The Masculine Nature of Legal Practice

Last month, Anne-Marie Rice was named as the 2018 Leneen Ford AC Woman Lawyer of the Year at the Women Lawyers Association of Queensland’s 40th Anniversary Gala Dinner. Her acceptance speech attracted an overwhelming response from lawyers who resonated with her confession of being ‘tired’ from practising law through an inherently masculine lens.

45739299522_fd405e5094 Flickr via Compfightcc (CC BY 2.0)

In her acceptance speech, Anne-Marie discussed the fact that legal practice was initially developed in a male dominated space, which led to its one dimensional and aggressive nature. Through emphasising winning the fight and inflaming issues in the process, adversarialism has been understood as the key to successful lawyering. This prism has continued despite women’s immersion in the legal profession for many years now. Rather than influence a cultural change, women have been expected to wear the aggressive armour of legal practice even though it may not be a natural fit. Anne-Marie shared her exhaustion that emanated from embodying a masculine lens that is inconsistent with her inherent being. Although she is a highly successful lawyer, she shared that the one-dimensional nature of law has dimmed her light. This tiredness has seen women leave the legal profession, as wearing armour that is fundamentally uncomfortable is unsustainable.

Anne-Marie called for a change in legal practice towards one that is multidimensional and sustainable. All people in the legal profession have the responsibility to challenge the current practice of law which sees those with responsibilities outside the law depleted of resources and women in particular required to reconfigure their thinking. Anne-Marie stated that she used to think that her role in the legal profession was not of importance given that previous trail blazers already founded opportunities for women within the legal sphere. However, she now recognises the exciting weight of responsibility that women and men in the legal profession at this time have to redefine what it means to practise law. In an age of increased discussions of the wellbeing of those within the legal profession, it is apt to consider how the law can be practised through a lens that is healthier for lawyers.

The massive feedback that Anne-Marie’s acceptance speech received makes it clear that many lawyers are ready to stop being tired and create a new lens for lawyering.

You can read Anne Marie Rice’s speech here.

Our first public event: International Feminist perspectives on family violence and family law

We’re super excited to be hosting our first public event.
The Monash Feminist Legal Studies Group  invite those working in policy, practice and academia in family violence, family law, child protection, law and development, criminal law and immigration law to join us for lunch and critical conversations.

Professor Jennifer Koshan, University of Calgary

Join the Feminist Legal Studies Group from Monash Law for a lunchtime seminar series, featuring presentations by Ibu Nani Zulminanrni and Cate Sumner (PEKKA seminar), and Professor Jennifer Koshan (Faulty of Law, University of Calgary).
Wednesday 5 December 2018
Auditorium 1, 2 & 3 Ground Floor
Monash University Law Chambers
555 Lonsdale Street
Melbourne 3000
Seminar one – 11.30-12.30pm
‘Feminist perspectives on family law and child marriage cases in the
Courts of Indonesia’. Cate Sumner and Ibu Nani Zulminanrni (PEKKA)
Seminar two – 1-2pm
‘Family Violence before the Canadian Courts: The Exclusion of
Intersections, Impacts and Identities’. Professor Jennifer Koshan
A light luncheon will be provided to attendees.
Register here by 28 November.
More info.
Family violence cases present unique access to justice issues, especially when litigants are required to navigate multiple legal systems.
In Canada, parties affected by family violence may face legal issues encompassing numerous laws, including criminal, family, child protection, civil protection, housing, social assistance, immigration and refugee laws, each of which has its own legal processes.
The situation is even more challenging for Indigenous persons, who face jurisdictional complexities resulting from the different levels of government regulation to which they are subject. State actors, including judges, have generally not recognized the diffculties and dangers that may arise for litigants when these laws and legal systems intersect.
Particularly problematic is the fact that litigants may encounter competing demands in how they conduct themselves both in response to the violence and to the laws and processes governing that violence. Abusive (ex)partners may take advantage of these contradictions by mobilizing laws and legal systems against their partners.
This seminar will examine reported case law from several Canadian jurisdictions to explore the extent to which judges account for these challenges in their treatment of family violence and related legal issues.
Our initial fndings indicate that judges often ignore intersecting legal issues and systems or proceed on problematic assumptions about other laws and processes. They also fail to attend to the complexities presented by litigants’ identities, such as their Indigeneity and immigration status and tend to minimize the impact of domestic violence on women and children, thereby jeopardizing their safety and impeding their access to justice.
Professor Jennifer Koshan joined the Faculty of Law at the University of Calgary in 2000 after practising as Crown counsel in the Northwest Territories and serving as the Legal Director of West Coast LEAF, the British Columbia branch of the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF).
Her teaching and research are in the areas of constitutional law, equality and human rights, state responses to violence, and feminist legal theory / activism.
In 2016, Jennifer was awarded a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Grant and leads a team of five researchers studying access to justice in domestic violence cases at the intersection of multiple legal systems (with co-investigators Wendy Chan (Simon Fraser University), Michaela Keet and Wanda Wiegers (University of Saskatchewan) and Janet Mosher (Osgoode Hall Law School)).
Jennifer is a founding member of the Women’s Court of Canada feminist judgments project and continues to contribute to the legal work of LEAF.
This research was conducted in conjunction with Professor Janet Mosher and Professor Wanda Weigers.

