The American Bar Association’s Law Practice Division publishes a monthly webzine, Law Practice Today, covering the latest topics in law practice management. July’s edition focused on women in law, with technology topics ranging from online accessibility to tech for hybrid workplaces. Here are some highlights from the issue:
“Digital Spaces as Places of Public Accommodation” by Barbara Grandjean and Jackie Coffman
“The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in a number of areas. Under Title III, this prohibition generally means that “places of public accommodation” must be accessible to members of the public with disabilities. Places of public accommodation include, but are not limited to, restaurants, hotels, theaters, grocery stores, banks, pharmacies, retail stores, airports, museums, libraries, and parks. When the ADA became law in 1990, the internet was in its infancy, so it is unsurprising that Congress failed to anticipate the need to address the accessibility of websites or other digital spaces in this law.
But in the year 2021, the internet is a ubiquitous tool, with virtually all aspects of business and personal affairs capable of being conducted online. This reality begs the question: Can a digital space also be a “place” of public accommodation which must be made accessible?”
“The Post-Pandemic Workplace: An Opportunity for Change” by Heidi Alexander
“As we begin to finally emerge from the pandemic, employers face many questions about what their workplaces will look like. Many have or will decide this summer about how to structure their workplaces. Legal employers, in particular, are faced with a unique opportunity to shed certain assumptions that drove rules about legal organization structures pre-pandemic and to take into account the experiences of members of the community, specifically women and other underrepresented attorneys in law firm partnership positions and legal organization leadership. If we use this moment to begin to make intentional changes to antiquated structures, we can begin to meaningfully improve the well-being of lawyers individually and the bar as a whole, and to advance women and other underrepresented populations.”
“Women of Color Are Disproportionately Impacted by Post-Pandemic Workplaces” by Cynthia Thomas
“As law firms and other businesses begin to reopen, many organizations are taking a cautious approach and are considering reopening in a hybrid workplace. This is a new concept for most industries, especially law firms. According to a recent McKinsey and Company survey, 40% of employees have not received any communication about a hybrid work model, and another 28% of employees stated that what they heard about the new work model is vague. Although this model may ease the fears of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace and provide flexibility, the lack of clarity is creating added stress and anxiety. Adding to the stress is the knowledge that schools, daycare facilities, and afterschool activities are not back to “normal” and are dealing with similar issues.
Without a defined return-to-work plan and/or bringing workers back to the office under the pre-pandemic work model, women of color will likely suffer more than non-minority women due to the extra financial burden. Women will be forced, once again, to make a choice between their family and their career. Similarly, if given a choice to continue to work from home, women will once again be placed back into the category of “not taking her career seriously.” Additionally, partners will more likely give top assignments to attorneys who are physically in the office rather than jumping on Zoom or emailing the assignment to a remote attorney. A certain level of mentoring between senior partners and junior associates also takes place face-to-face, an aspect of work that has not been mastered in a remote environment.”