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Income Gap For Women Persists At Large Firms... Will It Change?

A recent survey by the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) found that the income gap between male and female lawyers at firms continues to grow, as reported in this post at the ABA Journal. This press release issued by NAWL summarizes the survey's results, which showed that male equity partners earn almost $90,000 more than female equity partners, that women account for only one in six of all equity partners (who enjoy the most prestige and power at firms) and that fewer than ten percent of law firm managing partners are women.   The press release also notes that women are not advancing into more senior positions even as they become more profitable.

Unfortunately, the survey doesn't provide additional information on why female equity partners earn less than men.  Is it because they originate less business than men (in which case perpetual origination fees may create a bias)?  Do women earn less because they hold less seniority in their equity positions and are thus penalized by existing formulas for distributing profits? Or are law firms simply paying women less -- and because they are underrepresented in firm leadership, there's nothing they can do about it?

The reason for the gap is important.  If women are generating less business than men, then the solution is for women to focus on rainmaking so that they can increase their income, as well as their power and prestige within their firms.  And coincidentally, this month's issue of Originate, contains some excellent business development advice for female lawyers from Pamela Roberts, chair of the ABA Commission on Women.   Roberts targets her marketing efforts at activities that help her create and build relationships with other lawyers.  For Roberts, what works is involvement in the ABA, taking advantage of speaking engagements, building a niche and participating in civic activities, where she generates referrals from members of the Board.  At the end of the article, there's a comprehensive checklist to help other female lawyers identify marketing opportunities that will work for them.

As we all know, nothing speaks as loudly at law firms as money.   When women start finding ways to make rain as effectively as men, the income gap will evaporate -- or perhaps even change direction, to put women on the higher end.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on November 16, 2007 at 05:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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