American Lawyer has released another report that shows that while women make up a significant percentage of Biglaw associates, they are under-represented in law firm partnership ranks:
And while the ranks of female partners have grown steadily, women still account, on average, for fewer than one in five big-firm partners. The greatest numbers of female lawyers remain concentrated at the associate level.
At the same time, it’s worth pointing out the wide variation among firms when it comes to female head count. Despite the laggards, some firms–such as Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; and Ropes & Gray–are nearing the 50 percent mark in their overall percentage of women lawyers. Even better, at a few other large firms–including Littler Mendelson, Ice Miller, Arent Fox, and Epstein Becker & Green–women make up at least a quarter of the partnership.
The disparity is most clearly seen when we talk about leverage:
Crunching the numbers further tells a more interesting story. Of the female lawyers we counted, what percentage are partners? In other words, are women reaching the senior levels of a firm in proportion to their overall numbers? To find out, we calculated the number of female partners as a percentage of all women lawyers. We found that at the firms surveyed, about 23 percent of female lawyers were in the partnership ranks. For every women who’s made partner, there are three women in the nonpartner ranks.
That 3:1 leverage among female lawyers is double the leverage among all lawyers–male and female–in the firms surveyed. Nationally, we found that 41 percent of all lawyers are partners: For each partner, there are about 1.5 nonpartners. If one looks just at male lawyers, the leverage essentially vanishes: There is about one male nonpartner for each male partner.
The report also exposes a somewhat obvious fact: firms that tend to be good for female attorneys don’t necessarily score highly on other diversity factors.
More details from the report after the jump.
While it should be self-evident, the report points out that not all “diversity” scores are created equal:
One of the first questions we wanted to answer was how women’s numbers at law firms compare to those of minority lawyers. These days, “diversity” often refers to both racial and gender makeup, and it’s tempting to think that one accompanies the other. However, the statistics show that minorities and women are not necessarily progressing in tandem. When we compared the 20 top firms in the Women in Law Firms study [see chart, page 76] and in MLJ ‘s Diversity Scorecard [see minoritylawjournal.com], which measures racial diversity, we found little overlap. Only four firms made both lists’ top tier: Cleary; Paul, Weiss; Epstein Becker; and Lewis, Brisbois, Bisgaard & Smith. Just 11 firms ranked in the top 50 in both racial and gender diversity.
Why the disparity? For some firms, geography may help explain why they have been less successful in recruiting and retaining lawyers of color than female lawyers. Consider one extreme example: Faegre & Benson, eighth in the Women in Law Firms ranking, 172nd on the Diversity Scorecard. The firm’s four U.S. offices are in Minnesota, Colorado, and Iowa–mostly states with relatively small minority populations, although Colorado is almost 20 percent Hispanic. In other cases, the key to understanding the gap may lie in a given firm’s practice specialty. Some intellectual property firms that rate well in racial diversity don’t do as well when it comes to women–perhaps reflecting the lower numbers of women with advanced degrees in engineering and the hard sciences. Townsend and Townsend and Crew is second on the Diversity Scorecard, 202nd in Women in Law Firms. Knobbe, Martens, Olson & Bear, fifth on the Diversity Scorecard, ranks 204th in Women in Law Firms (for the full Women in Law Firms study, click here).
While the American Lawyer report focuses on issues for female attorneys, it’s worth pointing out that male attorneys can also suffer from limiting gender stereotypes. A note from the Yale Law Journal points out a possible Title VII challenge for men:
In a fiercely competitive labor market, large American law firms universally offer some paid leave to attorneys after the birth of the child. This Note offers an empirical investigation of those policies, finding that all firms offer paid leave to new mothers, and many firms offer at least some leave to fathers as well. In most cases, however, men receive much less leave than women. The most grossly gender-disproportionate policies harm attorneys of both genders–perpetuating stereotypes about women, stigmatizing fathers who spend time with their children, and entrenching the “ideal worker” norm that scholars have protested.
Gender discrimination, work-life balance, these are the issues that are truly affecting associates during the market … what? G.M.? Excuse me, I need more bottled water and canned goods for my fallout shelter.
Stuck in the Middle [American Lawyer]
Childbearing, Childrearing, and Title VII: Parental Leave Policies at Large American Law Firms [Yale Law Journal]
Earlier: Gender Gap Disappears If You Just Keep Working
Is the Recession Good for Female Lawyers?