Women's Capabilities in Legal Practice: Amending Wrong Notions**

Discourse, An Iranian Quarterly
Winter - Spring 2003, Vol. 4, Nos 3 - 4
By: Behnaz Ashtari*
Pages: 171 - 192
Word Count: 7662

Summary: Legal practice is among the occupations that traditional societies essentially regard as masculine. For this reason, women's presence in this profession has been limited to date; women now constitute only around ten per cent of all lawyers in Iran. Other reasons contributing to the decrease in growth of the women's presence in this profession are women's domestic duties as well as the restrictions imposed on their entry into judicial and related positions. Nevertheless, because of the eradication of some of these restrictions and women's own interest in the field, a positive trend has started in their presence in legal practice. Despite the aforementioned problems and restrictions, women lawyers have become capable of showing many of their capabilities. One of the major manifestations of such a success has been women's entry into the Iranian Central Bar Association's directorate, an achievement that has been realized after around half a century. Women's presence at the managerial level of the Bar Association can certainly leave a positive impact on the elimination of stereotypes present in society regarding the masculine nature of legal practice. Their presence can also help promote women's capabilities in such specialized professions. One of the cases considered as being among women's capabilities in this profession includes that women are principally clean-handed in their occupational field and are aloof from the corruption and collusion that are more common among men. In order to increase women's capabilities in legal practice and at the managerial level of the Bar Association, a number of measures are proposed, the most important of which is to adopt a quota system in favor of women's entry both into this profession and into the Bar Association's directorate.

Keywords: Legal Practice, Women's Capabilities, Mental Stereotypes, Masculine Occupations, Managerial Positions



Legal practice is among the occupations in which women have had a limited presence to date, despite the profession's great influence on society. Indeed, after around 50 years had passed from the time when women entered the Bar Association's directorate for the first time, the elections of March 2002 placed two women in the Central Bar Association's directorate, indicating promising developments for women in this profession. This article aims to evaluate various aspects of women's presence in legal practice involving the extent of women's presence in such profession, the problems and restrictions faced with by them, capabilities of women in such profession, the effects of these capabilities on the entire society, and women's presence at the managerial ranks of the Bar Association. Also it makes clear that what impact women's strong presence in this career leaves on the societal beliefs with respect to women's occupational and professional capabilities.

To date, the low number of women in legal practice and other related professions have deprived women from the help and support they could acquire if women were more greatly represented in these fields. This trend leads to the presence of certain incorrect stereotypes that women are unable to perform well as male lawyers or in related areas. This article draws on interviews conducted with women members of the Central Bar Association's directorate as well as other women lawyers. It explores the impact of women's professional success in this field in the field on all women, and examines their problems, constraints and capabilities. This research analyzes the answers of the interviewees, who were each asked five questions:

1- In comparison with male lawyers, what problems do female lawyers face and what have been their capabilities in this profession in spite of these problems?

2- In your opinion, what are the effects of women's engagement in legal practice on the support for women's rights and the advancement of all women in society?

3- What efforts were made for the women's presence in the Central Bar Association's directorate and why did this happen again in 2002 after around 50 years?

4- In your opinion, what effects does women's presence in the directorate leave on the position of all female lawyers and on societal beliefs about women's capabilities?

5- Which measures do you propose for the promotion of women's capabilities in legal practice?

In conclusion, measures are offered in two areas; first, how the achievements gained by women in legal practice may be extended to other women within the society; and second, which specific measures may be attempted to promote the capabilities of women who engage in legal practice. These measures apply to both women willing to enter the area of legal practice and to women who are already engaged in the profession. In particular, attention is paid to the issue of women's more significant presence in managerial positions of the Bar Association, and measures are presented in order to eliminate the existing inequality in this respect. The methodology used in this research is descriptive, and analysis is made on the viewpoints presented. Also for gathering data two bibliographical and interview methods have been utilized. It should be noted that because of the lack or shortage of particular sources on women's legal practice, this article highly relies on interviews.

