Monthly Archives: September 2012

Men and Typing: Hitting the Shift Key

By Susan Alexander

Inch by inch, we move towards gender equality in a host of ways.  When we compare today’s workplace, for example, with the one portrayed on the current TV drama “Mad Men,” depicting a New York advertising agency in the early 1960s, the contrast is striking.  Men dominate the agency.  They are the decision-makers and the bright creative types (only one woman has broken in so far).  All of the other women at the agency (called “girls,” regardless of their age)?  THEY TYPE.

What progress have we made since then?  “Mad Men” illustrates one of my favorite examples:  the enthusiastic adoption by males of what used to be an almost totally female occupation.  TYPING.

Typing clearly exemplifies the contrast between then and now. When I was a Harvard law student in the late 1960s (one of the four percent in my class comprised of women), many of my male classmates eschewed typing.  Sitting behind a typewriter was beneath them, a chore to be performed by women.  Or perhaps they simply never learned to type.  So instead of typing their own papers, they employed women who advertised their services as typists on law-school bulletin boards, or they inveigled their girlfriends or wives into doing it for them.

One bright young fellow who broke the mold was my classmate Lance Liebman.  A transplant to Kentucky (after spending his early years in Queens, where his progressive school district encouraged boys to learn typing), Lance became a high-school journalist and a crack typist.  When he entered the Kentucky state typing contest, he triumphantly won first prize.  Gender-stereotyping reared its silly head, however:  the Lexington Leader referred to him as “Miss Lance Liebman.”

Lance went on to excel in law school, becoming the head of the Harvard Law Review (a prestigious position later held by Barack Obama), and is now a distinguished professor (and former dean) at Columbia Law School.  He believes that his typing ability may have given him an edge.  A small minority of our classmates, including Lance, typed their exams, making their exams more legible and probably leading to better grades.

Granted, typing back then was a miserable chore, even for those of us who had mastered the technique in high school or college.  I painfully recall typing my first-year moot court briefs on my tinny Royal portable.  Moot court rules required five copies of each brief.  That meant inserting five sheets of paper into the typewriter, along with four sheets of carbon paper inserted between them.  Every time I typed the wrong letter, I had to use a special eraser to correct my error, leading to a hideous result:  four smudged-filled copies.  Corrections took forever, too.  To avoid errors, I wrote everything out in longhand first, then transcribed it into typewritten form.

When I took my first job, as a judge’s law clerk, I was placed behind an electric typewriter.  Time pressure didn’t allow writing in longhand first, and pretty soon I was able to type my ideas directly onto the paper.  (I remember typing lots of X’s over the mistakes that cropped up, however.)  In the early 1980s I learned to use computers for “word processing”—they were scary at first but far superior to typewriters–and never looked back.

Today, every boy learns to type at an early age.  In the era of computer technology, it’s unthinkable for them to dictate their words, or write them out in longhand, and expect an underling to input them into the computer.  Men in every profession now want and need to use the technology that’s still mainly accessible through typing, and they spend hours sitting in front of keyboards in the workplace and in their homes.  Everywhere there’s a computer hookup, there are men busily typing away.

(Only those males fearful of the new technology still cling to the old ways.  These men continue to rely on secretaries or “assistants” and, yes, their wives to do the typing.  Example:  Bill Marriot, CEO of the hotel chain, blogs–but has his secretary type it for him.)

I often wonder how many of us have observed this sea-change in our lives.  Forty or fifty years ago, typing was largely done by women. Today both men and women head for the keyboard without even thinking about it.

What a shift!

[A version of this commentary previously appeared as an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle.]

Welcome to my blog!

I’m launching this blog to express my thoughts.

Many of the posts I plan to include have been published as commentary elsewhere.

Please watch for those, and for new ones I will be adding.

My publications

I’m a lifelong writer who has also worked as a lawyer and law professor. In recent years, writing has become my primary focus.

I’m the author of two novels, A Quicker Blood and Jealous Mistress.

I’ve written articles, book reviews, and op-ed pieces on the law, on travel, on the environment, and other topics, published in professional journals and in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the New York Daily News, the Baltimore Sun, the ABA Journal, the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, the Los Angeles Daily Journal, the San Francisco Daily Journal, and other publications

I’ve also worked as an editor on two publications.

Here’s a list of my publications as of September 2012.


