This is Griffin, Reporting…

Team jersey, originally uploaded to Flickr by nats.By the time I started working in BigLaw, I’d had about seven jobs before that.  For four of those jobs, my bosses were women; the other jobs (lifeguarding and two fashion magazines) were, well, not exactly testosterone-fueled environments.  Everyone had called me by my first name, and we generally enjoyed a collegial atmosphere.  However, when I started working at the law firm, I began to notice what felt like a very male-friendly environment.  Nothing was sexist, per se, but it still contrasted sharply with the work atmospheres I’d known before, and made me feel out of place.  (Pictured: Team jersey, originally uploaded to Flickr by nats.)

One of those things was being called by my last name. I’d always hated sports growing up (despite having, at various points, been a member of the tennis and swimming teams), and nothing annoyed me more than people saying “Let’s call Vogele” or “Whazzup, Vogele?” (As you may have guessed, my maiden name is Vogele.) What annoyed me even more about the last name thing was that it wasn’t men who were perpetuating it — it was women, who, I assumed, were trying to fit in with the old boys’ club.

At one point, in my first or second year, I was on a team of four female associates, led by another woman or two in charge of us — and yet we still all went by last names. One night, behind closed doors, I ranted to my good friend about it, going on and on about how much I hated it.  Was I supposed to catch a ball sometime soon, or go long?  (Alternately, where was my pipe, whiskey, and manservant?)

And she pointed out that two of the four of us had the same first name. Well…. FINE.

I’ve learned to live with being called by my last name only — but I’m curious what everyone else’s take on it is? Do you get called by your last name in your workplace? Does it seem like a part of the old boys’ club?  Are there other little things that grate on your nerves?


  1. Whoever suggested Pink Truffle in Revlon Lip Butter is A.W.E.S.O.M.E. I just went over to Duane Reade and got one. It’s great on my NC 45 skin tone. Thank you sooooo much!

  2. I’m about halfway through a two-year position at a non-profit organization and would like to start thinking about next steps. I’m a lawyer, would like to stay in the non-profit world, but would like to make the shift from practicing law to working a more policy-oriented position.

    My question is this: how soon should I start looking and what are the main job search sites these days? I am all over pslawnet and idealist, but don’t know much beyond that.


    • hellskitchen :

      What level are you at? Entry, mid or senior? Did you practice law before you entered nonprofit sector? For mid and senior level roles, try Limited number but carefully selected roles

      • Thanks, I’m in my fourth year of practice. I worked in Big Law for about 2.5 years before leaving. Top ten law school, very big name organization right now, never did a clerkship.

        I may repost this tomorrow to see if I get more responses!

        • consider local gov’t. i got great lawyer to policy transition experience there.

    • I am not in this field, but have heard good things about www [dot] opportunityknocks [dot] org. No idea what level of experience, etc. is their sweet spot.

    • I work in the nonprofit world and every organization I know posts on pslawnet or idealist. If you’re interested in international work, devex is worth checking out.

      • That’s great, thanks! I’m definitely interested in international work as well.

  3. My workplace is 90% men and we don’t have this last name thing at all. Sometimes, we refer to someone as Mr. Smith or Ms. Jones when he or she is especially demanding but we’re a strictly first name only kinda place. We do refer to people wayyyyyy above us either by title or by full name but when we address them, it’s first name only.

    • Yeah, there is one person who calls me by my last name and with him it’s a sign of affection. Other than that…no. Although I do remember that in law school a little bit. But, being a bit of a jock, it never bothered me and I didn’t at all think of it as being “good old boys” just as “oh, another former jock over there.”

    • I pretty much call all partners and associates by their last night. It started because two guys had the same name and snowballed from there. It’s also because all of our firm’s systems are by first initial and full last name. I never realized it before, but I guess I just started thinking of everybody that way.

      • To clarify: I call people by their last names only. So if you name is John Smith, I’d call you Smith. I wouldn’t call you Mr. Smith.

        I call all staff by their first names.

  4. You should change your last name to something long, difficult to pronounce, or hyphenated (or better yet, all three!) That’d stop it real fast. But to be honest, this is one of those things I have trouble getting worked up about. While you don’t like getting called by your last name, there are probably just as many women who don’t like being called by their first names while everyone else is called by their last names because that is viewed as sexism.

    As Kanye would say…shrug.