Literature Review

While research done on the question of women's employment in various professions is plentiful and growing, it has not been the case for professions the general public sees as unsuitable for women and are not traditionally assigned to females. Legal practice is one such occupation. This problem is both derived from the above fact and from the fact that from the beginning of this profession, the number of women engaging in it was limited and this process deteriorated following Iran's Islamic Revolution that women were essentially prevented or restricted from taking up judicial positions and even from studying law. This contrasts with the years before the Revolution, thanks to the enthusiasm of women educated in law to be employed in the filed justice, "a number of laweducated women were employed by the Ministry of Justice as judge and the number of women engaging in legal practice and consultation, or social work in criminal trials grew. Of course, women possess a 50-year old experience in the history of Iranian legal practice and there has never been any legal barrier to women's employment in this occupation."(1)

In 1995, after amendments were made to the 1982 Act on the Selection of Judges, women became able to assume posts in judicial institutions in roles such as consultative and investigation judges. Yet such presence is limited to the position of the advisor and investigation judge and women are still barred from rendering judicial decisions.(2) Thus, while this amendment represents a step forward in the restoration of women's status in the judicial system and while it has left a positive impact on women's propensity to judgment and other related fields, the rights granted to women should never replace the right to judgment. With further amendments, the way must be paved for women's increased presence in the jobs arising from the law discipline.

The Extent of Women's Presence in Legal Practice

According to the statistics presented to the author by the Central Bar Association, in 2002, 2728 out of 3093 members of the Association were men and 365 were women. That means women constitute 11.8 percent of all lawyers. It should be kept in mind that the lack of women's recruitment for judgment posts following the Revolution discouraged women from studying law in universities, though it did not stop them from paying attention to this field entirely.(3) Of course, such constraints have been fully eradicated in the universities. It is worth noting that in 1994, out of 1780 lawyers in Iran (except for Fars and Azerbaijan provinces), 201 or 10.1 per cent were women.(4)

Therefore, a glance at the data demonstrates that the degree of women's presence in legal practice has improved during the past years. What that proves the above argument is the statistic relating to the apprentices in legal practice. Currently, there are 357 female apprentices out of 2086 in the Association which accounts for 11.8 per cent. Interestingly enough, the number of female lawyers equals that of female apprentices, whereas the number of male apprentices accounts for two thirds of the existing lawyers. If we assume that all existing male and female apprentices will become lawyers within one or two future years, then the proportion of women lawyers will reach 16.1 per cent, showing a 5-per cent growth. As mentioned earlier, because of women's increasing interest in entering jobs related to law, the number of female lawyers will grow rapidly.

In sum, it can be claimed about the extent of women's presence in legal practice that the overall pattern of inequality in women's employment within the entire society is evident in legal practice as well. However, this gap is narrowing. Of course, the speed of the disappearance of such gap is not as fast as in the other areas such as women's presence in universities, but one can expect that with the developments related to the acceptance of women's role-playing in judicial positions, the number of female lawyers will grow as well. In particular, it should be noted that most of the new lawyers in recent years have been the judges who have retired or resigned and have taken up legal practice. If a number of women holding judicial positions enter legal practice on the same token, the overall ratio of women's presence in this career will increase accordingly.

Women's Problems and Constraints in Legal Practice

Generally speaking, women's employment in Iran and many other countries, particularly the Third World nations, face certain problems and barriers. Naturally, the same is true and in some ways even more significant with respect to legal practice, because it is principally a masculine profession based on the stereotypes found in traditional societies. Generally, the comparison of relative rate of women's and men's incomes demonstrate that men's relative rate equaled 92.4 per cent in 1988 and 90.3 in 1997 whereas for women this rate grew from 7.6 per cent in 1988 to 9.7 in 1997.(5) This gap is more observable in occupations which are essentially not viewed as feminine such as legal practice. Indeed, women "have become able to push for jobs defined as masculine recently, but they have gained such jobs to a limited degree. On the other hand, women who are economically successful are forced to adapt themselves to a world to which they feel do not belong."(6)

The studies done in various countries indicate that many women are not willing to leave their children in child day-care centers for a longtime, which might be necessary if work full-time. This problem is more salient among Iranian women who are more emotional. Therefore, child care without their husbands' collaboration can be seen as one of the major problems faced by women.(7) Legal practice, which can be demanding work that often results in high levels of geographical mobility, can cause difficulties that are felt much more for women lawyers than men.

