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Book cover: Studies in Law, Politics, and Society

Studies in Law, Politics, and Society

ISSN: 1059-4337
Series editor(s): Professor Austin Sarat

Subject Area: Sociology and Public Policy

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“If you become his second wife, you are a fool”: Shifting paradigms of the roles, perceptions, and working conditions of legal secretaries in large law firms


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Title:“If you become his second wife, you are a fool”: Shifting paradigms of the roles, perceptions, and working conditions of legal secretaries in large law firms
Author(s):Felice Batlan
Volume:52 Editor(s): Austin Sarat ISBN: 978-0-85724-357-7 eISBN: 978-0-85724-358-4
Citation:Felice Batlan (2010), “If you become his second wife, you are a fool”: Shifting paradigms of the roles, perceptions, and working conditions of legal secretaries in large law firms, in Austin Sarat (ed.) Special Issue Law Firms, Legal Culture, and Legal Practice (Studies in Law, Politics, and Society, Volume 52), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.169-210
DOI:10.1108/S1059-4337(2010)0000052009 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article type:Chapter Item
Abstract:The academic literature that addresses the creation and transformation of large law firms seldom mentions the presence of legal secretaries. The absence of legal secretaries, the vast majority of whom are women, reproduces law firm hierarchies in which attorneys are important in understanding the legal profession and law firm dynamics while secretaries remain invisible. Given the lack of secondary literature on legal secretaries, much of this chapter is based upon legal secretaries' responses to a nationwide survey, which I conducted in Spring 2009. Using such data, along with other primary sources, the chapter examines how legal secretaries' roles and work have changed during the past 50 years, how legal secretaries view themselves and their roles in law large law firms, and the material conditions under which legal secretaries work. Moreover, the most significant scholarship on secretaries has depicted the secretary/boss relationship as one of personal and domestic nature – what we might call the “second-wife syndrome.” The chapter explores whether such a description remains accurate and the complicated gender dynamics that exist between legal secretaries and attorneys.

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