The American Bar Association is currently holding its Women in Law Leadership Academy in Philadelphia; prior to the conference, they surveyed female partners in regional and international firms. Harder for women than figuring out what they’re allowed to wear is becoming a partner. (Though there are signs that’s changing.)

Apparently, female lawyers must go elsewhere to be appreciated. Forbes summarizes:

According to the study, the majority of women who had made partner had to attain the position by making a lateral jump to another firm–few were promoted from within.

Once you make partner, it’s hard to stay one. Almost eight percent of the 700 female partners surveyed reported being de-equitized. How come?

From the Legal Intelligencer:

The 7.9 percent of survey respondents who were de-equitized said the top reasons for their de-equitization were the firm’s decision to increase profits per equity partner, low revenue generation from client origination, low billables, low revenue generation from cross-selling and seniority.

Unfortunately, there’s no Commission for Men in the Law to survey the dudes and find out what their rate of de-equitization is.

Even when women do have equity, though, they don’t always feel they get their fair share. From the Legal Intelligencer (and Forbes, which has the same graf word-for-word):

Fifty-five percent of the respondents said they were occasionally or frequently denied their “fair share” of new business generation, but two-thirds of them said they were uncomfortable appealing compensation decisions. And sadly, 30% of the women said expressing disagreement brought intimidation, threats and bullying.

This is how you you increase your compensation and get promoted:

As other studies have shown, billable amounts collected, hours worked and clients generated were the key factors to promotion, followed by cross-selling, billing partner status and work that binds the client to the firm.

This is how you improve your work environment, but it doesn’t do anything to increase your income:

Factors that contributed the least to promotion opportunities were contributions to firm diversity, development of human capital, efficient leveraging of associates, associate development and pro bono or community service, according to the survey.

Law firms are businesses. They promote and financially reward those who bring in the dollars.

The subtext in the survey is that women need to work harder to get their hands on client matters as aging male partners retire. The survey asked about how work is handed off in respondents’ respective firms:

When asked how it is decided who inherits the work of a retiring partner, 32 percent of respondents said there is no consistent approach at their firm, while 29.7 percent said the current partner selects the successor. The surprise to the audience was that in only 2.2 percent of firms do the clients choose who is next to do their work.

So cozy up to those aging rainmaking partners, ladies.

Women GCs Must Speak Up to Effect Change, Study Says [Legal Intelligencer]
Women Lawyers Struggle To Attain And Keep Partner Positions [Forbes]

Earlier: Female Partners Are on the Rise


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