    • Oil in Houston :

      that’s me! i have a long European name, hyphenated, that no one can pronounce, hence I’m on a first name basis with everyone :)

    • Yeah dude. Major shrug. My current workplace leans more towards the last name thing, but my last name is a giant hyphenated mess of a mouthful, so most people refer to me by my first name. I could get my knickers in a twist because they’re not according me equivalent respect or something, or I could just–move on with my life.

      Also, I am one of those girls who did sports (at least in high school), and everyone used first names. Even the team I coach on now, which is definitely A Man’s Team where I am the Token Female, uses first names, except in cases of multiple people having the same one (but then you’re more likely to get a screwball nickname like “The Train” instead of being called by your actual last name).

    • TurtleWexler :

      I’ve never been in an environment where this was common, even on my sports teams. Although I’m very attached to my last name (one of the many reasons I didn’t change it when I got married), I always secretly wished it was shorter and easier to say so I could just go by that. So personally, I wouldn’t mind, but I’ve always gone to school and worked in first-name places (except that I’ve always called the judges I’ve worked for “Judge Lastname,” of course, wouldn’t dream of being so informal with them). Even in law school, it was about 70%-30% in favor of first names when the professors called on us. But I’m fine with any of it, as long as people are actually calling me by my own name…though that’s a different subject entirely.

  5. SoCalAtty :

    Interesting. At the law firms I have worked at, this was generally only done by secretaries when referring to attorneys. I have never worked at a place where attorneys called each other by their last names, unless it was someone very senior with whom the attorney hadn’t had enough contact to justify a first name. Say, the managing partner you see a few times a year. When I was teaching we all did that, but only in front of the students.

    Then again, I’ve never worked at BigLaw (only MidLaw and SmallLaw!) so I probably have a very different experience. Where I am now, it is just the partners and me…and the secretary calls the partners by their last name, and me by my first. Before you ask, yes, it now seems to me like it is deliberate as she is an older paralegal (older than me, anyway) that enjoys questioning everything I do. It grates on my nerves like nothing else. We three attorneys use first names.

    • Alanna of Trebond :

      I haven’t started working yet (graduating in 2 weeks), but at the firm where I summered, which is pretty fancy white shoe Big Law, everyone, including the presiding partner, went by their first name. So it depends entirely on internal firm culture?

  6. Maddie Ross :

    I personally never minded being called by my last name and am still often called by my maiden name in place of my first name in friendly settings and at work. My first name is pretty common for my age group and my maiden name is pretty unique. I never associated it with sports, but I do associate it with friendliness or familiarity. I don’t think I would like being called by my married last name, but only because it is actually a boys name (not Ross like my moniker, but similiar) and because even after nearly 10 years, it still doesn’t feel entirely like “my” name.

    • Blackbird :

      Amen on the married name not feeling like “my” name yet after many many years. I still cringe a little when my kids’ friends call me “Mrs. Blackbird” because it sounds like my MIL and doesn’t feel like me… and this is after many years getting used to my married name. I also, still have a small circle of friends that call me by my maiden name b/c that’s what they’ve been calling me for decades. No objection to it, but I have never been called by my last name in a formal workplace so not sure if I would feel differently in those circumstances.

      • Anon-who-loves-cookies :

        Glad to know I’m not the only one who cringes when I get called Mrs. NewName.

  7. I agree with you, but another way of looking at it is that it is a gender-neutral way of referring to people. I much prefer just being called by my last name rather than “Mrs. Lastname” — even more outdated and patriarchal. (I know the Mrs./Ms. debate has been here for a while, so I won’t rehash it.)

    I recently realized that my co-worker has a hard time working with me because I am a woman and he doesn’t know how to deal with that, so I will be combing through the archives to find creative solutions to that issue next!

  8. #pickyourbattles

    • yes.

    • Kat didn’t say anything battling anyone. She was just expressing her feeling of annoyance, which is, I think, allowed. We all have many things that get on our nerves that we would never complain to the offender about but just want to get off our chests.

    • Eloise Spaghetti :

      Yo, question mark! Good game out there today.

  9. When I was a prosecutor, they did this. Called everyone by last name. Sometimes even just by initials (because those were written on case files.) I was a college athlete, though, and I liked the team-ish-ness of it.

    • Yes, this is common in our office as well. Never had a problem with it.

