Unsurprisingly, Kamala Harris ‘primary as the first wife of the Color Vice President has generated tons of opinion on how Harris’ victory inspired women and girls across the country, changed the future of women in politics, and demonstrated the value of true diversity. But there’s a twist that most of the media has overlooked – especially how the Biden-Harris partnership serves as a model for professional partnerships between men and women.
Think about it. So far, our reference point for professional partnerships usually begins with a brotherhood. Think Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield from Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. Larry Page and Sergei Brin, co-founders of Google. Steve Jobs and Woz (Apple), Bill Gates and Paul Allen (Microsoft) (in fact, the list of male tech partnerships goes on and on – but they’re not limited to the tech realm. Think Obama-Biden-Bromance or the unlikely duo of boys, David Boies and Ted Olson, who teamed up to establish a constitutional right to same-sex marriage in the Supreme Court.
In contrast, there are no comparable examples of partnerships between men and women where the team is not married – like Barack-and-Michelle or Bill-and-Hillary, or the numerous tech companies started by a husband and wife. Furthermore, in the past four years, the prospects for a partnership between men and women have been completely ruined by idiots like former Vice President Pence and the “Mother” who believe that unmarried men and women should never eat together alone.
Although men and women have worked together in law for decades, the relationships are far from being the same. When a lawyer represents a client, the man almost always argues in court. And although men and women are at least theoretically equal partners in large law firms, the pay is anything but such that female partners earn an average of 24 percent less than their male colleagues.
Women who own law firms are not entirely exempt from unequal treatment. I’ve found that women, myself included, are often selected when customers call a team leader. But when judges or other committees decide, male-owned companies still dominate – for example in lucrative class action cases where women are rarely selected as senior advisors.
As Biden and Harris prepare for office, they will have an opportunity to show both the legal profession and the world what a productive, successful partnership between men and women looks like. In my opinion, Biden is doing a good job so far. For example, Biden gave Harris the opportunity to speak the night her victory was assured – although I can’t remember previous vice presidents under Trump, Obama, Clinton or Bush allowing their deputy to do the same. So far, Harris has been involved in national security briefings and in the selection of transition team members.
Besides, Biden doesn’t have to do any of this. After all, he is superior to Harris as President and doesn’t have to allow her any input at all. The fact that Biden managed to technically treat Harris as an equal isn’t an even stronger proposition for law firms and judges.
As lawyers, most of what we do is not influenced by who is in the presidency. However, the culture established by the front runners has implications for all sectors, including the legal industry. We hope that the Biden-Harris team paves the way for more productive and equitable partnerships between men and women in law.