Generally, there are two views on women's problems in legal practice. The first view holds that women lawyers encounter greater problems and constraints arising from their gender. But the second view holds that such a separation and differentiation is negated, and existing problems find a personal and non-gender aspect. For instance, one of the followers of the first view observes: "The first problem faced by women lawyers is their familial situation. A woman lawyer has a child (or children) and a husband. Since children need direct guardianship on the part of their mother, a woman lawyer is mentally pressed. Even a woman lawyer is occasionally forced to bring her child to the court to attend trial proceedings, because the babysitter has not arrived on time. But a male lawyer does not face such problems due to lack of domestic labor."(8)

Of course, this lawyer quoted above refers to some other problems faced by female lawyers relating to the judicial apparatus and police stations, in particular regarding their personnel who do not treat women lawyers appropriately. A woman lawyer who is a member of the Association's directorate, in response to the same question, rejects separate problems for women lawyers, but she continues to mention certain cases she has personally encountered and supports the first view: "We should not absolutely draw a distinction between male and female lawyers. Since we do have problems for women in the society, there are certain problems for lawyers too. But it is not the case that there are separate problems for women lawyers. Of course, the ladies have come a long way to make the judicial apparatus accept their presence. There have also been problems; I remember that even when we started our work in 1970 and went to the courts, due to the presence of a small number of women lawyers, we were frequently asked whether we were really lawyers, and they got surprised. But the same people accepted this reality later on."(9)

Unlike the above statements, the advocates of the latter view perceive lawyers' problems differently. For instance, one of the other women lawyers interviewed for this research believes comparing male and female lawyers is not suitable and maintains that gender has no bearing on this career.(10) And another woman member of the directorate goes further and suggests: "The problems in legal practice include both men and women and even if we do make a comparison, perhaps male lawyers will have further problems. The problems faced by women lawyers refer to people's viewpoints from the perspective of the culture governing the society, which has a bearing on the delegation of legal cases to women."(11)

As it is considered, these two women members of the directorate do not see the existence of private and domestic problems for women as very serious. But despite this, both of them acknowledge that kind of the society's perception of women lawyers contrasts with that of male lawyers. Even this problems is common within the judicial community as well, which in its turn, produces certain problems for women. One of the other lawyers, in supporting the second view, believes that "In performing professional task, there is no problem arising from the womanhood of lawyer. The present problems such as problems in laws, the Judiciary's structure, etc. are identical for women and men and have no bearing on their gender" (12)

To summarize the discussion of the problems, constraints and obstacles for women lawyers, it can be said that there are three major problems:

1) Women lawyers face problems in the domestic sphere because theirdomestic responsibilities exert furtherwork pressure onwomen than they do on men and take up time that could be spent on occupational progress.

2) The second problem refers to the public perception of legal practice as essentially a masculine career. Although the problem has become somewhat diluted in the 50 years that women have worked in the field, the problem still persists. Because of this perception, the delegation of legal cases other than those relating to family issues, in other legal areas, is undertaken with doubt.

3) The third problem pertains to official positions taken toward women's employment in this career. Since women were banned from becoming judges, the perception came to being that entering the law field may not guarantee them a suitable work opportunity. For this reason, all careers that arise from the law field were adversely affected. Of course, this trend was minimized from the mid-1990s with the amendments taken place to laws relating to women's employment in judicial positions. But, as usual, a long time is needed to eradicate all negative effects it has left.

Now, after mentioning the problems that women in legal practice face, we deal with the discussion that despite these problems women in legal practice face, they have shown their capabilities and strong points in this occupation.

Women's Capabilities in Legal Practice

The women who have been faced with a variety of problems and constraints in legal practice -some of which were mentioned earlier- have made much brilliant achievements as well. Apart from the rising number of women in this profession, the quality of women's presence in this career has improved dramatically. With regard to women's capabilities in this career, two views are discernible. The first view regards such capabilities merely individually and does not pay much attention to their social aspects. But the second one considers the issue much in its social dimensions.

One of the interviewees sees women's capabilities in this profession as related to the person engaged in this career and recognizes it as proportional to their scientific, cognitive and personality skills.(13) Thus, to her, the question of women's capabilities in legal practice is not considered as a whole and among all female lawyers, but the issue has solely personal aspects. However, one of the interviewees pays attention to the issue in light of all women lawyers and bears in mind capabilities and traits that are the strongpoint of the majority of female lawyers. She says: "The women lawyers working in the society are much more careful than men, and when they see that their clients are entitled, they a show strange insistence on pursuing their rights. Also women lawyers are not accustomed to covert conspiracies and the clients have more confidence in them; for this reason, clients both women and men feel more convenient with women lawyers."(14)