    • Yeah, I forgot about that, at my last name we frequently used initials. Also, it helped because for some reason we had like 4 Adams (two were senior/junior related), 3 Annas, etc…

      But it was gender neutral.

    • I’ve used initials on some teams, and I really like it. But I’m also really partial to my initials.

    • Surgery is like this too. Last name, initials, nicknames, etc. And we used to say “surgery residency is a team sport” and really male dominated.

    • People call me by my last name (or a shortened version of it) all the time and I kind of like it. I work with law enforcement and many of us have military backgrounds so I see it as a sign of trust and comraderie.

  10. Before moving to a different department in my company about a year ago, I worked in various engineering jobs, were I was pretty much always the only woman engineer in my particular area but we all went by our first names, thank goodness.

    It’s been interesting to see the differences from my old area to my now heavily female department. Things I like in my current area: more interests in common – i.e. shoes, great shopping deals, feel like I can be more open/don’t always have to act like I have it all together work-wise. Things I don’t like in my new area: team members are almost over considerate of each others’ feelings (one time after I was part of a conversation that I felt was respectful and productive, two team members came up to me separately and said “I hope X didn’t take what I said the wrong way” because they had opionions that differed from X’s.

  11. I’ve been called by my last name for a good chunk of my life. As you can probably guess from my handle, I’ve got an excessively common first name for a woman (in fact, the year I was born Jessica was the most popular first name for girls).
    So my response is… meh. I’ve dealt with it for a long time and it’s never bothered me. In fact it just made sense when there were other Jessicas around which would just lead to confusion. It doesn’t happen often at work, probably because of the 35-40 attorneys at my firm none of them are named Jessica.

    • Another Jess :

      We were born in the same year! I’d rather LastName than Jess LastInitial as all 5 of us in every elementary school class were called.

      • I’d rather the last name too than all the confusion from so many Jessicas. Although my husband’s friends all called me by my last name for years, so when we got married they smooched my names together so now I’m *firstsyllablemaidennamelastsyllablemarriedname*, which results in a cringe-inducing nickname. It’s definitely a sign of affection and acceptance so I appreciate it for that, except for the one time I was wrapping up a client meeting in a restaurant, DH’s best friend walked in and saw me, and called out the nickname loud enough for the whole restaurant to hear.

    • My first name was the most popular name for girls 6 years after I was born. I think that’s part of why people used to guess my age younger than I was. Ha!

  12. LinLondon :

    I get called by my last name (or a diminutive like “Jonesy”) by my work peers and subordinates and my first name by my superiors or subordinates with whom I’m not super-friendly. I like being called by my last name and very few people in my life call me by my first name anyway, so I guess it’s a bit of a different story. I’m also a very pally boss, so my style is pretty informal, as is my workplace generally. It’s also quite female-dominated. So I’m just an outlier in general I think :)

  13. Anonymous :

    I’m the only woman in a very small practice group in BigLaw. The partners generally refer to the other associates by their last names, but I am always called by my first name. It is something I’ve noticed, more as an awkward encounter than anything else.

  14. I never gave this much thought…I got into the last name thing in law school because all professors would go by “Mr.” or “Ms.” so-and-so when calling on students. By the end of 1L, everyone knew each 0ther by their last names better than first names. At work, we use last names because there are a couple of Mikes and for those with other generic names. Those with ethnic last names like me get called by their first names. The big guns also get called by their first names. I never thought of it as a sexist thing and I’m sure it’s not intended as such, in my office at least.

    What does drive me batty though is the constant sports talk. My office is a bit anti-social (financial services) with people keeping their nose to the grindstone mostly, but when people do talk it’s the guys only talking about sports. I always feel so left out and have a hard time bonding with them for this reason. There’s only 1 other girl my age here and what am I supposed to talk fashion with her? Ugh.

  15. MissJackson :

    There are about a million things that drive me nuts about BigLaw, but this is not one of them.

    It doesn’t seem overly male or sports oriented to me at all. Possibly because my sorority sisters all called each other by last names! (Do you have any idea how many women you can have named Jen/Megan/Christine/Sarah/etc in one sorority?? Seriously — a lot.)

    • Same here. Doesn’t annoy me at all; in fact, I prefer it. I think of nearly all of my colleagues from my most recent firm (MidLaw) by their last names. Or if we’re close friends outside of work, nicknames. My favorite nickname (for myself) is a shortened version of my last name.

