Queer Insights on Women in the Legal Profession
(2014) 17(2) Legal Ethics
42 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2014 Last revised: 11 Feb 2015
Date Written: August 1, 2014
In the past decade, members of the legal profession in Canada and other common law jurisdictions, including England and the United States, have directly engaged the question of how to retain women in private practice environments. As a result, the ‘retention of women’ discourse has emerged as a dominant lens through which issues of gender equity in the legal profession are identified and analysed. The goal of this article is to build upon existing critiques of the ‘retention of women’ discourse by asking what insights Queer theory might bring to ongoing debates about the ‘retention of women’ in the legal profession. The analysis charts the rise of the ‘retention of women’ issue in Canada and other common law jurisdictions and connects the ‘retention of women’ discourse with Queer legal theory. Drawing on select tenets of Queer theory, the article then considers how the ‘retention of women’ debate reconstitutes conventional notions of lawyer professionalism and recasts the boundaries of ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ lawyers. The article concludes, first, that Queer theory is a useful theoretical lens though which discussions about the ‘retention of women’ in the discourse of legal professionalism can be meaningfully examined, and, second, that a Queer theory lens reveals fundamental limitations of existing approaches to the ‘retention of women’ question in the common law world.
Keywords: legal ethics, legal profession, retention of women, queer theory
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