Documenting the American South Logo
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Julia Virginia Jones, October 6, 1997. Interview J-0072. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Law firm observes gendered work relations despite attempts at rejecting gender norms

Jones shares her early memories of work at a large law firm. While on one hand the firm rejected traditional female stereotypes, on the other it supported gendered conventions. Jones discusses her frustrations and efforts to include women in the firm's networking opportunities. This theme of gender biases in the workplace occurs later in the interview as well.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Julia Virginia Jones, October 6, 1997. Interview J-0072. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

What was it like? How big was Moore & Van Allen then? Now it's eighty people just in this office.
I was number twenty. When we had firm meetings, everybody came including associates. This is kind of a funny anecdote. As I mentioned, they hired two people. The other person was a man, and they hired me. The tradition was that the newest person in the firm took the minutes. They were not about to ask me to take the minutes, so they got the other man that they had hired. I thought that was very good judgement. I didn't know for about a year and a half that the partners had decided to do that. It wouldn't have mattered, and I would have taken the minutes, but I was pretty impressed that they thought about that. There was one other woman there. She did estate work, and was out on maternity leave when I started at the law firm. So, really I was the visible woman at that point in time, although Christy was quite a good lawyer and had a great reputation. She just happened to be on maternity leave the first year I was there.
What was it like being a first year associate there?
It was interesting being a first year associate and being a woman as a trial lawyer. They'd had one other woman, Marguerite Stevens, for about a year, and she worked on one particular case and then she followed that case to D.C. I think the firm really didn't know what to do with me, quite frankly, but it was real clear from the beginning that I had their support and that if any client didn't like having a woman I needed to let them know. If anybody bothered me, to let them know. I think it probably, like anything else, had advantages and disadvantages. The major disadvantage is the camaraderie issue, and at Moore & Van Allen at that point in time individual camaraderie (that sounds like an oxymoron, but I really mean rather than the firm as a whole let's take the litigators and the senior partner who wants to work with an associate), they really bonded, and hiking was our main activity. We had a hiking trip that was coed, and I remember one time there was a hiking trip that was going to be just guys. A memo went around in the firm. Well at that point I could out hike almost everybody in the firm, and I was quite taken aback, quite frankly, that the Bear Skin Classic was not open to women. Apparently they'd had this hike for a number of years before I came to the firm, and it was a boy's night out kind of thing. Well, I stewed about it and made a comment or two, but realized that I would not win. I think I had been there about a year at that point. The man that I went out with at that time, I shared this with him, and he said "I think you are being over reactive; that this is just a men's outing." And I said, "Well, the reason I am concerned is, you go off and stay in a tent with somebody, or even if you're in your separate tents, there's always a little edge, an element of danger when you are out in the woods and that's the person you trust. And if you trust them in the woods, you are going to trust them to be the associate on your Supreme Court case, and my concern was that I would get pushed out of that. That was really the concern, because I had been on the trips that were coed. We bonded on those trips. So, the trip came and went and I made partner about that time, and the other man (Jamie Clark) made partner. So, Jamie and I decided to have our own party. For some reason the firm was going through one of their tight spells. Moore & Van Allen always tickles me. Sometimes they are spending money like crazy, and other times they are penny wise and pound foolish. I suspect all big firms are like that, not just Moore & Van Allen. So, Jamie and I threw our own keg party, and the man that I had been going out with for a number of months (that I'd had all this conversation with), he came with me. In the car going home he said, "I owe you an apology." I said, "Oh?" He said, "You were exactly right. From the moment we got to the party, all the guys talked about was that trip and who had done what, and what had happened. That was the entire topic of conversation, and you are right, it was an opportunity to bond that carried over into work as well as extracurricular." I just have to tell you that this man doesn't apologize very often. For him to say that made it very significant. But, that was an isolated incident early on. I then worked very hard to make sure we had coed trips, and that's what happened. Now sure, some of the guys went off on their own, two or three, but there weren't any more firm memos going around saying that we are going to have this trip. I think that is the way it should have happened.