    • That is funny. All the Jennifers in my sorority also went by their last names!

  16. Ladies, pending the background check, I’ve got a new job. Cannot wait to give notice.

    And I’m taking a week off in between to buy a new car and de-stress from the accident.

    • Always a NYer :

      Yay!!!! I’m so happy for you, enjoy the week off to de-stress! Doing a happy dance for you =D

    • YAY! Congratulations! Can’t wait for the giving notice play-by-play….

    • YAYayay! Congrats.

    • Anonymous :

      wonderful news; i hope you hear back soon so you can give notice!!

    • Congratulations! I hope you enjoy your well-deserved break.

    • Woo hoo Bunkster! Say good bye to the Big Bad Boss!

    • lucy stone :

      WELL-DESERVED! Hooray!

    • !!!!!!

      I suggest wine and cheese for celebration. Especially cheese. And especially wine.

    • Anastasia :

      Congrats, Bunkster! I will miss seeing your horrible boss stories (in a truth is stranger than fiction kind of way), but I am SO glad you are not going to have to live them anymore!

    • Barrister in the Bayou :

      Woo Hoo! Enjoy your break!

    • Hooray!!! Congratulations, and I’m so glad to hear you’re taking a week off to de-stress. Can’t wait to hear that you’ve given notice — and hope we get to share in some satisfying details.

    • BIG JUMBO YAY! (Yes, I’m yelling because I’m SO HAPPY for you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

    • Anonymous :

      SO happy for you, Bunkster!!

    • Well done!
      I hope you are recovering from the accident (I found wheat heat packs and massage good for whiplash after my car accident) and that your injuries aren’t too bad.
      A week off between sounds like a great idea: leaving the old job and starting the new one refreshed and maybe the chance to enjoy a little sunshine!

    • Yay Bunkster! I’ll raise my glass in a toast when you give notice.

    • YAYAYYAYAYAYAYA!!!! Congrats, Bunkster!

  17. springtime :

    Just wanted to let everyone know I appreciated your kind words for my first race yesterday. I made my goal (sub 50 min) so now, inline with my competitive spirit, I want to run my next 10 k faster!

    • Congrats! I did my first in 4 years and made my goal of sub 1:10 as well! :-) My next goal is sub 1:00, but after that I don’t think any amount of competitive spirit is going to get me to sub :50. Great job!

    • Hearty congrats! That is a super-fast time in my world. Well done!

      • Anon-who-loves-cookies :

        Springtime, I might be a day late – but Congrats on completing your first race. I completed my first one a couple weeks ago and I’m still smiling about it.

  18. Always a NYer :

    Where I work now, everyone goes by first names – from interns to the VP. I’ve worked at other places where I was addressed by my last name and don’t mind either way. What I do mind is when my first or last name gets abbreviated. Both names are two syllables and it’s like nails on a blackboard whenever I hear my name shortened. That said, I usually don’t say anything, the visible cringe lets people know not to do it again ;)

    • It’s like this (all first names) at my company too. I’ve never been called by my last name, even though it’s short and easy to pronounce.

      • I should amend my last statement. I have never *intentionally* been called by my last name. I’ve recently received a slew of emails at work from a confused vendor addressing me by my last name because he was under the impression that it was my first name. Which is a really weird mistake to make because I don’t have that kind of last name at all. And I signed all my emails with my actual first name.

  19. Second the sorority comment, we had 10 Sarah’s one semester (and one Sara).

    I think of it more as a college thing since we did that frequently when last names lent themselves to it or there were multiple people with the same first name.

  20. I’ve noted that my (mostly male) teams tend to call male opposing counsel by their last names, and female opposing counsel by their first names. I don’t think they mean anything by it, but it’s always kind of bugged me, because it seems less respectful of the women. We’ve also had some really . . . difficult female opposing counsel, and I feel like they are ragged on / dismissed more often than difficult male opposing counsel.

    • I’ve noticed the same here, which DOES bother me. It seems more of a sign of respect to call men by last names and less respect to at the same time call women by their first names. I also notice that my senior partner, who fully respects me, really dogs on opposing strong-willed women attorneys. I’ve learned to make sort of snide, joking comments like “of course she did” if it really annoys me; it helps that senior partner number 2 notices this too and has the same reaction as I do.

  21. Associette :

    Law firms are male dominated – so much so that I am starting to contemplate a career change. (Thought I do not mind being called by my last name – I think men use it as a term of endearment to make you feel like part of club.)

