Women Attorneys' Futures in Big Law Not Promising
Women still fall behind male counterparts in law firms. Each year for the past six years the National Association of Women Lawyers or NAWL has conducted a survey of the largest law firms and the retention and promotion of women within these firms. This year's survey is out and the news for women lawyers or those women considering a profession in the law is less than encouraging.
The survey which tracks the progress and promotion of women in the nation's 200 largest law firms (often referred to as "big law) shows a decrease in the number of women entering the largest law firms. What does this mean? It trickles down to the fact that less women entering the largest law firms ultimately means less women are being promoted and playing a key role in the highest tiers of decision making and policy-setting at these same firms.
Presently, women account for less than 50% of law school students which correspondingly means women account for only 47% of first year associates, down one percent from last year's survey.
Fewer women in the pipeline the survey stated means less women moving along to the upper levels of partners in big law firms. Women depart from big law firms according to the survey at an increasing rate, leaving less women to in the potential leadership pools at big firms. According to the survey in 2011 women accounted for 44% of 7th year associates, 34% of counsel, 25% of non-equity partners and 15% of equity partners.
What does all of this mean for women in the law? It means that women continue to have a difficult time pushing the glass ceiling and breaking into the upper echelon of big law. The survey stated that the absence of women in firm leadership, coupled with other factors such as women's lack of credit for business development or "rainmaking" along with the structure of the law firm contributed to the less than desirable survey results.Continued on the next page