Advising Students Who Want to Practice Feminist Law

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Of the professors on the blogroll here, I’m still one of the newer ones.   So I’m looking to those who have been doing this for a longer time for some advice.   A regular part of our job is counseling students on all things related to law, and as part of that, I frequently talk with students who want to practice feminist law.   They went to law school so they could be the next Ruth Bader Ginsburg.   They’ve survived the harrowing three years with their ideals intact.   Now they want to join a movement non-profit to litigate sex discrimination cases and change the law and world to make it better for women.

The problem is that even in good economic times legal jobs at women’s rights non-profits are incredibly hard to come by.   By a quick guess, I’d say there are 100 full-time women’s rights lawyers in the country at these non-profits.   That’s not a lot of job openings.   Of course, you can expand the field and talk about plaintiff-side employment discrimination boutiques.   And small family law firms may interest some of these students.   But as you expand, you move further away from what a lot of feminist students are looking for — work for a cause rather than for a profit.

So what do you tell students who come to you looking for this kind of work?   Any and all advice would be appreciated (for me advising or for students reading this blog).

- David S. Cohen

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2 Responses to Advising Students Who Want to Practice Feminist Law

  1. Ann Bartow says:

    Well, going out and practicing any kind of law *as a feminist* can be really useful socially. Family Law, Criminal Law, Tax & Estate Planning and Labor and Employment Law are just a few of the areas in which a feminist sensibility can benefit clients, and the law generally.

  2. levitn says:

    Building on Ann’s excellent advice, I would suggest your students read an early classic, Leslie Bender’s A Lawyer’s Primer on Feminist Theory and Tort, 38 J. Legal Educ. 3 (1988). In addition, students might contemplate corporate or business positions (e.g., a former law student of mine became a director of a battered women’s shelter) or government jobs where they can fight on the side of the angels of freedom, reason, and tolerance (Department of Labor, or Department of Housing and Urban Development). Best, Nancy Levit

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