainer so all clients understand the philosophy, Galldin said. There is no shortage of criminal defense firms in Ottawa willing to represent men in cases involving violence, but Galldin said her firm avoids such cases in order to avoid any conflicts. For example, the firm wants to avoid a situation of defending men in criminal cases in the event one of the firm’s female clients turns out to be on the opposite side of the case.
“Because we want to use law as a tool for women, we have decided that, in particular areas of our practice, so as to never be in conflict, we won’t represent men,” Galldin said.
The article quotes this blog’s own Ann Bartow, saying, “I haven’t seen too many that identify as feminists, but definitely there is a trend of women starting their own firms and trying to carve out a niche and trying to leverage gender as something that helps them stand out a little bit.”
The full article is available here (free registration required – sorry). Thanks to Feminist Law Prof Marie Newman for pointing out the article. It raises so many questions.
What makes a law firm “feminist,” as opposed to a firm where feminists work? Is there enough demand for “feminist” private-sector lawyers so that a “feminist” firms can survive? There are more all-women firms now than there were in 1980, for example, when Levine, Kuriloff and Polan became the first all-female law firm in New Haven, Connecticut, but they are not exactly common. It makes me wonder about the long-term viability of a feminist law firm as a business model. But I’m crossing my feminist fingers anyway, and wishing long, happy, successful and fulfilling legal careers for Ms. Galldin and Ms. Liew.