The legal industry can learn from the #MeToo movement
Over the past few months, the #MeToo movement has claimed the reputations of many iconic personalities and brands. The downfall of seemingly untouchable public figures, from Harvey Weinstein to Louis CK (and the list keeps growing), has emboldened a wave of women (and some men) to share their experiences of sexual harassment and abuse.
Most of the stories involve obvious power imbalances: an aspiring actress, intern, or staff member victimized and targeted by men in massive power. One might assume that lawyers are less vulnerable to such dynamics, after all, lawyers are the professionals trained to defend others.
Relatively, however, women in the law face some of the greatest power imbalances, for example, a student or junior associate has no power compared to a rainmaking partner. Our industry isn’t immune to horrific, systemic behavior. For instance, abovethelaw.com has an entire section devoted to sharing #MeToo related stories called, The Pink Ghetto. Posted stories include allegations ranging from unwanted drunken propositions at Christmas parties to full-fledged sexual assault on business trips.
The #MeToo movement offers an opportune time for the legal industry to pause and consider its status quo and how to innovate better approaches to tackle sexual harassment both internally and externally. The market is demanding change, with prominent investors backing start-ups such as tequitable.com, workbravely.com, allvoices.co aiming to empower victims through various tools including confidential third-party counselling to the aggregation of anonymous complaints.
One story listed in The Pink Ghetto is titled “Who Do You Believe, a Drunk Law Student or Powerful Partner?” What processes does your law firm have in place to ensure a student in this situation even has a chance to be heard? What needs to improve? Those who are on the leading edge of creating and implementing solutions will not only better attract and retain talent but will also be empowered to share their own successes with current and prospective clients.
– David Namkung, Partner