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Why the gender pay gap is still an important an issue as ever

Posted by: Laurence Simons 05/09/16
Pay scales are always a talking point in legal circles, and the gender pay gap is a particular pervasive topic at the moment. However the discrepancy between male and female pay has been increasingly forced into the spotlight of late, with prominent female partners across the US filing lawsuits against their former firms. Although benefits packages are certainly shifting away from mere cash compensation, female lawyers remain rightfully exasperated over the disparities between their own pay and that of their male counterparts. This is a continued theme we've seen as evidenced when we last surveyed female legal professionals about how they feel their progress has been hampered by their gender.

Nowhere is the gender gap more evident than in figures from the National Association of Female Lawyers (NAFL) 9th annual survey, which indicated that not only do women make up just 18% of equity partnerships - a figure only 2% higher than 2006 - but they also only earn 80% of what their male colleagues do. Worryingly this figure is lower than the 84% recorded in the first year of the survey. Moreover, in the most recent study 75% of law firms surveyed did indicate that they had a formal budget for a women’s initiative, marking a 5% decrease on the figure recorded in NAWL Foundation’s 2012 survey of Women’s Initiatives.

It recently emerged that Kerrie L. Campbell, a partner at Washington D.C. based Chadbourne & Parke, is suing the firm for a total of $100 million on behalf of herself and other female partners who, she claimed, received less compensation than male partners despite bringing in more client revenue. She stated that a five-man management committee at the firm arbitrarily awards male partners more points, which translate into higher dollar compensation, than they do to women. The case has not only damaged the firm’s reputation but could also cost it a substantial sum.

There are some positive signs, indeed Linda Klein, a senior managing shareholder at Baker Donelson was recently named the first ever female president of the American Bar Association. The Diversity Lab also hosted the first-ever Women in Law Hackathon in June, bringing together 54 law firms to brainstorm strategies to advance women in the industry.

The case for diversity at the highest levels is extremely strong, a more diverse team of partners are better suited to meet the need of their clients and therefore attract new business. Moreover a practice with strong female representation is more likely to attract the top female legal talent, which can only be good news for law firms.
Tagged In: Women in Law
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