    We have chatted about this before, but for thsose who have made the transition from law firm to something else, what are some great non-law jobs for lawyers? Any advice is much appreciated.

    • I’m curious why the male dominated-ness of law firm life is making you consider changing fields. Is it because you don’t feel respected and feel you won’t get ahead or do you just wish you could be around more women? If there is sexual harassment or disrespect you might want to try another job before abandoning the law. I find that I frequently have female opposing counsel. I do suspect that senior opposing counsels staff junior females on their cases more when the suing attorney is female so maybe that is why I deal with females a lot. I’m rambling . . .

      • Associette :

        Blonde Lawyer, my husband, also a lawyer gave me the same recommendation, i.e. try another job before abandoning the law. At the moment, coming from a mid-sized litigation firm, with female partners and about half female associates, I am having a difficult time seeing how it could be better at another litigation firm. Others here who have had children and are pregnant are experiencing a lot of push-back from the male partners (for example, cases being transferred, maternity leave limited, working from home is becoming more difficult because face time is now apparently necessary for career growth).

        My H and I are starting to think about having a family, and it just seems like having a family is at odds with billing time and building a client base of my own. Throw on the relatively conservative pay and high-stress nature of litigation, it just doesn’t seem worth it. I feel like it is a dead end and that I should make a transition before the kids come.

        • I hate to put it this way, but I don’t think the number of female partners and associates has much to do with whether a given firm is family-friendly or not. Which isn’t to say that working at a litigation firm is ever going to be the easiest thing to do while raising a family, just that I do think firm cultures vary a lot. Do you like the kind of work you do or not? If you do, it’s probably worth trying at least one more setting. (For instance, what about a government job?) If you don’t, well, that’s certainly a great reason to change fields.

        • (Not that you have to justify to some stranger on the internet why you want to change fields! Just sort of curious. Didn’t mean to come across as critical at all.)

        • Mousekeeper :

          A lot of lawyers in your position go into government law. Generally, government law offices tend to be a lot more family friendly and more supportive of pregnancy, family leave, working reduced hours, etc., to accomodate families. This is if you can afford the reduction in income. The smartest lawyers I have know in my office have been those who worked in Big Law, didn’t ratchett up their standard of living, socked the money into savings, and then when they had enough for a big downpayment on a house, switched to government. Try to do this BEFORE the babies come – if you are a proven worker, you get a lot more leeway in juggling your family and work life. Also, a single government law office can have different degrees of family friendliness depending on the division or section. If you wait to start a family until after you’ve made the leap, you can scope out where the F/F sections are. All that being said, even in a government law office, juggling litigation AND a family is hard, because your hours and time are so unpredictable. A lot of government attorneys with families end up working for agencies as “in-house” or regulatory counsel, jobs without litigation. Try telling a judge on the first day of trial that you can’t make it because your child has a 104 fever and is throwing up. We’ve made it work because I have a “litigation lite” government job only 20 minutes away while my husband is in private practice. I have never had to feel bad having to take time off for child issues in my office.

        • NE Attorney :

          Associette – I’m right there with you. I’m just not sure that high-stress, fast-paced litigation is compatible with being the type of parent and partner that I want to be to my son and husband. A great read is “Good Enough is the New Perfect.” There is a whole chapter about balancing life/family/work when the valued commodity is time (i.e. the billable hour).

          FWIW: I’m headed out of my biglaw shop back to a clerkship that I adore. 9-5, great pay, fabulous boss, ALL federal holidays off, freedom to run at lunch, no bb/iphone on the weekends/evenings. It will be glorious.

  22. Initial reaction: That seems like a pretty trivial complaint. You’re being treated the same as everyone else- isn’t that what women have wanted for hundreds of years?

    Admission of bias: I went by a nickname form of my last name throughout grade school because amon people my age, I have a very common first name. Even teachers and friends’ parents used the nickname. Maybe that’s why I don’t mind which of my names is used.

    Serious point to consider: Perhaps women are at a bit of a disadvantage when last names are used. Many women’s last names change over the course of their careers due to marriage. So, are women more disadvantaged by using last names since ours are more likely to change? Or is using last names a good thing since they aren’t indicators of gender the way that first names usually are?

    • I’ve always felt it was the latter.

