Clifford Chance's Sexist Memo Was 'Unintentional.' So There.

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on October 30, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The now-infamous Clifford Chance memo entitled "Presentation Tips for Women," shared by Above the Law, has had the Internet goin' nuts for the past few days. And for good reason. One quick glimpse at the memo, and there are some examples of sexism at its ripest. The problem? The memo was drafted and released by the firm's Women's Committee only to women attorneys at the firm.

As Madeleine Albright said, "There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women." Sadly, the problem here is the kind of help.

The Offending Memo

The memo includes many useful tips that are equally relevant to men and women. The problem lies with suggestions are meant solely for women, to wit:

"Pretend you're in moot court, not the high school cafeteria."

"Don't giggle, Don't squirm, Don't tilt your head, Don't wave your arms."

"Think Lauren Bacall, not Marilyn Monroe."

"Don't hide behind your hair."

No doubt Clifford Chance's Women's Committee thought it was doing the women attorneys of the firm a service, many "female associates are very upset by not only the elementary nature of the tips themselves, but the suggestion that these would only apply to women," reports Above The Law.

And, they have a point. This memo wasn't distributed to high school students -- it was distributed to women who are attorneys at a prestigious firm. These are professional women, not the "ladies" of Charm School; to suggest that they giggle and squirm, among other things, doesn't give them the credit they deserve.

Or, shall we just take one step back here? Is Clifford Chance really foolish enough to hire young women and/or young men silly enough to be giggling and tilting their little heads during a presentation to a client? Maybe the hiring partners need a memo of their own.

Clifford Chance's Side of the Story

Above the Law reached out to Clifford Chance for comment and they released this statement:

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.

Maybe we're being too hasty in our condemnation of Clifford Chance, after all, they meant well (insert eye roll here). We're sure most who offend and degrade people do it with the best intentions. It's these kinds of persistent, "innocuous" ways of addressing women that remind us that we have a very long way to go.

Oh, and please note: Clifford Chance is not on this list.

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