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Hastings Law Journal

Authors

Ann Shalleck

Abstract

Professor Cahn persuasively advocates movement beyond identifying as either male or female the different ways of being a lawyer. In her Essay Professor Shalleck explores further three aspects of the feminist transformation of lawyering suggested by Professor Cahn's article. First, despite Professor Cahn's title, a feminist critique of lawyering is not about "styles"; it is about the nature of the lawyer's actions and ways of understanding that activity. Second, the feminist project is not about simply expanding the available ways women and men can act and think as lawyers. This step neither creates new options nor develops effective challenges to accepted ways of lawyering. Third, the feminist project of transforming lawyering is a process that must be firmly rooted in the actual experiences of lawyering. Through Professor Cahn's discussion of the ethic of care and the value of connection in lawyering, we can see the failure of this approach to provide a firm grounding to the process of change. Lawyers are treated as a single, uniform group. Their behavior and morality are seen as entirely consistent with formal rules within which they act. Connection is understood as external to this model of lawyering. By obscuring the contradictions and ambiguities of gender that one finds both within dominant forms of legal practice, as well as within emerging forms, this approach hampers our capacity to find effective mechanisms for change.

Professor Shalleck argues that the feminist project must be grounded in the actual experiences of lawyers, individuals whose actions and understandings have been shaped in particular, distinct ways by gender. Similarly, she urges an examination of the ways gender affects clients and others within the legal system, as well as the ways that institutions are gendered, both shaped by and shaping cultural understanding of gender. We can then look to the tensions that exist within particular people and particular institutions regarding those gendered experiences and understandings. By focusing upon those aspects of being a lawyer, Professor Shalleck contends, the multiple contradictions that gender presents in lawyering are revealed. Only then can we identify the different ways to transcend those contradictions, to create something new.

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