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More Bad News for Women--NAWL's 2011 Report

Vivia Chen

November 10, 2011

Fotolia_35579129_XSStill have that bottle of whiskey at your desk from my last little cheery report on women?

Keep it handy. Because you'll need a shot or two to get through this latest survey from The National Association of Women Lawyers. Here are some highlights (or are they lowlights?):

1. Percentage of women in firms is on decline. "Women constitute only 47 percent of the current crop of first- and second-year associates, down from 48 percent in prior surveys," says NAWL. "It may not be a huge change, but it suggests that the pipeline may be shrinking."

2. The latest female ghetto: staff lawyer positions. "Women represent 55 percent of staff attorneys, the highest percentage of women lawyers in any law firm position." 

3. Women ain't making much rain. "Women partners constitute only 16 percent of those partners who received credit for at least $500,000 of business, which approximates their percentage as equity partners." NAWL also finds that majority of women are "bookless"--56 percent of women versus 38 percent of men partners.   

4. Women lag behind men in pay even at the associate level. Everyone knows that women equity partners lag behind their male peers in pay (NAWL says women make 86 percent of male equity partners' compensation), but did you know that there's also a gap among associates? The difference comes up in bonuses, where women's bonuses lag 6 percent in lockstep firms, and 8 percent in nonlockstep firms.

5. Some "equity" women partners have no real equity. Women represent an astonishing 80 percent of fixed-income equity partners—"those lawyers in mixed-tier or other firms who are required to contribute capital but do not share in the overall profits of the firm." 

6. Firm managment is still a boys' club. "The majority of large firms have, at most, two women members on their highest governing committee.  A substantial number have either no women (11 percent of firms) or only one woman (35 percent of firms) on their highest governing committee." And only 5 percent of firms have women managing partners—the same percentage as in 2006.

7. Not that 15 percent again! Yes, women equity partners are still stuck at that number. "Anecdotally, that level of equity partnership has been fixed at the same level for 20 years," says NAWL.

There are a lot more fascinating—and distressing—points in the NAWL report, but I'm just too depressed to go on. Indeed, there's such an abundance of bad news that I have a hard time figuring out which part of the report is the real low point.

So I asked Heather Giordanella, NAWL president, for her take. Surprisingly (or maybe not), she tries to be upbeat about the findings: "We can't draw only negative conclusions from the survey; we don't have enough information to draw conclusions [about the causes of the results]. . . . For me, it's getting the information out there to firms that's important."

One big reason NAWL started this survey in 2006, she says, is to start the discussion rolling: "It started as a challenge to firms to achieve 30 percent women equity partners by 2015."

Not even downing a whole bottle of whiskey can make me believe that's achievable.

Additional coverage: See The National Law Journal.

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Ugh, I got so tired of this "strong and independent woman" meme that I eventually left the US. Asian women are way better on average.

Ladies, if you haven't figured it out, you are the most spoiled, privileged group of people to ever inhabit the earth. You have equal rights, privileges and MORE. Hell, you guys have more rights and privileges than many groups of men in this world (Scandinavian men, etc.).

There are books written on your painful mediocrity and suckitude (check the title "The Cultural Devastation of American Women: The Strange and Frightening Decline of the American Female (and her dreadful timing)" on Amazon.com)

And guess what, more and more men are refusing to marry you or deciding to marry foreign women who haven't been corrupted by our damn, feminist culture.

Check here:


Google "the marriage strike"


Good luck, ladies. I hope the cats are warm and give you all the love you need that men would have given you, if you had treated us better.

Bon voyage.

I'm not a misogynist. I only hate women that are narcissistically concerned without their own trivial problems and without any perspective that American women today are the most privileged group of people ever to occupy the planet.
Also, even among that group that I hate in general, if they sleep with me, they are OK, anyway.

DSE, I don't find it ironic. Many of us leave the law, both men and women, for a wide variety of reasons. I find business to be much more exciting, though my degree and experience practicing make me more valuable to my employer. Nothing would get me to practice again - it will always be my plan "B". I am much happier with my "alternative career".

I'm sorry, Dirk, HOW is that related to the point of this article? Perhaps you are illuminating one of the causes (attitudes) leading to the numbers reported in the article. Thanks for helping to clear that up.

Does anyone else find it ironic that the Careerest is headed up by a former corporate lawyer who has dropped out of the law firm partership race? I bet Ms. Chen (and many other women attorneys like her) could be helpful if they explain why they too are no longer practicing law. What would convince you to come back to the profession?

Posted like the misogynist troll you are, Dirk.

Speaking of drowning in bottles, more than 99% of the deaths in the Iraq and Afghan conflicts are guys, more than 98% of workplace deaths are guys, and the suicide rate among guys is far higher than that for women. Combat veterans have a particularly high suicide rate.

So, women DO have some catching up to do.

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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