The point raised here on women's perceived clean-handedness is widely accepted by most scholars of women's studies. Even the reason that the tendency in many countries now is that the extent of women's presence and participation would grow at the managerial levels both in political positions and in private or public sector economic positions is the conviction that women usually enjoy a cleaner precedent. (15) In legal practice, that same is true and perhaps even more widespread because of the sensitive nature of this career. One of the women members of the directorate describes the efforts made by women in order to achieve their deserved status in legal practice in this way: "In 1969 when I received my license, there were 13 women lawyers in Iran other than me. But today this number totals 500 to 600. [This statistic covers women lawyers throughout the country and includes the Bar Associations other than the Central one.] By the way, women lawyers have made their presence significant through excessive efforts."(16)

In practice, legal practice, contrary to many other occupations, requires extreme work experience. Whatever the lawyers' office would be orderly, they cannot relive themselves of the work pressure and extreme fatigue, particularly in cases that she/he should defend numerous cases in a short time.(17) This very work characteristic causes women lawyers to spend more energy on their work than do many other women in other professions. At the same time, however, the benefits of women lawyers' strong efforts will surpass those of women in the other occupations. Also, one of the interviewees indicates in this regard: "Women's engagement in legal practice and their particular conduct has wielded the important achievement that the degree of the societal confidence in women lawyers is much more, which implies women's further health and allegiance to the task they have assumed. Having common feelings in fields such as family cases causes women lawyers to defend all women's rights, including those of themselves in the framework of defense of an oppressed woman's rights thereby presenting women's abilities like those of capable men. Without any doubt, proper presentation of legal issues and logical defense of them never remain behind the courts' closed doors and within the dossiers' papers, so this proper course will manifest its positive effects."(18)

The Impact of Women's Empowerment in Legal Practice on the Entire Society

Legal practice in particular and women's employment in general, in addition to the positive results they would bring about for those women engaging in them, will produce useful results for all women and the entire society. Because women's employment leads them to enjoy a degree of financial independence, thus promoting their bargaining power within family relations and finding a further share in the decision-makings within the household. On the other hand, women's employment, particularly in fields other than educating or nursing -i.e. fields that do not conform to women's traditional role of motherhood- results in the socialization of people and breaks stereotypes about women's role in society and their professional qualification.(19) Therefore, a number of scholars have held that even women's symbolic presence in certain careers and occupations, notably relatively crucial and specialized ones, will be useful for the entire society. Because the mere fact that the women are allowed to experience that presence, the constraints will be broken within the youngsters' and children's minds. Moreover, the image of such active women in socio-economic domains will certainly leave affirmative impact on the children who are simulating. (20)

Also, women's presence in social activities and assuming important social roles, including legal practice, is today considered as a requirement for the full-fledged social, human, economic and political development. Indeed, "the necessity of women's presence and participation in the society does not result from mere tokenism and symbolism, but from the fact that the experience of many countries has demonstrated that the more women's share in social activities as well as the managerial levels in a society, the growth and development that society enjoys becomes more sustainable."(21)

The question of the effects of legal practice and the necessity of presenting a positive image of this career before people's minds, not only regarding women lawyers, but also respecting all lawyers, has been emphasized by those who seek to explore the career's social impact. For example, a male lawyer writes: "The lawyer should bear it in mind that the picture which is created from his personality and conduct before the clients, becomes gradually like his identification card and characterizes his activity just through which his traits are known."(22) This finds more salient dimensions with respect to women lawyers; because legal practice is not defined in terms of feminine traditional roles and thus the society screens the performance of women engaging in this career more carefully in order to see whether they are competent enough to carry out their tasks. Therefore, the success and capabilities each woman lawyer shows are counted as all women's performance. At the same time, the extent of women's deeds and abilities in legal practice affects more than just themselves and the groups of lawyers they belong to it; it includes the entire society in one way or another. Therefore, "although legal practice is regarded as a private job, it has a tremendous and undeniable reflection in the public sphere."(23)

There is almost a consensus on the positive impact of women's employment in legal practice on the defense of women's rights and advancement of the whole women. However, some consider this impact more limited with respect to female clients and others extend it to the entire society. For instance, a female lawyer suggests in this regard that "Women's employment in general and their employment in specialized jobs in particular are absolutely useful in influencing society's overall perception of women. Obviously, the presence of female lawyers is influential in this direction and in support for women's rights. Because women clients, due to their common gender, feel more relaxed with women lawyers and consequently in cases relating to women's rights, women usually choose women lawyers."(24)

As it is observed, both sides of the issue are taken into account here. On the one hand, women's presence in specialized jobs like legal practice helps to eradicate wrong notions and the stereotypes of women's roles. On the other hand, the women who individually choose women lawyers increase the likelihood of achieving their rights. Another interviewee fully agrees with the above statements and states that "obviously the acceptance of female clients works well, especially due to complete understanding of the problems presented by women and the open discussion of certain confidential issues with a woman lawyer." However, she is not that optimistic about the broader social impact of women lawyer conduct and indicates that "but the supportive effect is dubious, because support should generally take place through law and related authorities The advancement of women may be realized parallel to the above issues."(25) Of course, this statement cannot be taken as rejecting affirmative social effects in relation to changing people's perception of women' capabilities. But the issue questioned is that female lawyers do not wield the power to amend the laws in order to better protect women's rights though they can help with the creation and articulation of such a demand within the society.

