Reese Witherspoon | Legally Blonde | ©2001 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

No cleavage or giggling, law firm feels the need to instruct female employees

Elizabeth Bromstein|

Female employees at major law firm Clifford Chance are apparently disgruntled over a memo they received titled “Presentation Tips for Women.”

The memo, distributed recently by the firm’s Women’s Committee and posted online by Above the Law, contains a list of suggestions for giving a professional presentation that includes cautions against giggling, squirming, and arm flailing.

Also suggested:

    You’re a Friendly Professional, not a Professional Friend…Your friends will still like you, afterwards, even if you adopt a more formal tone.

    You’ve got to Lose “Um” and “Uh,” “You know,” “OK,” and “Like”

    Don’t jumble your words, “dunno,” “wanna,” “probly”

    Your voice is higher than you hear

    Think Lauren Bacall, not Marilyn Monroe

    Don’t drink alcoholic beverages

    Make nose contact [Author note: What?]

    Don’t hide behind your hair

    Watch out for the urinal position [Author's note: Again, what?]

    Put your notes in a folder

    Don’t take a purse up to the podium

    Business casual is not casual…Wear a suit, not your party outfit

    No one heard Hillary the day she showed cleavage

    If wearing a skirt, make sure audience can’t see up it when sitting on the dais [insert Sharon Stone joke here]

    Make sure you can stand in your heels

    Make sure your cellphone is turned off

One of recipients told Above the Law that female employees are “very upset by not only the elementary nature of the tips themselves, but the suggestion that these would only apply to women. We have never been a very female friendly firm, but this is beyond the pale.”

Well, it’s not entirely true that these tips apply to everyone. Men at law firms don’t wear skirts or heels. They don’t, for the most part, hide behind their hair or carry purses. But they might be just as apt to drink before a presentation, and we all know nobody anywhere is making enough “nose contact.”

One might wonder why the memo was circulated in the first place. Is it possible that the firm has had issues in the past with women giggling and squirming their way through presentations, flashing their business and tossing papers everywhere? Or is it just a random insult to women everywhere, a massive assumption that they have no idea how to conduct themselves, despite making it through law school and passing the bar exam?

We’ll never know.

Clifford Chance responded to the outrage with the following statement to Above The Law:

“The original presentation and associated tips represented a personal perspective, shared with a group of colleagues, some just starting out in their careers. The more than 150 points are based on what this individual has found helpful as a public speaker in a broad range of business environments. While much of what is covered is common sense, we believe that it is important that women as well as men are given access to a range of different viewpoints and approaches; there is no Clifford Chance template on how people should present. The offense caused by a small percentage of the suggestions in the tip sheet was entirely unintentional.”

Well, the road to hell I guess…

Are you among the unintentionally offended?


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  • mynameisno

    NO for god’s sake can we stop being offended at EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME????

  • Concerned

    “Put your notes in a folder” — LOL LOL LOL!