Two novels:

A Quicker Blood, a thriller published in 2009

Jealous Mistress, a murder mystery published in 2011

Both are available for purchase on

“Neglect,” a short story published in Chicago Lawyer Magazine (prizewinner in its First Annual Fiction Contest), August 1993

San Francisco Chronicle Publications  

Twelve op-ed/commentary pieces, January 2007-December 2011:

“No butts about it,” January 29, 2007

“A good man is not so hard to find…if he’s been cloned,” September 16, 2007

“Charitable organizations presume too much,” October 28, 2007

“Why emulate Chicago?,” June 16, 2008

“High heels are killers,” July 4, 2008

“Gender equality came via the keyboard,” September 14, 2008

“Toys for boys and girls,” December 24, 2008

“Federal waste we can end,” January 28, 2009

“Before you buy, ask: Is it reunion-worthy?” May 12, 2009

“To travel cheaply, sleep on the sofa,” July 23, 2009

“Unequal pay harms U.S. women,” April 23, 2010

“Politics afflicts the Christmas tree trade,” December 15, 2011

Chicago Tribune Publications

May 13, 1996, “Pension Problems Come Alive, Along with Practical Guidance” (book review of The Pension Book by Karen Ferguson and Kate Blackwell)

June 28, 1992, “Foul play: Some games have no winners” (commentary)

October 12, 1991, “How much is a child’s love worth?” (op-ed piece)

April 12, 1989, “Playing by the Rules” (travel)

September 11, 1988, “Law School Ladies’ Day is No Longer Such a Trial” (commentary)

March 15, 1987, “Intellect Can Sprout in London’s Bloomsbury” (travel)

November 23, 1986, “Questionable Language: to a Person, We Could Use This Cure For Sexism” (commentary)

March 18, 1986, “It’s All the Lawyers’ Fault!” (op-ed piece)

Money-saving tips for travelers to Paris, 1982 (also published in the NY Daily News)

Chicago Daily Law Bulletin Publications

March 21, 2003, “Author:  Racial ‘pathologies’ still plague U.S.” (book review of “Interracial Intimacies:  Sex, Marriage, Identity, and Adoption” by Randall Kennedy)

February 24, 2003, “A case of contempt” (book review of “The King of Torts” by John Grisham)

July 22, 2002, “Searching for truth; decisions of consequence” (book review)

October 23, 2001, “Structure your writing to make your point”

May 23, 2000, “Sometimes both sides lose” (book review)

November 19, 1999, “Sexual autonomy as the foundation for a new law on rape” (book review)

August 18, 1998, “Watch out! Your vacationing relatives may be ‘living with’ you”

March 11, 1998, “Getting tough in fight against pollution”

December 17, 1997, “State should recognize value of children’s companionship”

March 15, 1996, “Horrific acts spark attorney’s internal debate” (book review)

January 25, 1996, “Ensuring future security with private pension plans” (book review)

January 9, 1996, “Personal liability under Family Leave Act”

August 1, 1995, “Insurance case yields ruling on allocation”

June 22, 1995, “Insurer forced to cover sex abuse claim”

June 6, 1995, “Admission withheld, admission denied”

May 4, 1995, “2d Circuit says it’s reasonable to rely on insurance broker’s coverage statements”

April 27, 1995, “Distinguishing between law and equity”

April 11, 1995, “Officers escape some liability for failed S&L”

March 30, 1995, “Pollution case weighs personal liability”

September 12, 1994, “Appeals court rejects bank’s claim for lien”

July 13, 1994, “Judge allows parents to recover in vaccine-injury case”

May 24, 1994, “Court invokes two-part test for preferential transfers”

Nov. 19, 1993, “Making Adoption Accessible, Affordable and Acceptable” (book review of “Family Bonds” by Elizabeth Bartholet)

Oct. 20, 1993, “‘Lax business practices’ prove fatal in bank dispute”

May 24, 1993, “United flight attendants on strong legal grounds”

July 2, 1993, “Courts must do their part in fight against sexual harassment”

February 2, 1993, “Court rules IRAs exempt from a bankruptcy estate”

January 12, 1993, “Landowners’ indifference’ will not be rewarded: court”

November 2, 1992, “After 4 losses, lenders win in 5th Circuit”

Some Other Publications 

“Legal Writing 101:  Some tips on creating a framework that makes your documents clear and easy to understand,” The Recorder (legal publication in San Francisco) (December 21, 2009) 

Book reviews of Unwanted Sex: The Culture of Intimidation and the Failure of Law by Stephen J. Schulhofer appear in 86 American Bar Association Journal 86 (August 2000); Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (Nov. 19, 1999); Los Angeles Daily Journal (Dec. 28, 1999); San Francisco Daily Journal (Dec. 28, 1999)

