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Glass Ceilings and Dead Ends: Professional Ideologies, Gender Stereotypes, and the Future of Women Lawyers at Large Law Firms


Eli Wald


University of Denver Sturm College of Law

March 18, 2010

Fordham Law Review, Vol. 78, 2010
U Denver Legal Studies Research Paper No. 10-08

Abstract:     
Increasingly competitive practice conditions in the market for corporate legal services, accentuated by the economic downturn, are transforming not only the practice realities, the organization, and the structure of large law firms, but also their professional ideologies. Glass Ceilings and Dead Ends: Professional Ideologies, Gender Stereotypes, and the Future of Women Lawyers at Large Law Firms argues that competitive meritocracy, the prevailing large-firm professional ideology over the last fifty years, is in decline. Competitive meritocracy is being replaced by a hypercompetitive ideology that, compared with its predecessor, puts more emphasis on 24/7 client-centered representation, complete loyalty and devotion to the firm and its clients, and maximizing profit per partner, and less emphasis on meritocracy, the exercise of professional judgment, and cultivation of professional culture and maintaining a sustainable work-life balance.

This transformation is bad news for large law firms because unlike competitive meritocracy, hypercompetitiveness compromises their claim to be doing elite work, their ability to recruit and keep elite lawyers, and, ultimately, the credibility of their claim for elite status. The ideological shift is particularly devastating for previously excluded minorities at large law firms seeking equality. Glass Ceilings and Dead Ends studies the impact of hypercompetitiveness on the career path of women lawyers at large firms in the context of persisting gender stereotypes and concludes that the new ideology is likely to magnify the negative consequences of these stereotypes and further hinder the quest of women lawyers for equality at large law firms and in the legal profession.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 45

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Date posted: March 24, 2010 ; Last revised: March 27, 2010

Suggested Citation

Wald, Eli, Glass Ceilings and Dead Ends: Professional Ideologies, Gender Stereotypes, and the Future of Women Lawyers at Large Law Firms (March 18, 2010). Fordham Law Review, Vol. 78, 2010; U Denver Legal Studies Research Paper No. 10-08. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1574446

Contact Information

Eli Wald (Contact Author)
University of Denver Sturm College of Law ( email )
2255 E. Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80208
United States
HOME PAGE: http://law.du.edu/index.php/profile/eli-wald
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