The American Bar Foundation has released new data about gender balance in the profession, or more accurately, the lack thereof.
Clearly, more women are entering the law as shown in the chart below.
But even though the number of women entering the law has been steadily increasing in recent years, the percentage of women equity partners at the top 200 law firms has been flat for close to a decade, as the chart below shows:
While the data set isn’t perfect — the National Association of Women Lawyers published data on women equity partnership in 2006, 2010 and 2014 while the ABA’s National Lawyer Population Survey published data on the number of women lawyers in 2005, 2010 and 2015 — the upshot is pretty clear: Women are underrepresented at top firms.
The data suggests women aren’t succeeding in Big Law any more than they were a decade ago.
“The story is there’s more women, but yeah they’re not reaching the top,” said Joan Williams, a U.C. Hastings College of the Law professor and director of the Center for WorkLife Law, who has studied women’s advancement over the past few decades.
“Women are being chased out of the law,” Williams added.
One reason is that many law firms do not have effective part-time programs. She advises law firms that want to retain women to do a better job monitoring ‘schedule creep,’ which is when people who are supposed to be working on a part-time basis end up working full-time yet don’t receive commensurate compensation. Many Big Law lawyers who work part-time perceive what she calls a “flexibility stigma,” in which relationships with partners deteriorates and their professional commitment is questioned.
The result is that many lawyers leave a firm, said Williams, whose work can be found here.
The chart below shows the raw number of attorneys in the U.S.: