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GETTING HOTTERpage 1 of 2 ( go to page 2 )
By Steven Sarshik

Are male associates necessary?

Maybe it’s time to ask this provocative question after New York City newspapers reported over the winter that a blog operated by two anonymous associates at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom had been sponsoring a “Hottest Female Associate” contest.

According to reports, the pictures for eight contestants were posted on the Skadden Insider, an unofficial blog created to “collect and pass along (and sometimes comment on) the gossip and news making its way through the halls” of the law firm.    The contest went on for about a week and produced almost 1,400 votes.  The winner, a litigation associate in New York, garnered 400 votes.  One website described the winner as a “blonde” pictured “in what appears to be a maroon plaid bustier.”

Word of the contest reached the press, and the New York Post, not adverse to gossip of any sort, called it a “rank prank.”  It quoted one of the contestants, a Stanford Law School graduate, as stating:  “I just don’t want any more publicity.  It’s more attention than I wanted.  I wanted to be recognized more for my work than for something like this.”

Henry Baer, Skadden’s employment adviser sent around an e-mail calling the contest “inappropriate” and stating that it “does not reflect our values and standards of behavior.”  Mr. Baer concluded his e-mail with this statement:  “Numerous attorneys at the Firm have expressed their concern and, in some cases, embarrassment at such contests.  We urge the authors of the blog to consider both the privacy and feelings of the affected attorneys and to discontinue the contests.”

The two authors of the blog responded to the chastising note with all the maturity you might expect.  In their blog, they wrote: “Damn, we feel like we were called to the Vice Principal’s office today and had our knuckles wrapped.”  In terms of a defense, they reported that for the pictures they had used “publicly available photos of each nominee” – “with limited exception,” whatever that qualifying expression is supposed to mean.  Then they stated smugly:  “We must note, though, that pictures on Facebook or My Space, are, in our opinion, fair game and not an invasion of anyone’s privacy.”

The two bloggers admitted that the contest was “sophomoric,” but argued that it was all done in “good fun.”  Then, offering the weakest sort of apology, they stated:  “We’re sorry if anyone was embarrassed by it.  We wish you had just chuckled, rolled your eyes, or merely clicked away.”

The brouhaha caused by this contest raises two immediate questions.  First, how could two seemingly sane, employees at a major law firm (with presumably some experience communicating with women at law school) have allowed their blog to be utilized for this contest?  Didn’t any warning bells go off anywhere in the back of their clever little minds.  You know, like maybe this could possibly embarrass somebody who’s trying to build a legal career at the firm.  You think?

The second question that is raised is where do all these nose-to-the-grindstone, fifty-five billable hours per week employees get the time to fiddle around with these admittedly “sophomoric” pranks?  Word is supposed to be that associates at these high- powered firms work like pack animals, with no time left for a normal social life, let alone frivolous games.  Perhaps this is more myth than reality.  Maybe life is not that hard for twenty-seven year old associates after all.  Maybe there are quite a few gazing into their computers during office hours looking for something truly productive to do with their time.  Remember that there were almost 1,400 employees at Skadden who had time to study the various nominees and then vote in the “Hottest Female Associate” contest.  How were they able to break away from all that really important research and memo writing?