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San Diego
Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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Happy Families Make for Less-Stressed Workers

Corporate America and the U.S. government could both add to their bottom lines by recognizing the importance of family-work balance, as well as all the unsung caretakers who keep the machinery running.

That is the message of professor Martha Albertson Fineman, Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s first distinguished scholar in residence and author of “The Autonomy Myth: A Theory of Dependency.” She also co-hosted the recent fifth annual Women and the Law Conference here, billed as the only annual event west of the Mississippi River focusing exclusively on gender issues and the law, inaugurated by the school in 2001.

Her book focuses on the ramifications , in business, government and society in general , of dependency.

“All of us are inevitably dependent as infants or we won’t survive,” said Fineman, who just completed her distinguished scholar stint at Thomas Jefferson and is returning to Emory University in Atlanta, where she is a Robert W. Woodruff professor of law. “Many of us will become physically or developmentally dependent as we age, or become disabled or ill.”

There also is the matter of what she calls the “derivative dependency” of caretakers , usually wives, mothers, daughters and daughters-in-law.

“They need economic resources and structural support to do that care,” said Fineman.

But, she said, the United States and the workplace are falling short, compared with other developed countries.

“The United States is really organized differently from other industrial democracies,” she said. “In other countries, the government is directly responsible for its citizens and makes guarantees for housing, health insurance, basic human needs. In the U.S., we don’t view it that way. We say that those provisions should come through the work force or the family. The problem is that marriage is unstable, and the workplace has changed. You no longer have the expectation that if you do your job, you have a job for life. Workplaces are cutting back on benefits.”

But it’s not socialism that’s needed, said Fineman, as much as “enlightened capitalism.”

“Capitalism is a fine system,” she said. “We want business to grow and flourish. It’s important for all of us. But we should also recognize families.

“It is imperative to spread the responsibility for caretaking across social institutions,” said Fineman. “There is a crisis in care, and confining it to the family is not working. We are forced to choose either responsibility for our employer or our family, one is sacrificed for the other, and both suffer.

“I make the argument that it is this caretaking labor that has produced and reproduced society, creating the taxpayers, citizens, consumers , all of society is dependent on this labor. It’s about time society starts paying back and stop freeloading on the backs of caretakers.”

What businesses can do, added Fineman, is create family-friendly programs, such as “unstigmatized” flex time and job sharing that would help, rather than hamper, family caretakers.

“It is the responsibility of businesses and corporations to their workers,” she said. “Our businesses should value families and see what kind of policies they could have to ease the strain on their workers. It would be beneficial across the board if workers were not under this kind of stress. They would be happier, and they wouldn’t feel the need to make up excuses not to be at work.”

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Consumer Czar:

Robert Francavilla, a partner at Casey, Gerry, Reed & Schenk in San Diego, has been appointed president of the Consumer Attorneys of San Diego , a legal watchdog group.

“We try to hold people accountable for not being accountable for their actions, and operating in a responsible way,” he said. “We run up against insurance companies and corporations, manufacturers of dangerous products. We’re proud to play a small part in making it better. I want to do all I can to make sure the civil justice system continues to be available to individuals that are in need of our help.”

Francavilla has been honored three times with the CASD’s Outstanding Trial Lawyer award.

A member of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America and the San Diego County Bar Association, he focuses on all aspects of serious personal injury and wrongful death actions, including product and premises liability, automotive litigation, and highway design issues.

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Partnering Up:

Two lawyers have been named partners in the San Diego office of Morrison & Foerster.

Peng Chen, a member of the firm’s patent group, who specializes in patent prosecution, client counseling and litigation, covering all fields of the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. He earned his law degree from the Columbia University School of Law, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone scholar.

Jose L. Patino, a member of the firm’s litigation department, focuses on commercial and intellectual property disputes. He earned his law degree from Harvard Law School and was articles editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review.

Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP in San Diego has made partners of three attorneys.

William C. Belanger specializes in international and national clients in the telecommunications, software, computer, Internet and electronic commerce, high-tech, manufacturing and distribution, and publishing industries. He earned his law degree magna cum laude from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles.

Pattric Rawlins focuses on all aspects of intellectual property law, including domestic and international patent and trademark prosecution, copyright prosecution and licensing. He earned his law degree cum laude from California Western School of Law.

Barry Soalt, an intellectual property attorney, specializes in information technology, telecommunications, media content, lifestyle and consumer products, real estate, service industries, travel and tourism. He graduated from Western State University College of Law.

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On Board:

Domenic Drago, managing partner of the Del Mar Heights office of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP, has been appointed the new chairman of the firm’s real estate-land use and natural resources-environmental practice group.

Bob Rose, based in the San Diego office, has been named chairman of the firm’s white-collar crime-civil fraud practice group.

Drago, who earned his law degree from the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, specializes in real property purchase and sale, leasing and financial transactions.

Rose, who earned his law degree from UCLA, has experience in criminal defense, securities fraud, class actions, derivative suits, and business litigation.

Kyle Van Dyke and Cynthia Stelzer have joined the San Diego-based firm of Mulvaney, Kahan & Barry. Van Dyke, a graduate of Western State University College of Law, will work in the litigation group, while Stelzer, a graduate of the Pepperdine University School of Law, will join the firm’s expanding banking group.


Contact Pat Broderick at pbroderick@sdbj.com or call her at (858) 277-6359, Ext. 3112.

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