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Pipeline of New Women Lawyers Have Peaked, NAWL Report Suggests

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on November 14, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If you're a BigLaw associate, take a moment out of your day and take a long, hard look at yourself in the mirror.

What do you see: fine lines, wrinkles and red eyes from overwork, stress and long hours? Do you also see graying hair and skin that just seems a bit saggy given your relatively young age?

The truth is the effects of long hours at work are relatively the same for both males and females. So it's surprising to see that it seems that the number of female attorneys at BigLaw firms is shrinking, according to a recent National Association of Women Lawyers study.

Below are some of the highlights of the survey:

  • Women are more likely to be on non-partnership track careers. Women constitute 55% of staff attorneys, which generally aren't eligible to move up the BigLaw ranks.
  • Women are few and far between in the equity partnership realm. Only 15% of equity partners are women. Maybe partnership tracks should be renamed the "testosterone track."
  • Women get paid less. Female equity partners only get paid 86% of what their male peers earn.
  • The number of women enrolled in law school may have peaked. The study notes that females enrollment in law school reached a height in 2004, and has been declining ever since according to the ABA Journal.

Okay, that seems strange, right? Law firms always advertise diversity. We've all seen those little pamphlets explaining the virtues of having attorneys come from all walks of life. It's great for business - at least according to their advertisements.

One might wonder what happens to the female law school gunners we knew in our classes. And what causes them to give up on their BigLaw dreams.

Perhaps they didn't feel like working as a slave to the billable hour. Or perhaps it was the societal expectation - and burden - of having to take care of the family.

Driven female attorneys shouldn't let these statistics stop them. The decreasing number of female attorneys indicated in the NAWL report, however, aren't indicative of an individual's ability to attain that elusive partnership.

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