      Using my gender-neutral last name has always been comforting, since I do feel like people will be less prone to judgement if gender is not a distraction.

      Besides, people do tend to judge you subconsciously based on your first name. Do you really want people to project the characteristics they associated with a Cindy or Candy onto you?

      Whether or not you change your last name is voluntary. Those types of subconscious associations are definitely not!

  23. People call me by my initials more often than by my last name, but I think that’s because I often sign off on emails with my initials. But I like it, and I don’t think it would ever bother me to be called by my last name either. Some of my friends call me by it, and I call people by their last names too. It never occurred to me that I might be perceived as trying to act like a guy!

    In my office we tend to call each other Miss and Mr., in a jokey-formal kind of way. My boss does it and I guess it just became second nature for everyone else. Oddly, though, women are always Miss Firstname like some sort of lawyerly southern belle, and the guys are usually Mr. Lastname.

  24. Ever since I was in JROTC in high school I’ve called my colleagues by their last name. Even if we do become friends later its typically “Butler, do you want to hang out?” To be honest to this day I still ask “Who?” if someone uses a certain person’s first name, even though I’ve known them for years.

  25. Mousekeeper :

    I worked for a daily newspaper as a reporter before going to law school. And in a noisy newsroom, everyone, male or female, was referred to by their last name by editors. Never bothered me and I think it was a more immediate way of getting the reporter’s attention above the noise.

  26. lucy stone :

    I work with law enforcement and fire on a regular basis and have gotten used to this because it’s what they do, but I also grew up playing sports and was a college athlete so I might have been preconditioned to it. I think this is part of the reason I’m not changing my name when I get married, because I identify so strongly with my last name.

  27. Happy for Bunkster's new job :

    This is my new interim Bunkster handle. Can’t wait for the line by line resignation convo. Bunkster (and others who have recently gotten new jobs): I’d love to hear negotiating-after-the-offer stories and strategies. I recently did this myself and wish I’d done somethings differently, but it turned out okay all in all and I wondered how typical my experience was. Congratulations all over agian!

  28. Most people can’t pronounce my last name so it doesn’t really happen here. I’m peeved by my manager who introduced me to a new employee with, “Walnut works on [extremely insignificant almost clerical thing I spend 2 minutes per day on.]”

    Seriously? You do my reviews and approve my work. If THAT is all I’m doing, then why in the hell was I working half the day Sunday?

    • That sucks, Walnut. My boss at my first job was similar – she would constantly introduce me to others as the company’s “Jack of all Trades,” which I thought made it sound like I didn’t even have a real job.

    • Anon for this since I've told this story IRL too many times :

      Yup, the introductions are sometimes painful. My last couple bosses couldn’t pronounce my last name, but thought they could , so they said “This is Anon emPHAsis…”

      And then there was my most recent former boss, who introduced me as “This is anon. Her husband decided not to take a job with the company.”

      No mention of my work, whatsoever.

  29. Equity's Darling :

    People frequently call me by my last name. However, it’s never because it’s the cool thing to do, it’s because I have two first names, and half the people in my office can’t remember that my first name is X and my last name is Y. Probably because there’s a girl that worked there for a long time that was actually named Y.

    Regardless, it’s a big pet peeve of mine, but only because people clearly can’t remember my name. It wouldn’t bug me as much if it was just because people went by last names in the office.

  30. Andrea Mercado :

    I practiced for about 12 years and found it to be quite common for lawyers in the firms I worked at to call me by my last name. I think that it derives from law school where students are called by their surnames. Never bothered me. Thought it was a way for them to allude to shared experience in a positive way

  31. Anon in NC :

    It’s done all the time where I work and doesn’t bother me in the least.

  32. I’ve never worked anywhere I’ve been called by just my last name. I used to teach, so I got used to being called Prof. [lastname], but that’s the closest. Of course, I’ve never played sports, so I’ve never encountered last-name-ism in that context (plus, my last name scares people because they’re always afraid of getting it wrong, so I have a hard time seeing this happen!).

    I kinda wonder if it’s just that the last-name thing happened to you in old-boy types of contexts, not that using last names is itself old-boy-ish. In law school, I had profs who called students by their last names (although it was usually Mr. or Ms., not the last name alone), and that never bothered me at all. The one thing that has bothered me is I knew some professors who called students “Mr. Smith” or “Ms. Jones” (which, okay, fine), and they themselves also went by “Mr. Brown” rather than “Professor Brown.” I always found that incredibly pretentious, as well as only something older white men could get away with – it’s only when your authority is taken completely for granted that you can go the faux-humble route of giving some of it up and being “Mr.” instead of “Professor.” The thing is, though, the only people I know who did that *were* incredibly old-boy-ish, and that particular detail was just one of many that demonstrated their irritating old-boy-ness.