Book reviews of We Love Each Other, But by Dr. Ellen Wachtel appear in Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (May 23, 2000); Los Angeles Daily Law Journal (June 13, 2000); San Francisco Daily Journal (June 13, 2000); 22 Pennsylvania Family Lawyer 73 (Dec. 2000)

“You’re a lousy dentist!” November 1998 (focus: defamation), in the ADA Legal Adviser: A guide to the law for dentists, a monthly newsletter published by the American Dental Association

The high cost of getting old, August 1998 (focus: long-term care insurance), in the ADA Legal Adviser: A guide to the law for dentists, a monthly newsletter published by the American Dental Association

One patient’s tale of trouble, November 1997 (focus: insurance coverage), in the ADA Legal Adviser: A guide to the law for dentists, a monthly newsletter published by the American Dental Association

Do you want a perfect lawn or a healthy family? Pioneer Press Forum, May 30, 1996

Mozart and the Abuse of Women, Today’s Chicago Woman, April 1996

Granada Memories Will Live On (commentary), Chicago Sun-Times, March 5, 1990

Symbolic Synagogue (travel article about Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island), Raleigh News & Observer, January 1, 1989 

Legal London: A Brief Walk Lets Visitors Judge Its Historical Treasures (travel), Baltimore Sun, Jan. 18, 1987

Legal London: A World Rich in History (travel), Chicago Sun-Times, June 15, 1986

A Walking Tour of Legal London: The Inns and Outs (travel), Raleigh News & Observer, May 18, 1986

Everything you always wanted to know about the federal judiciary (but didn’t know you could find in a book), Washington University alumni publication, 1985

Travel article about the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark, New York Daily News, 1982

Travel article about Paris, New York Daily News, 1982

Articles in professional journals

Book review, 86 American Bar Association Journal 86 (August 2000), reviewing Unwanted Sex: The Culture of Intimidation and the Failure of Law by Stephen J. Schulhofer

Preemployment Inquiries and Examinations: What Employers Need to Know About the New EEOC Guidelines, 45 Labor Law Journal 667 (1994)

Book Review, 17 Illinois Family Law Reporter 159 (July 1994), reviewing Elizabeth Bartholet, Family Bonds: Adoption and the Politics of Parenting (1993)

The Fourth Circuit decides that ‘indifference’ will not be rewarded, March 1993, Environmental Control Law (Illinois State Bar Association newsletter)

Twenty Tips for Associates, 7 CBA Record 24 (Feb. 1993) (with Elias N. Matsakis), reprinted in 34 Law Office Economics & Management 143 (1993) and selected by the editor to appear in LOEM Manual at sec. 18.07 (1993 update)

Hoffman Homes decision limited USEPA’s power to regulate isolated wetlands, September 1992, Environmental Control Law (Illinois State Bar Association newsletter)

A Fairer Hand: Why Courts Must Recognize the Value of a Child’s Companionship, 8 Thomas M. Cooley Law Review 273 (1991)

Book Review, 62 Kentucky Law Journal 1161 (1974)

Business-Sponsored Mechanisms for Redress and Arbitration, in Staff Studies Prepared for the National Institute for Consumer Justice (1973)

The Captive Patient: The Treatment of Health Problems in American Prisons, 6 Clearinghouse Review 16 (May 1972), reprinted in Medical and Health Care in Jails, Prisons, and Other Correctional Facilities: A Compilation of Standards and Materials (American Medical Association, Commission on Correctional Facilities and Services, 1973)

Legal Analysis of Problem Situations, in Freya Olafson, Confidentiality: A Guide for Neighborhood Health Centers (Monograph No. 1, Neighborhood Health Center Seminar Program, 1971)

Abortions for Poor and Nonwhite Women: A Denial of Equal Protection?, 23 Hastings Law Journal 147 (1971) (with Alan Charles)

The State of Emergency Medical Services Under the Highway Safety Act, or Don’t Be Caught Dead in an Ambulance, 5 Clearinghouse Review 72 (June 1971)

A Child of a Different Color: Race as a Factor in Adoption and Custody Proceedings, 17 Buffalo Law Review 303 (1968)


Editor of the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary: Profiles of All Active United States District Court Judges (1984-85)

Editor and author of articles in the ADA Legal Adviser (newsletter published by the American Dental Association; winner of the 1998 Silver SNAP award) (1996-98)