Fewer Women are Joining BigLaw Firms

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on November 30, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

There are fewer and fewer women joining the ranks of BigLaw firms these days - at least according to a new survey by the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL).

For in-house counsel everywhere, this marked shift in the gender makeup of large law firms begs the question: what will happen to the hiring pool?

Many corporations source their legal talent from BigLaw firms. With fewer women entering the associate ranks (47% of first and second year associates are women, down from 48% in past years), there may be a shift coming soon to your company.

Specifically, the NAWL survey makes some interesting findings that they highlighted in their press release:

  • Women are more likely to not be on a partnership track: Female attorneys make up around 55% of staff attorneys. Typically, these positions are not eligible for partnership.
  • There are few women in equity partnership roles: The numbers are heavily skewed toward males - women only make up 15% of this category.
  • Women get less credit for equal work: The few female partners that make it to the top face additional hurdles. They are usually less likely to receive credit for their book of business, business development work, and other measures of being a "rainmaker."
  • Women get paid less: Female equity partners earn 86% of the compensation that their male counterparts make.

Of course, it would be interesting to see what kind of statistics there are on the makeup of the ranks of in house counsel and legal staff at corporations.

The numbers seem to indicate that women in BigLaw don't get the same equal treatment as men, at least according to the NAWL survey. But perhaps they'd fare better in a corporate environment.

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