By Erin Taylor


Aggressive misogynism – what does that even mean?

A bit of a change up for our blog this week. Rather than a post about proposed changes in the law or an analysis of recent Court decisions, we’ve decided to post a letter that our Partner, Erin Taylor, wrote to a recruitment firm today in response to some rumours that the particular firm has been suggesting to potential applicants that our firm is aggressively misogynist.

At Aulich, we take pride in the way our firm promotes the strengths of our female staff. We provide a supportive environment for working mothers and a work life balance for everyone in the firm. We have a large cohort of intelligent, talented and gifted female staff and we are proud of each and every one of them.

We’re interested to know what your experiences are with this sort of thing. And how you’ve handled it. Obviously, our “mother hen” got her feathers all ruffled when she heard the rumours. Her response is below.

Dear XXXX,

As you no doubt understand, recruiting good lawyers, especially in the 2-5 year mark is particularly difficult. They are, as they say, like hens’ teeth.

We have high expectations of our group of staff here at Aulich and we have a way of practising, particularly in litigation, that is aggressive but calculated. In our experience it takes a certain type of personality to cope with both the demands of the job as well as the way we run our matters here. Indeed, we look at the personality fit and rate it much more highly than high marks in a degree or degrees from the “top tier” Universities. For that reason we often find we have to look particularly hard for the right staff. When we find them, we hang on to them and know almost immediately if they are the right fit. Sometimes it means we have to let go a few lawyers before we land on the ones that are perfect for us.

Given the combination of the lack of candidates in that range and the type of person we find is most suitable to us, it is even more difficult to recruit. At the moment we are searching for some more staff because our firm, particularly in commercial litigation, continues to grow exponentially. We have a crop of loyal and quality clients that trust us and like the way we work. Their work is complex and interesting and the matters we get to run are the type of matters all good lawyers would want to run.

Unfortunately, in that recruitment drive, we have heard some comments coming back to us that I particularly, as a female Partner here, find really disappointing. It has been said to us that a recruiter or recruiters from your firm have been directing candidates away from Aulich, or directing them to be cautious, because we have an “aggressively misogynistic” culture. I sincerely hope that it is not the case that any staff at your firm are promoting this attitude. Especially having not met me, any of our other senior female staff or attended our office to assess the truth of that statement. I can only assume that is based on scuttlebutt and innuendo. I am sure you are experienced enough to know that the competitive nature of lawyers and law firms means that the majority of innuendo is simply opponents seeking a competitive advantage.

It is true that the bulk of our workforce is female. This is not driven by a misogynistic culture, rather, the complete opposite. Our experience in employing staff, particularly lawyers is that female staff tend to be exceptionally intelligent, hardworking, no nonsense, motivated and reliable. And, with the right encouragement, they are fearless and willing to take the type of risks we encourage in the way we practise. We have two female Partners at a firm of 4 Partners. All of our Senior Associates are female and 95% of our solicitors are female. We have a preference of employing lawyers from the country or lawyers that went to non-traditional law schools because they don’t share that stuffy, old school “boys’ club” mentality.

One of our Senior Associates has 4 children under 6 and has had those children while working with Aulich. She was fully supported throughout all 4 of her maternity leaves with no expectation about when she would come back but full support for when, how and how much she wanted to come back for. She and I both have young children and the support we receive here means we can both balance being senior lawyers and mums. In fact, I was 4 months pregnant when I was employed by Aulich and not an eyelid was batted.

There is no doubt, we are not like other law firms. The way we practise adds an element of aggression which I concede could be viewed as masculine. But it is being propounded by female staff who are intelligent, fearless and who are given the imprimatur to take risks, make mistakes and develop into the type of lawyer they want to be.

We consider ourselves a family. We are a close knit team. We eat lunch together every day, we do the quiz in the papers, we enjoy social events together and we have a self-appointed “Welfare Officer” who organises monthly “munch and crunch” morning teas where we all sit around and eat fruit platters and share our thoughts with each other on various topics. We value work life balance and it is the exception, not the rule, to see staff in the office past 5:30pm. We also no doubt have a jovial and cheeky culture and enjoy a joke with each other. Perhaps it is the latter that leads people to form a view that there is some form of misogynism in the firm.

There is none. And frankly as a female Partner I find the assertion that our firm is aggressively misogynist as offensive and infuriating. The suggestion seems to be that I and the other females here got their jobs because they are female, attractive and objects of male affection rather than because they are intelligent, hardworking and plainly really good at what they do.

I invite you to discuss those comments with your staff to understand if there is any truth in them. If there is, I don’t propose to do anything other than seek your confirmation that these type of comments will not be made in the future. I also invite you to come to the firm and speak to our staff and form your own view.