    I have no visceral reaction to the idea of being called by my last name and can’t foresee it would bother me. I think it would bother me more to be called by my first name and have men be called by their last name (or vice versa – anything that treated me differently from the men at work). But if everyone goes by last names, no big deal. (It’s like one school I worked at, where all the profs and admin went by first names to everyone, meaning students as well as colleagues. Initially it bugged me not to get to be called “Professor,” but since virtually no one was called Professor, I got over it quickly. What’s infuriating is when students call their male instructors “Professor” and female ones “Ms.” (or, worse, “Mrs.”), and that happens a LOT.)

  33. I’ve never worked in a lastname environment. But this discussion has me thinking of “The Sting.” They refer to the hit-person by last name and it’s not until she is offed that you realize that it’s the waitress. Not exactly a role model – but she was in a non-traditional job and was admired by her co-workers.

  34. karenpadi :

    I am in an almost all-male office and no one goes by their last names. It is a firm culture thing though. In the first firm I worked at, everyone went by their initials sounded out for a weird nickname. My initials kind of sound like “cluck” so not great but not bad.

    One of my co-workers at that firm also works at this firm. I get weird looks when I slip and call her by her initials now (and vice versa). But it is funny when my current co-workers meet the old co-workers and are asked “How are Cluck and Sly doing?”

  35. Ruta Skadi :

    I think it’s a just a male expression of camaraderie. I can see why it might grate on somebody’s nerves (as with any other harmless verbal tic or habit), but I think signs of trust and friendship should be taken as they were meant (without offense).

    That said, I may occasionally refer to male partners or male associates by their last names (never to their face in the former case and only to ones I’m familiar with in the latter — and only when I’m speaking to male colleagues in both cases), but never, ever, ever do I ever refer to my fellow female colleagues by their last names in any of the scenarios described above. *That* might annoy me, as it just seems very contrived, whether it actually is or not.

  36. Eloise Spaghetti :

    I like being called by my last name. It makes me feel like one of the guys. Not this stupid last name though.

  37. I don’t have a problem being called by my last name. I do, however, hate that one of my partners insists on calling everyone on our team “fellas.” In fact, I was instructed not to take offense to this because it is the partner’s term of endearment for his teams. I know it shouldn’t bother me, but it really, really does. I feel it perpetuates the gender gap to tell a female that she should be glad to be included with the “fellas.” I’d much prefer he refer to us by something neutral and endearing, if he wishes–warriors, geniuses, pros, team, comrades, etc.

    • Then tell them, or start using the term you prefer and try to get it to catch on. Best thing to do is be honest.

  38. Accountress :

    I don’t get called by my last name (which is currently picking up popularity as a boy’s name, and I find it terribly odd), but can we talk about people trying to give you nicknames?

    My former (thank gods) manager wasn’t satisfied with my given, 1-syllable name, and tried out a 2-syllable diminutive (like jane –> janey). I had to just say to her, “I’ve never gone by a nickname or diminutive. I’m happy with the name my parents gave me, it’s descriptive of my personality, please continue to use it.”

  39. Huckleberry :

    My situation is a little bit different…my last name sounds like a woman’s first name, and there is some unfortunate aliteration, so people think part of my last name is actually my first name. For example, Jenny Jessies – and people frequently call me Jessie. I used to only introduce myself by my first name, but then decided that was unprofessional as a lawyer, so now I use my full name but try to correct people right away if (when) they get confused.

    • Oh, I’ve so done this – I taught in the south for a few years, and the naming patterns totally threw me off. I had a bunch of students whose first names looked like last names (for instance, Anderson as a first name) or whose last names looked like first names (for instance, Jesse as a last name), and I was *always* getting them mixed up. In my defense, class lists are always last name, first name, so someone named, say, Paul Jesse, would show up as Jesse, Paul, and it would take me forever to get it right. I always felt bad, though!