Join Us to Help Eliminate Violence Against Women

You’re invited to a morning tea for staff and students that will feature a series of presentations reflecting on ‘Family Violence, Gender Equality and Sustainable Development at Monash’.

This year we’re pleased to welcome Dr Becky Batagol from Monash Sustainable Development Institute and the Faculty of Law to lead our discussion.


Event details

When: Tuesday 27 November, 9.45am to 11.45am, commencing with morning tea

Where: Graduation Marquee, Northern Plaza, Clayton campus

Our ongoing dialogue about family violence will help us widen our knowledge of this issue in the community.

You can register here

Special Episode: Angela Cameron


In this special episode of the Scarlet Letter, Associate Professor Becky Batagol interviews Associate Professor Angela Cameron of the University of Ottawa. Professor Cameron is the current Shirley Greenberg Chair, which is a role that is designed to strengthen teaching, research and administration with respect to feminist perspectives on the law. In her conversation with Becky, Professor Cameron explains some of the benefits and disadvantages of working at a bilingual university, as well as the difficulties that come with working in a poly-juridical system. The discussion also covers reproductive justice and surrogacy, and the importance of women mentoring women.

Check out the latest episode of our podcast, the Scarlet Letter.

Is Sport Playing by the Rules? Seear on Sport and Gender

On Wednesday 24 October Victoria Law Foundation hosted a public lecture on sport and the law, called Is Sport Playing by the Rules? The event featured Rob Stary – defence lawyer and lifelong Bulldogs fan, Professor Russ Hoye, Director Latrobe Sport, our Associate Professor Kate Seear, Monash University and Springvale Monash Legal Service and Outer Sanctum podcaster and Dr Bridie O’Donnell, Head of the Office for Women in Sport and Recreation Victoria physician and champion cyclist.

Many readers may know Associate Professor Seear as one of the Outer Sanctum, an all-female footy commentary team who have broken important stories relating to gender and sport such as the Eddie McGuire threats to kill journalist Caroline Wilson.

Seear screenshot 2018-11-08 09.12.00

Screenshot from the Lawyer’s Weekly article 26 October 2018

Associate Professor Seear directed many of her comments at the forum tot he topic of gender, including that on-field sledging in men’s sport often focuses on wives, girlfriends and mothers who have no power or control over the comments made.

Of the session, the Law Foundation says:

The consensus was that – generally speaking – sport needed to lift its game. Greater consistency and transparency would build confidence in sporting bodies to handle their responsibilities in the interests of all concerned – players, officials, spectators and the general public – and make their legal systems more robust.

You can watch the video and read a summary of the session here on the Law Foundation’s website. 

You can also read this write up in the Lawyers Weekly. That article quotes Associate Professor Seear as connecting masculine sports cultures with violence against women:

“Where women are not treated equally or afforded the same opportunities as men, and where sport is culturally valorised, women may come to be understood as inferior to men,” she argued.

“Research from Our Watch also suggests there could be important links between sport and violence against women, and that offering women equal opportunities to play sport (including being paid equally) may help erode attitudes supportive of/linked to violence against women.”