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Women Lawyers' Pay, Rank Lag Behind Men at Law Firms

By Jason Beahm on November 10, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Men may be from Mars and women from Venus, but if there is one thing that connects us, it's that we'd all like to be paid more for our work. However, women lawyers are still lagging behind men at law firms.

The National Association of Women Lawyers has just released a study that shows that female attorneys make less money and receive fewer promotions than males. According to the study, this is in part due to new structures that make it difficult for female attorneys to advance. This despite an increase by law firms in diversity initiatives, maternity programs and part time policies designed to help women.

The news is fairly bleak: women make up only 15% of equity partners at top U.S. firms and are barely involved in influential committees at their firms. At nearly half the law firms, the top ten rainmakers are all men. This despite the fact that women make up nearly 35% of all attorneys in 2008 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, while female associates receive similar compensation to male associates, on average they receive only 85% of what higher level male attorneys make.

The report suggests that part of the disparity comes from the increase of non-partner-track lawyers. According to the report, over 60% of staff attorneys are women, which represents "the highest percentage of women lawyers in any category or practice, and by definition, a category with little possibility of career advancement."

The report closes:

"Progress for women lawyers in large firms is not occurring quickly. . .  Against this disappointing background, we are all the more heartened by and appreciative of the continued cooperation of participating law firms, whose efforts make a very meaningful contribution to a goal that we all share: parity of women lawyers in private practice."

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