Another scholar considers aspects of the issue more in terms c familiarity with women's rights and efforts to eliminate discrimination In her view, a positive effect of this "for those women interested i studying law is that they become familiar with their own rights and deal with the discriminations found in the laws. For this reason, women jurist made efforts in order that discrimination against women in family issue would be removed."(26)

One of the female members of the directorate complains of the large potentials found in this regard but were not exploited. She criticize female lawyers because she says they that have not accomplished the missions well. She says: "Women lawyers did not do well in this respect. It cannot be denied that a mission was to be assumed by women lawyer; Most women jurists did not accomplish their missions and that small number voiced their viewpoints by publishing some articles and holding some meetings, but were not operational in reality. But principally wit regard to women's employment, I think that it should have had positive impact, though I find women lawyers' backing of the oppressed women very low; because our means are the existing laws, and we cannot g beyond them, and we have to realize women's rights using the same laws."(27)

It can be analyzed from the above statements that even if women lawyers do not do anything intended to protect women and help to realize their rights, the very fact that they undertake their legal practice and thus they correct societal perception of women's abilities in this way, they partly accomplish their missions in defense of women's rights. Obviously, if women lawyers pay particular attention to the advancement of women and improvement of their legal status, surely they will serve women's and the entire society's cause much more effectively. Now, following presenting an overview of women's capabilities in legal practice, here we proceed to deal with women's presence at the managerial levels of the Bar Association.

Women's Capabilities at the Managerial Levels of the Bar Association

From the early 1920s which the Justice was established in Iran in its modern form, lawyers began working there. But the establishment of the Bar Association in its present form was carried out with delay. In February 1952, "The Act on the Independence of the Bar Association was approved by the then Prime Minister, Dr. Mohammad Mosaddeq. Since then the career of legal practice was pursued in Iran in an institutionalized manner.(28) In the Bar Association, a directorate comprising of 12 principal members run the affairs. But apart from the entry of one woman lawyer to the directorate in the early years of the establishment of the Bar Association, no other woman could find the chance to become a member of the Central Bar Association's directorate so that this was realized in the election held for selecting new members of the directorate in February 2002. In many scholars' views, the mere woman's success in the acquisition of the Bar Association's membership meant a great leap forward for women in the progresses they have made in legal practice to date and this success represents the most salient aspect of such advances. With respect to the efforts which were made for women's membership in the directorate, it is said that "perhaps it was for the first time that women lawyers took part in this task actively and seriously with sympathy and coordination and they got successful. Meanwhile, given the limited number of women lawyers, men's collaboration has definitely been influent in this regard. So, it is concluded that this conviction has been generated in male lawyers that women's presence in the directorate was necessary."(29)

Given the small number of present women lawyers, with women's entry into the directorate, one can rightly believe that at least male lawyers have come to learn the capabilities gained by women lawyers and for the same reason, they have become ready to elect them for the membership in the directorate. Of course, women lawyers' mobility and the consultations they have undertaken have not been useless in creating such a conviction in male lawyers. In this regard, one of the interviewees considers just women's will as influent in the materialization of women's pursuing in the directorate.(30) Also, it is emphasized that "no more effort was made than what men did, but it got realized just with female lawyers' enthusiastic and insistent presence for the election of representative from among themselves. At the same time, male colleagues did welcome such an enthusiasm and did not show any resistance, so this attitude resulted in the realization of women's goal after 50 years."(31)

A member of the Bar Association recognizes both women lawyers' efforts and male lawyers' attention as influent: "In the 1997 elections, two women were nominated, but they faced lawyers' inattention on the part of the lawyer community and could not enter the directorate. In this term, male lawyers themselves came to the conclusion that a particular attention should be paid to women lawyers. Of course, the number of the women lawyers who participated in the election was small."(32)

Interestingly enough, she partly ascribes women's failure in entering the directorate till that year to women lawyers' inactivity; for they even do not show much interest in taking part in elections as voters. Naturally in this case, the number of women participating as candidates would be low as well and they would not have specific supporters in terms of gaining votes. This is the reason why in most scholars' opinions, women's entry into the directorate has become possible just with the male lawyers' collaboration and the change in their views toward their female colleagues as competent persons entitled to a share in the management of the Bar Association. This reflects women lawyers' highly positive and successful performance with respect to the presentation of their achievements within the past years.

