A week ago, Law360 published a series of disturbing stories on gender bias in the legal profession. My firm, which made Law360’s top twenty U.S. firms (by size), did not make Law360’s top one hundred firms for women. The top 100 list was based on the number of female partners, non-partners, and total number of female attorneys. My firm has nearly 1000 lawyers, yet it couldn’t manage to make the top 100 list for number of women lawyers at the firm. Many smaller firms made the list. When I pointed out this black eye in an email to the (male) partner for whom I’ve been working for the past ten years, I got no response.
Ironically, I had attended a firm meeting with that same partner just the week before that included the theme: “Rah Rah Rah, Diversity, Yay, We’re So Awesome, Women Lawyers, Rah Rah Rah!”
Even more disturbing than my firm not making the top 100 list, was Law360’s 2015 Glass Ceiling Report. The lead, which you can read without a subscription, states:
Women continue to be dramatically underrepresented at every attorney level in the U.S. legal industry, and firms made negligible progress toward gender equality in 2014, according to a Law360 head count survey of more than 300 U.S. firms.
The report goes on to state that men make up almost 80 percent of partners at U.S. law firms, and two-thirds of total lawyers. It gets worse from there: women make up just slightly over 17 percent of equity partners—those who get to share the loot. (Non-equity partners don’t participate in divvying up the big pot of money brought in by the pyramid beneath them, but often get to vote on management issues; just not on financial issues.) So, 20 percent of partners are women, 80 percent are men; 17 percent equity partners are women, 83 percent are men. At my firm, although transparency is an issue, I think it’s a safe bet that less than 5 percent of equity partners are women; the other likely 95 percent is composed of (mostly white) men.
The good news is, according to Law360, the number of female lawyers in firms has risen since the prior year. The bad news is, the increase in the number of women in each category (non-partner, partner, equity partner) was less than 1 percent.
In Law360’s final story of the day, Law Firm Biases Continue to Thwart Women, we learned that at the current rate, women will not make up 50 percent of U.S. law firm partners until the year 2072. That’s 57 years from now, folks. Seeing as I’m 51 now, most assuredly, I’ll be dead.