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Women Comprise 70% of BigLaw Staff Attorneys: Survey

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on October 29, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Women still struggle for equal representation at BigLaw firms, but a new survey shows that women are the majority in at least one position.

The relatively new position of "staff attorney," or associates on a non-partner track, is predominantly female. Women comprise about 70% of staff attorneys at the firms surveyed. The information comes from a report by the National Association of Women Lawyers, which surveys the presence of women at the country's Top 100 firms.

Even more interesting than the numbers themselves is what they say about the future of women in BigLaw.

The news wasn't all positive. Women still make up 45% of associates and just 15% of equity partners, reports the ABA Journal. Still, the results regarding staff attorneys are promising.

Staff attorneys are a relatively new position at firms, and this is the first year NAWL included them in the survey. But already it's a popular position with 80% of firms using staff attorneys, according to the survey.

As the economy has shifted, firms have had to adapt. It's still unclear how things will end up, but there is some speculation that firms may have to restructure to survive.

One way to do that is to cut down on the number of partners in a firm. Unlike other businesses where not everyone can hope to be a part-owner, law firm culture presumes that everyone wants equity.

But that goal may not be possible any longer, and it may not be desirable for all employees anyway. In the next few years it's possible the number of staff attorneys will grow as firms and their employees strive for a more balanced approach.

If that happens, women are in a good position to dominate that portion of the BigLaw field. It's not the high status of an equity partnership, but it is an important role.

Over the last few years, the number of women in partnerships and associate positions hasn't gone up, according to Careerist. But the ranks of staff attorneys is disproportionately female.

It's unclear whether that says something about the people doing the hiring, or the women applying for the job. Time will tell if it means change.

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