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“I always like to look at how you can
take something that you might think of as
a negative and spin it to a positive,” says
Hone. “You’re always looking for that lit-
tle icebreaker or something that puts
people at ease…but when push comes to
shove, you can either deliver the goods or
Pamela Anderson, an assistant profes-
sor at the University of New Brunswick’s
faculty of law, empathizes with Bond’s
sentiments towards his name.
Also admitting to being somewhat self
conscious about her famous name, especially in a setting where her name is being
read aloud, Anderson shrugs off the
attention with a bit of a laugh.
“I assume that whenever I meet some-
one that’s the first thing they’re think-
ing,” she says. “But once people know
me, I don’t think it reoccurs to them — it’s
just my name.”
Both Anderson and Bond actually go
by a shortened version of their first
names — Pam and Jim — but both make it
clear that that decision is in no way a con-
scious effort to disassociate themselves
with their famous counterparts.
From a marketing standpoint, Hone
adds, “I certainly wouldn’t try to hide
it — I would use it as a positive.”
But what if it’s not your own name get-
ting attention, but the name of your firm?
Millions of dollars every year are spent on
branding and marketing a firm’s name, so
choosing a name can be a vital compon-
ent when launching a new firm.
This is the exact concern two California lawyers faced when deciding to launch
their new firm in the early 1990s. As partners at a national firm, James Payne and
Daniel Fears made the decision to branch
out on their own.
A main topic of debate for the two: the
“We were very happy about going out
and [starting our own firm] but probably
one of the mutual concerns was about our
name—Payne and Fears, Fears and
What’s in a name? Well, possibly status and financial success in the
legal profession, according to one study.
Research published by the American Law and Economics Review in
2009 found that “females with masculine names fare better in legal
careers than females with feminine names.”
This study — entitled Do Masculine Names Help Female Lawyers
Become Judges? — gathered empirical evidence to test the Portia
Hypothesis, which claims that women with masculine-sounding
names are more successful in the legal profession than women with
more feminine-sounding names.
Study authors Bentley Coffey and Patrick McLaughlin reported
“Changing a girl’s name from something
fairly feminine, like ‘Sue’…to something
more gender-ambiguous, like ‘Kelly,’
increases her chances of becoming a
judge by roughly 5 per cent.”
If “Sue” is
a name like
“Bruce” — a
name — her
increase by a
factor of five.
Do judge names matter at Canada’s and the U.S.’s top courts?
In the U.S. Supreme Court, three women are currently
serving —Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and
Elena Kagan— none of whom have masculine-sounding or
even gender-ambiguous names.
However, the first female member of the U.S.
Supreme Court was Sandra Day O’Connor, and although
“Sandra” is predominately a feminine name, “Sandy” is
actually gender-ambiguous — since, according to the
etymology of “Sandy,” it can be a short form of both
Sandra and Alexander. // A bit of a stretch? Probably,
especially since O’Connor went by “Sandra” in her
The Supreme Court of Canada is also filled with
unmistakably feminine names —Marie Deschamps,
Rosalie Abella and Louise Charron, but the name of
Canada’s current chief justice was once masculine.
Canada’s highest ranking judge, Chief Justice Beverley
McLachlin,has a name that has changed over time.
// Etymologically speaking, “Beverly” first came into use in
the 19th century as a masculine name. It wasn’t until the
publication of the novel Beverly of Graustark by George Barr
McCutcheon in 1904 that “Beverly” became a common
name feminine name in North America. // Again, a bit of a
O’CONNOR BY EVAN VUCCI / THE CANADIAN PRESS, MCLACHLIN BY ANDREW VAUGHAN / THE CANADIAN PRESS, FEMALE JUDGES BY PHILIPPE LANDREVILLE