Gender Bender du Jour: Behind ‘LadyLegal’ is a … Man?

This press release caught my attention: Lady DUI Welcomes Lady Divorce to Connecticut. Was this some sort of renaissance fair for legal problems? Would Sir Suesalot also make an appearance in the Nutmeg State?

Turns out LadyDivorce and LadyDUI are two halves of the dynamic marketing duo LadyLegalGroup, something the press release calls a “new legal group run by 2 female lawyers.”  LadyDivorce is Marissa Bigelli, a 2009 graduate of Quinnipiac University School of Law. LadyDUI is Teresa DiNardi, a 2006 graduate of Western New England School of Law.

“We are not the old boys network,” DiNardi says in the press release, “but young female attorneys can bring a lot to the table.”

James Ruane

But then I noticed something odd. In the fine print at the bottom of the LadyLegalGroup.com and LadyDUI.com web pages, there is this disclaimer: “Attorney James Ruane is responsible for the content of this website.” The LadyDivorce.com site says this: “Attorney James O. Ruane of Ruane Attorneys at Law, LLC is responsible for the content of this advertisement.”

James, as the name suggests, is not a lady at all. He is a principal of Ruane Attorneys at Law, the DUI defense firm where Teresa DiNardi is employed as an associate.

If was as if Toto had just pulled aside the curtain.

The fine print on the LadyLegalGroup site goes on to say:

LadyLegalGroup is not a law firm, but a collective advertising effort by a group of attorneys with independent law offices. If you choose to hire a member of the group, you will be represented by that attorney directly, and not by LadyLegalGroup.

If I lived in Connecticut, I would be well acquainted with LadyDUI, it seems. A 2009 New York Times piece told about the giant LadyDUI billboards that appear along the state’s major highways. And had I read that NYT piece, I would not be surprised to find a man behind LadyLawyer. When the reporter asked DiNardi the origin of the LadyDUI name, she laughed and replied, “That would be the brilliant Jay Ruane.”

The Hartford Business Journal offers this version of the name’s origin: “Another lawyer at her firm once jokingly referred to her as ‘Lady DUI,’ and the title seemed like a great idea for an advertising gimmick. The number ‘888-Lady-DUI’ was available, so why not?”

Why not, indeed. Notably, of the six attorneys listed on the Ruane firm’s website, DiNardi is the only woman. Maybe the others in the firm aren’t “old boys,” but clearly they are boys, whatever their ages. Bigelli, a/k/a Lady Divorce, is a sole practitioner who is of counsel to the Ruane firm.

In an area of practice undoubtedly dominated by men, I can’t fault DUI lawyer DiNardi for marketing her gender. There are probably plenty of potential DUI clients — men as well as women — who would prefer a woman defense lawyer. For divorce lawyer Bigelli, of course, it makes even more sense. And the disclaimer seems to be clear that, if you hire DiNardi or Bigelli, you get DiNardi or Bigelli.

Still, I find it ironic that this whole “advertising gimmick” was the idea of a man and is in part designed to bring business to a male-owned and male-dominated law firm. The press release’s description of a “new legal group run by 2 female lawyers,” coupled with the LadyLawyer.com website, could lead some to conclude that this is a woman-owned firm.

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One Response to “Gender Bender du Jour: Behind ‘LadyLegal’ is a … Man?”

  1. Cristine says:

    A female attorney has an advantage in the marketplace. This is especially true with female clients. However, some men prefer to work with a woman as well. If we’re going to talk gender biases, I think that women are perceived as being less judgemental.

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