There are two distinct views on the impact the presence of a number of female lawyers in the directorate may have on the position of all women lawyers and on the societal perceptions of women's capabilities. Some consider even women's symbolic presence in the directorate as useful and desirable while some others regard it as wrong. One of the interviewees takes a middle stance and suggests: "Obviously the election of two female lawyers in the directorate undermines public suspicions that women are less capable than men. However we should not exaggerate it and imagine that the presence of women lawyers in the directorate would drastically affect societal notions. But this stage can be a step toward the adjustment and amendment of public conceptions and opinions." As she put it rightly, the mere entry of women to the directorate after around 50 years has caused that a taboo remaining to date about women's entry into the managerial level of the institution wither away gradually. Naturally societal notions which have taken shape during centuries will not change nightly just with women's single success. But this will be a long-term and gradual procession, though measures may be introduced in order to precipitate it. Of course, certain lawyers make positive effects of this process conditional in this way that "If a woman had competence and qualification, but if she lacked those traits, then if we send two or ten women into the directorate in a tokenist way, and they do not do anything positive, their absence would be better than their presence. Even if all 12 principal members of the directorate are comprised of women and they do not work well, it will be useless. Essentially, the quantity does not matter, but the quality is paramount. "(33)

The point that the repercussions of a competent woman's actions can be ten times more than those of a man is justifiable in this respect that the society always evaluates the performance of women at the managerial levels much more carefully thus the consequences of their success will be multiplied. One this basis, if they are incompetent, it is likely that the performance of those women is counted as that of the entire women's community. Of course, the other side of the coin is that even women's symbolic presence in the managerial ranks would be also useful; because it will contribute to the collapse of the mental stereotypes found in the society on the masculine nature of managerial positions.

A scholar observes in this regard: "Perhaps as much as the number of women lawyers grow in the directorate, it will be more influent. But in order to generate the belief in women's capability in the society even the presence of one woman would be sufficient."(34) These statements support the idea of the importance of women's even symbolic presence at the managerial positions, which was detailed before. Among those who oppose women's symbolic presence in the directorate, one of the interviewees places much emphasis on the overall social dynamics and the charges that happened within the social fabric on the one hand and the qualified individuals on the other. She states: "The mere presence of women, in my opinion, in the directorate is not regarded a privilege and if it is superficial and of tokenist character, it can even bring about adverse consequences. Most notable is that women can present such scientific and personality competence in spite of the historical and cultural obstacles. This is based on this competence that women can reach such a position in an equal competition and with the colleagues' votes both women and men. The way in which women received membership of the directorate will obviously be of positive effects. Also the presence of women lawyers in the directorate can improve the colleagues' perceptions at the first stage and secondly, indirect impact of such changes in notions will cover both the lawyer community and all women including lawyers and others."(35)

One of the other scholars points to some other important aspects of the issue which are much notable: "To some extent in the light of the world public opinion, women's election was consistent with the international considerations. Because it means that we do have some women lawyers who are members of the directorate. Therefore, it should not be perceived that women do not enjoy much rights in Iran and in the same time, the women educated in law have grown in number and they want such a thing as well."(36)

The importantnotes stated above refer to the international dimensions of such actions. Undoubtedly, today women's worldwide presence at the political management levels as well as in other institutions has become a universal value and is considered as being one of the indicators in the assessment of nations' human development.(37) Thus, this is right that such women's successes lead to a better image of Iran at the world level. Also the entry of women into the management arena of the Bar Association, which is a demand by large number of low-educated women in a way, is another important aspect commonly ignored. Indeed, to response suitably to the world and domestic public opinion is another aspect of women's success in pushing into the managerial level of the Bar Association deserving further attention and emphasis. Of course, in sum, all stated aspects should be considered as important and naturally this trend will be highly useful, if it becomes a usual rather than accidental and exceptional course.

