The National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) recently released the results of their fourth annual Survey on Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms. The survey tracks the progress of women lawyers at the nation’s 200 largest law firms and the results from this year’s survey show a troubling and continuing compensation gap between men and women attorneys at every stage of practice. Male lawyers continue to out-earn women lawyers, hold the vast majority of ownership shares, dominate firm governing committees and represent the overwhelming number of major rainmakers in firms despite the fact that for over 20 years women have graduated from law schools and started careers in private practice at roughly the same rate as men.
Here are a couple of sobering statistics from the study:
- Nearly half of major U.S. firms indicated that they have no women among their top ten rainmakers, while another third reported that only one of their top ten rainmakers was a woman.
- Women constitute fewer than 16% of equity partners, only 6% of firm managing partners, and barely 15% of the members of a firm’s highest governing committee – percentages which have not changed from 2008 and have barely advanced since the Survey began exploring these data in 2006.
While no single factor or cause explains the entirety of this disparity, we can say with certainty that until women reach the highest level of firm leadership in greater numbers, they are unlikely to be able to influence firm policies and corporate culture in a way that makes firms more responsive to the career needs of women lawyers.
As a Martindale-Hubbell Connected Alliance partner, NAWL maintains a dedicated networking community within Connected as well as a public NAWL group within the network that is open to all Connected users. “Women in the Law” was the October theme in Connected and on October 26 we held a roundtable webinar in which we discussed among other things, the extent to which men and women lawyers may have differing career goals and whether law firm policies do an adequate job of permitting a lawyer to combine personal/family responsibilities with the job. I encourage you to join Connected and join the ongoing discussion within the NAWL group regarding this important topic.
The full NAWL Survey Report can be accessed by clicking here.