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New Report Looks for Ways to Bolster Presence of Women in Law

A new report from the American Bar Association (ABA) illustrates the myriad challenges women in the law profession face as they continue to leave the field and enumerates steps law firms can take to retain their talents.

executive 1293129 640The newly minted study, “In Their Own Words: Experienced Women Lawyers Explain Why They Are Leaving Their Law Firms and the Profession,” was co-written by Joyce Sterling, a Sturm College of Law professor with more than three decades of experience in the area, and non-profit executive Linda Chanow, who has spent more than 20 years working to advance women in the legal profession, according to the ABA.

Chanow has spoken on topics ranging from leadership to unconscious bias, growth mindset, workplace flexibility and pay equity, among other topics, according to the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession.

“This report highlights the ongoing systemic barriers women still face in the legal profession,” ABA President Patricia Lee Refo said in a statement. “These women’s personal stories are eye-opening, and the recommendations illustrate the changes we need to make to support and advance all women lawyers.”

Research cited in the report has shown women are “substantially more likely to leave their positions before partnership is decided.” To that end, research shows women have continued to struggle to reach "partner" in equal rates as men despite graduating law school and being hired as starting associates at roughly the same pace as male lawyers, according to the trade association.

From Twitter:

CBA Women Lawyers @CBA_WLF May 8

"Registration is now available for “Parenting and Practicing” - another FREE webinar presented by #CBA_WLF and the CBA Equality Subcommittee as part of the @CBA_News #EDISeries! https://cbapd.org/details_en.aspx?id=na_NA21LAW16A"

In order to generate the report, interviews with focus groups and female attorneys in six different cities were conducted. The feedback covered everything from power to race to financial compensation. Said some of the women interviewed, per the ABA:

  • “I would say without exception, every lawyer, female lawyer that I’ve spoken to that I’m friends with, that I’m close enough to talk to, has experienced some form of discrimination.”
  • “[T]he lack of opportunity, I think, for [women of color] is really blatant.”
  • “You give me the hardest problems to solve, but you tell me I am less important with the compensation you give me.”

Recommendations about how to mitigate these challenges include evaluating the policies in place at law firms around the U.S., increasing “lateral hiring” of women to partnership roles and providing resources to “relieve pressures from family obligations that women more often face than their male colleagues,” among other things.

“One of the respondents put it best: issues of inequity will be greatly reduced, and perhaps disappear, on the day that men recognize that something is wrong when they enter a room at the firm and do not see a substantial number of women lawyers,” concludes the report. “The profession has had much success at the junior level; now we must turn our efforts to making our firms places where experienced women lawyers thrive and are treated equitably so that they can continue to bring their contributions to their organizations.”

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