Conclusion and Suggestions

In this article, points were stated generally about the characteristics of the career of legal practice, and type of women's performance and capabilities in it. Also the constraints and problems faced with by women were studied. It became clear in the article that despite certain difficulties stemming from women's commitments as wife and mother within the household, not so positive notions found in the society of legal practice as an occupation not much suitable for women, and the restrictions created for women with regard to entry into judicial and other related positions, women have become able to experience a growing trend respecting presence in legal practice and continue to extend this trend to the managerial ranks of the Bar Association.

Now the views held by a number of scholars are put forth on the best measures that can be suggested for the enhancement of women's capabilities in legal practice career. One of the interviewees maintains that principally all measures present for the promotion of lawyers including men and women can be useful. Also she emphasizes once again that such a distinction between female and male lawyers is neither correct nor logical and to the interest of the society and women!"' Therefore, she does not suggest any measures exclusively useful for strengthening women lawyers' ability. One of scholars shares nearly the same view and is one the belief that women's capability is not different from that of men and if there are not problems such as family ones and so on, and there problems are erased, women can have capabilities, if not more than men at least equal to them.(39)

One of the lawyers puts forward following measures: "The promotion of scientific and experimental capacity, regular program for attendance in office, timely appearance in court proceedings, compliance with the etiquette of respectful Iranian woman in the public and court arenas, lack of the feeling of inequality before male lawyer of the other party, attendance in international specialized meetings, if possible, or at least gaining information on the quality of such meetings."(40)

As it is observed, apart from the general measures suggested here useful both for men and women, emphasis is largely placed on women's self-confidence and self-esteem so that they would not feel that male lawyers are in a better position compared to that of them. Also, women lawyers should consider that even in the case of the existence of certain inequalities, they should perform their tasks without any regard for them and in this way they should help these inequalities wither away. Another scholar declares her views on the efficient measures as follow: "Women should not suffice themselves to just taking license, but they should enter practical arena. This is not a career just for producing prestige. Woman lawyer should be a source of inspiration in the society. If we take ourselves seriously, men will take us seriously as well and will come to realize that they do not interact with a female lawyer as a woman but as a lawyer. Because this is not a feminine work, but a social one. Women lawyers have to accept that as women jurists they carry the mission of illuminating public opinion."(41) A female lawyer views attention to specialized aspects of legal practice as necessary in order to strengthen women's capabilities in this career and that women should not just handle family cases. Also continuous studying and improvement of work quality are among other measures she proposes for the reinforcement of women's capabilities. (42)

Given the discussions mentioned in the article, it may not be questioned that "with the removal of obstacles to women's presence in managerial posts, and various kinds of professional jobs, and with the acceptance of the principle of meritocracy in public and private firms, Iranian educated and competent women will undoubtedly achieve their true status within the country's labor market, notably within modern sectors and professional careers, in the near future. "(43) In the author's opinion, in order to perpetuate the positive course which has started with regard to women's presence in legal practice, and in order to eradicate the adverse effects originating from banning women from taking up judicial posts in the past whose consequences are still visible, and also for the creation of gender equality in the career of legal practice, it is appropriate to take advantage of the quota system. In this way, at the beginning, at least 30 per cent of the quota for entering this occupation is allocated to and reserved for women so that they become able to find their desirable share in this career. Because a large portion of the clients in courts are currently comprised of women and their propensity will naturally be directed toward women. For this reason, the opportunity should be provided, with increase in the number of female lawyers, for these clients so that they choose a lawyer they recognize as more competent, rather than they are forced to choose another lawyer who perhaps may not be as sympathetic to the client in the way she wishes.

The other point is that it is necessary that this quota system would be utilized at the managerial level of the Bar Association. For instance, this may be made obligatory in the electoral system of the Bar Association that women lawyers would constitute 4 out of 12 principal members of the directorate. In this manner, the directorate can represent all lawyers member of the Bar Association and assist the realization of gender equality. Obviously, if such quota system is crystallized in the beginning, a positive and advancing course will take place in the direction of women's heightened presence and activity in the career of legal practice and at the managerial levels, and the achievements and successes made by Iranian women in legal practice career will unfold in a more rapid and growing way.


