Why many women lawyers are so miserable, and what they can do to change the profession; by attorney-turned-political-scientist Harrington (The Dream of Deliverance in American Politics, 1986). Interviews with ``over 100'' women lawyers, most graduates of Harvard Law School, tell depressingly similar stories: Entering the law ``in search of a father to embrace,'' women are silenced and shaken by the confrontational Socratic dialogue of the law-school classroom. Moreover, the prestigious firms they may join upon graduation view them suspiciously ``as dealers in emotion and subjective preference''—and as ``bodies.'' If they gun for partners, they must swagger like men and put in ``heroic hours.'' If they bear children, they must grapple with ``constant planning, pressure and guilt''—that is, until the punishing schedule and competitive ethic overwhelms them, prompting them to give up on the illusion of part-time work and to quit, thereby forgoing any opportunity to change the rules of the game. The second half of Harrington's study attempts to reframe the discussion by considering how some women lawyers ``use their authority to advance the equality of women,'' but the author's practical advice (go in- house; file amicus briefs; ``talk, project, dissent'') is uninspired, and her discussion of feminist jurisprudence (including the work of feminist deconstructionists, as well as of Catharine A. MacKinnon) drifts far afield. Harrington's main theme—that law isn't an expression of disembodied reason but, rather, merely the construct of the socially dominant (read: ``white male'') group—is provocative, but of limited value to the exhausted mother slogging through her umpteenth deposition. The author's great contribution here is quoting women at length as they describe in intimate detail what brought them to—and often what drove them away from—the practice of law. Except for some overblown theorizing: an important and incisive study, of potential interest to all women professionals.
Read full book review >