The Gender Pay Gap for Big Law Partners: 44 Percent

Democratic National Committee (DNC) women host an Equal Pay Day event with a lemonade stand "where women pay 79 cents per cup and men pay $1 per cup, to highlight the wage gap" on April 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. MOLLY RILEY/AFP/Getty Images

Male partners in Big Law are still out-earning their female counterparts by 44 percent, according to the results of a survey published Wednesday by Major, Lindsey & Africa.

Of the 2,153 partners polled, men earned an average of $949,000 per year while women brought in $659,000.

The differences in partner billing rates ($701 for men and $636 for women) and hours billed (1,703 for men and 1,632 for women) remained relatively small. But the results show women still lag behind significantly in originations, pulling in an average of $1,730,000 versus $2,590,000 for men.

“Originations is probably the single biggest determination of what your compensation will be,” said Jeffrey A. Lowe, head of the law firm practice at Major, Lindsey & Africa.

The survey defined origination as the total dollar value of work performed and collected by a firm as the result of a partner’s efforts.

The question of whether women are being paid less for the same work remains unanswered by the survey, which was conducted in partnership with ALM Legal Intelligence. Lowe said he was unable to directly compare the average salaries of men and women who brought in the same dollar amount of business.

Whether women are simply bringing in less business — or not getting as much credit for the business they do bring in — remains difficult to determine. Lack of credit for origination is a common complaint leveled by women in Big Law. Kamee B. Verdrager, whose discrimination claims against Mintz Levin were recently revived by the Massachusetts high court, said credit for business she brought in at the firm was once given to a male attorney who didn’t know the client’s name. The firm has denied Verdrager’s claims.

The Major Lindsey survey also asked Big Law partners about their pay satisfaction. Men reported greater satisfaction with their salaries, as well as greater satisfaction with their jobs overall. Across all categories, 24 percent of respondents attributed their pay dissatisfaction to cronyism, while only 10 percent cited gender bias.

“What you see time and time again is that people feel like cronyism drives compensation and creates more bias than anything else,” Lowe said. But, he added, “If you take it one step further and assume more partners are men than women, then there are fewer cronies who are female.”

Lowe said he was unable to calculate specifically how many women, who made up 25 percent of respondents, had cited gender bias in their responses.

Stephanie Russell-Kraft is a freelance reporter focused on the intersections of religion, culture, gender and the law. She previously covered securities litigation and regulation for Law360. Follow her on Twitter @srussellkraft.

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