* Behnaz Ashtari is an MA in Criminal Law and Criminology and lawyer member of the Central Bar Association. She has previously published Trafficking in ffornen: A ContemporarlSlavery, Tehran: Andisheh Bartar, 2001.
** I would like to acknowledge Ms. Minoo Afshari, Katayoun Pour-ramadani, Masoomeh Rezaee, Farideh Ghayrat and Kafieh Naziri for making interviews available for me and for giving invaluable instructions on how to best carry out this research. Naturally the author bears the responsibility for the views presented in the article and the omissions and deficiencies found in it.
Discourse: An Iranian Quarterly, Vol. 4, Nos. 3-4 (Winter-Spring 2003): 171-192
1. Mehrangiz Kar, Women in Iranian Labor Market, Tehran: Roshangaran, 1994, p. 175.
2. Mehrangiz Kar, Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Tehran: Parvin, 1999, p. 160.
3. Nasrin Mosaffa, Political Participation of Women in Iran, Tehran: Ministry of Foreign Affair's Publications, 1996, p. 63.
4. Magazine of Today Woman, No. 1437, p. 17.
5. Mohammad Vahid Gholfi, "Empowerment of Women in the Process of Rural Development," in The Collection of the Articles of tire First Seminar on Women's Empowerment, Tehran: Center for Women's Participation, 2001, p. 271.
6. Fatemeh Khadem Shirazi, "The Pivots of the Empowerment of Women: Social Security, Poverty Alleviation, Occupational Security," in The Collection of the Articles of the First Seminar on Women 's Empowerment, op. cit., p. 155.
7. Ibid., p. 156.
8. The author's interview with Ms. Katayoun Pour-ramadani, lawyer working in Tehran, September 14, 2002.
9. The author's interview with Ms. Farideh Ghayrat, lawyer and member of the Central Bar Association's directorate working in Tehran, November 4, 2002.
10. The author's interview with Ms. Kafieh Naziri, lawyer working in Tehran, 19 August 2002.
11. The Author's interview with Ms. Minoo Afshari, lawyer and member of the Central Bar Association's directorate working in Tehran, August 22, 2002.
12. The author's view with Ms. Masoomeh Rezaee, lawyer working in Ghazvin, September 27, 2002.
13. The author's interview with Ms. Kafieh Naziri.
14. The author's interview with Ms. Katayoun Pour-ramadani.
15. Jane S. Jacket, "Women in Power: From Tokenism to Critical Mass," Foreign Policy, Fall 1997, p. 33.
16. The author's interview with Ms. Farideh Ghayrat.
17. George Kohendi, The Secrets of Defense, trans. Abolghasem Tafazzoli, Tehran: Ganj-e Danesh, 1998, pp. 38-39.
18. The author's interview with Ms. Masoomeh Rezaee.
19. "Roundtable of the Middle Eastern Women: The Experience of Iranian Woman," Middle East Studies Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 2, Summer 2001, pp. 32-33.
20. Ibid., pp. 40-41.
21. Mohammad Hossein Hafezian, "Women's Increased Participation in the Universities: Practical Measures," in The Second Sex Collection, Vol. 8, Tehran: Towse'e Publications, 2000, p. 149.
22. Parviz Sanei, "The Social Role of the Lawyer," Monthly ofLegal Practice, No. l, February 2000, p. 21.
23. Nader Zol-ein, "Legal Practice in France," Monthly ofLegal Practice, No. 4, December 2001, p. 36.
24. The author's interview with Ms. Kafi eh Naziri. 25. The author's interview with Ms. Minoo Afshari. 26. The author's interview with Ms. Katayoun Pour-ramadani. 27. The author's interview with Ms. Farideh Ghayrat.
28. "Legal Practice and Sovereignty," Monthly ofLegal Practice, No. 8, November and December 2001, p. 8.
29. The author's interview with Ms. Kafieh Naziri.
30. The author's interview with Ms. Katayoun Pour-ramadani. 31. The author's interview with Ms. Minoo Afshari.
32. The author's interview with Ms. Farideh Ghayrat. 33. The author's interview with Ms. Farideh Ghayrat. 34. The author's interview with Ms. Minoo Afshari.
35. The author's interview with Ms. Masoomeh Rezaee.
36. The author's interview with Ms. Katayoun Pour-ramadani.
37. "Roundtable of Middle Eastern Women: The Experience of Iranian Woman," op. cit., p. 28.
38. The author's interview with Ms. Kafieh Naziri.
39. The author's interview with Ms. Katayoun Pour-ramadani. 40. The author's interview with Ms. Minoo Afshari.
41. The author's interview with Ms. Farideh Ghayrat. 42. The author's interview with Ms. Masoomeh Rezaee. 43. Zahra Karimi, "Women's Share in Iranian Labor Market," Political-Economic Ettela 'at, Vol. 16, August-September 2002, p. 218.

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