The issue of gendered workplace is evident in today’s employment environment particularly in a law firm setting. Since it is a condition characterized by an apparent stereotyping of men as the stronger sex and women as the weaker sex, manifestations of gender-related obstacles are undeniable realities. Its disturbing implications, as regard the professional and personal lives of women employees working in law firms, are already presented in many ways. However, the society still denies its existence as well as fails to address and stop such kind of work discrimination.
This is because the efforts made by women to fight for their labor rights, specially in law-related offices, are not enough. Additionally, these same women-victims may intentionally or not have allowed the gendered practice to happen. Whatever the condition, the gendered structure existing and being practiced in contemporary work settings such as law firms definitely results to individual trials among women employees and the organization in general. Work-related sex segregation is particularly depicted in a professional environment involving male trial lawyers as well as women paralegals and legal secretaries.
The said condition explains the principle behind the gendering of professions and emotions in modern law companies. This is where male trial lawyers are perceived to do or express tough jobs and feelings compared to female paralegals or secretaries who are expected otherwise. It is unfortunate to note that despite attempts to stop gendered structure in work environments, specifically in law firms, such arrangement continues to happen, which escalates the power of male trial lawyers as well as prolongs and aggravates the agony in the professional and personal lives of women paralegals.
Hence, recognizing and analyzing what allows gendered structure to happen is significantly essential in coming up with ways to address the issue. While it is noticeable that gendered practice happens based from the organizational structure itself, the inevitable involvement of law firm employees in the proliferation of gendered-related practice supports such unhealthy system.
Therefore, the organizational structure of modern law firms, which is characterized by the formation of discriminatory practices between male trial lawyers and women paralegals, as well as by their intentional or unintentional participation in the gendered system leads to problems that the society needs to handle. Book on Gendered Structure, an Overview One concrete proof of the existence of gendered structure in modern law firms is the 1995 book of Jennifer Pierce titled “Gender Trials: Emotional Lives in Contemporary Law Firms.
” In particular, Pierce’s well-written book discussed the gendered relations happening between male trial lawyers and female paralegals or legal secretaries. Pierce combined a macro level study of the structures of contemporary law organizations, as the specific manifestation of gendered system, with a micro level analysis of the manners how women paralegals and legal secretaries get involved in the continued practice of gendered law firms. The ethnography-style book looked at the gendered characteristic of contemporary big law offices.
This was made possible with Pierce’s clear identification of the Rambo character of male trial lawyers who tend to be harsh, forceful and threatening as well as the nurturing mother character of female paralegals who are likely to be caring or helpful (Pierce, 1995). As a contribution to the increasing number of studies about gender occupations and emotions as the primary components of gendered structure, Pierce dealt with how sex separation is preserved and copied by means of case studies involving a private law office and the internal legal department of a corporation.
The author examined the female litigation paralegals and male trial lawyers of each law firms and learned that the two legal professions are extremely interdependent but unfortunately are evidently demarcated because of the gendered nature of said law companies (Pierce, 1995, p. 2). The ethnography connected the two sociological rationales behind work-related sex segregation. These were explained through macro-level reports which stress structural nature and micro-level researches which centers on social actors or components which describe the gendered separation of work.
The gendered structure highlighted components which reproduce gender irregularity such as official and unofficial structural practices, personnel guidelines, labor procedure as well as the structure itself of the law firms and industry in general. The social actors factors, on the other hand, study the gendered significance that both the male trial lawyers and female paralegals attach to the tasks they perform (Pierce, 1995). “Gender Trials,” a Critical Analysis
The Pierce book filled up an essential hole in the discipline of gendered occupations and emotions as well as the male and female employees of contemporary law firms and their works. Although there are existing studies on female doctors and related professions, there is limited study on the professional lives of men and women working in law firms. Hence, the book was a welcome effort which quenched the thirst of issues concerning male trial lawyers and female paralegals.
The public obviously liked the book because it was a clear and moving analysis of how the legal profession has been gendered. In particular, the book exemplified its strength after it has successfully incorporated and reconceptualized earlier literatures. These include the sociological models of Hochschild, Kanter and Rollins as well as the Marxist hypotheses of the work system through a combination of feminist premises of structures and psychoanalytic sociology which clarified the reasons behind gendered structure, works and emotions (Pierce, 1995, p. 3).
Additionally, the book as manifested through the author’s position when she participated as an observer in two law firms, gave a closer perspective of the gendered structure of the legal profession as well as the moral standards of the society which control the workplace organization. It is also worthy to note that the author supported her studies with comprehensive interviews with several male trial lawyers and female paralegals within the two law firms as well as essential information or statistics from related researches.
Pierce’s methodology is also notably discerning as she made the insiders rose above outsiders based from the arguments involving the observations and issues concerning the male trial lawyers and female paralegals. The book likewise served as a critical description and explanation about the issue of gendered structure in law firm settings. A clear presentation of this condition was contained in the early chapters of the book which illustrated how the positions of male and female employees of law firms differ logically.
Although male staff of the two law firms are grouped in more influential, high-status and well-compensated titles such as attorneys and legal associates, women employees, on the other hand, are mainly employed as receptionists, secretaries, librarians and paralegals. Ultimately, the book excelled because of its clear presentation and explanation of how the legal profession was gendered. In the end, readers realized that the gendered principle is primarily attributed to the structures of modern law firms as well as the involvement of the male trial lawyers and female paralegals in the existence and promotion of the practice.
Conclusion The harmful implications of sex segregation or gendered structure in workplaces such as in legal profession are undeniable. The Pierce book has made the public realized that such kind of discrimination exists between male trial lawyers and female paralegals. The said book has also clearly distinguished the two factors supporting gendered structure – that it is within the organization itself and both the male and female legal professionals contribute to the continued existence of the practice.
While it may not be too late, there should be collective efforts coming from the law firm itself as well as from all its employees in order for gendered structure to cease to exist. In doing so, gender-related concerns and problems will eventually come to an end. Reference Pierce, J. L. (1995). Gender Trials: Emotional Lives in Contemporary Law Firms. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press.
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