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Are Female Lawyers at Risk in a Recession?

Over at The Glass Hammer, Anna Collins asks whether female lawyers are at risk during a recession.

They are -- as much or more than lawyers in general these days. But for some at least, that risk is counter-balanced by increased opportunities for rewards.

Collins begins by trying to drill down to find a gender breakdown for the recent layoffs. Since the legal practice areas most affected by layoffs are male-dominated fields like finance, real estate and corporate practice, it would seem that male attorneys are bearing the brunt of the layoffs. But practice areas aren't the only factor firms consider when cutting lawyers. In most cases, the first lawyers to go are those working part-time and billing fewer hours. And, no surprise, female lawyers dominate the part-time category.

Women are endangered at the partner level as well, says Collins. Most female lawyers rank low on the partnership totem pole, as they're more likely to hold non-equity positions. These too are among the first to face cuts when the economy goes south.

On the other hand, some experts Collins interviewed take the opposing position.

For example, Matt Rosen, human resources director at Schiller International University, actually believes that female lawyers who work part-time or flex-time may be able to weather the recession better, because firms will find their employment to be an asset during a time when cost-cutting is necessary. The trick is to make the asset obvious to the employer. Rosen also notes that many women practice in fields that are "hot" during the recession, such as labor and employment law.

So what's your view? Are female lawyers hurt more by the recession than their male colleagues? Why or why not? Please post your comments below.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on February 24, 2009 at 03:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

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