  40. Doesn’t bother me in the slightest. In fact, I call some of my girlfriends by their last names just for fun–I would never address someone I didn’t know very well that way, so I see it as a sign of affection. Plus, law professors tend to call on students using their last names. In the context of a law firm, I really believe it’s a carryover from law school rather than high school sports…

  41. To everyone complaining that Kat’s being overly sensative here: I know that when I had my baby, he was all I wanted to talk about, and not really anything else. Still, I didn’t want to emphasize my mama-ness at work or bore other people, so I made myself find other topics. Sometimes they were on the mark, sometimes they weren’t. Sort of like picking out lipstick when you’re color blind. I bet other new parents do the same thing; there is a lot to learn and a lot to be excited about durin pregnancy and those first few years. Let’s cut her some slack.

    • It amazes me that anyone here would think that Kat is being “overly sensitive” about this. Calling people by last names only is not normal for many of us. In the South, it is generally done by men on sports teams. Women are typically not on these same sports teams. I also feel is is somewhat of a male macho thing, particularly because, as I stated earlier, they rarely refer to women by last names, so you get a situation where all the men are “Smith” and “Jones” and women are Jessica or Jennifer. Very disrespectful and demeaning in my opinion.

  42. I often went by my last name in high school, so it doesn’t bother me at all. I think everyone has their own little pet peeves. I was in a meeting where an SVP kept calling someone who worked for him by a diminutive that made her sound like she was 5 years old – e.g. let’s say her name was Beth and he kept calling her Bethie. Maybe he didn’t mean it that way, and she could have been fine with it, but it bugged me the entire time.

  43. I work on a case in BigLaw right now where there are five associates, three of whom are women. All three women have the same first name.

    It makes introductions odd, to say the least. First names have been replaced with last names or, sometimes in writing, with initials. It sounds fratty, especially as last names are not common in my office. People with whom we work can’t figure out what the plural is, or how to address emails to the three of us.

    On the other hand, this is the last nail in my coffin of my prejudice against other people who share my (common) first name. Maybe it’s because — unlike the fourth grade — none of us have punched each other. Or because I really rather like both of the other women.


    [last name]

  44. Seattle Lawyer Mom :

    Not common in my firm, but when it does happen — usually in something like an internal wrap-up of who’s working on what new cases, or something like that — it doesn’t bother me at all. After all, my last name is in fact part of my name, and generally using last names is considered at least somewhat a form of respect. The only thing that would bug me is if all the guys were referred to by last name and the women alone were first names.

  45. Texas Attorney :

    Since I was in highschool, I had certain friends that called me by my last name. That has carried over to working life, even when I changed my name when I got married. I don’t know why. And it is only female attorneys that call me by my last name. Does not bother me.

  46. mommyinlaw :

    I have a JD but work primarily with PhDs. One of them calls me “Miss Firstname” but calls a guy with the exact same job title and responsibilities as me “Dr. Lastname.” What does he think I am, a preschool teacher? Everybody else uses first names exclusively.

    The thing I find really weird is when judges and attorneys from certain states address me as “Attorney Lastname.” That is not a phraseology I ever encountered in law school.

  47. I hate my surname. Hate it with a passion. It belonged to my dad’s abuser, who never even formally adopted him. I suppose once I change it to something more palatable, I wouldn’t mind the surname-only stuff that happens in some offices, but really? Just call me by name or come up with something clever. I can be “Ms. Cass” if there’s another Cass/Cassie in the organisation. Really. Just leave my surname where it belongs: in my personnel file!

  48. I find it interesting – I don’t associate using last names like that with sports, but instead with military. It’s a easy way to refer to someone who has a common first name without causing complications, and helps to avoid the “Mrs./Ms./Miss” issue, as well. I don’t mind it unless people say it simply because they don’t bother to learn my name, but that’s not typically the case.

    If it bugs you, ask people to refer to you by a first name or a more easily distinguished nickname. I specifically asked bosses and other employees this year to start referring to me as “Brie” instead of my full first name because I prefer the informal nature of it (even customers use that name now) and it’s less difficult to get the pronunciation correct.

  49. My surname has become a popular first name. Most people who call me by my surname do so unintentionally, & I hate people who miss my first name completely.

  50. Christina :

    I’m a software engineer, and I’ve literally never run into that kind of thing. I think it has to do with personalities AND internal culture.. Or maybe I’m just generalizing that males who go into engineering were never the sort to play sports… ah stereotypes.

work fashion blog press mentions