According to her latest performance evaluation at Dallas’ Hughes & Luce, associate Julie Edwards Blend is “personable, practical, [has] good client skills, [and] shows initiative.” The adjectives are pretty generic – straight out of the “safe words” handbook – but complimentary, nonetheless.

It doesn’t sound like the description of someone who has been passed over for partnership three years in a row. Regardless of that evaluation, the major clients Blend handles and the 1,800 to 2,000 hours she’s put in annually since joining the firm as a lateral in 1992, Blend was not invited to become a partner when she became eligible in 1996. The firm passed her over in 1997, and again in 1998.