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7 disturbing trends for female lawyers

Women’s ranks in firms are thinning: For the first time since the survey began in 2006, there has been a slight decline in the percentage of women lawyers who are associates and non-equity partners in the nation’s largest firms.

Women have a much lower rate than men in promotion to equity partnership: Women lawyers account for barely 15 percent of equity partners.

Women lawyers are more likely to occupy positions that are not on a partner track: More than three-quarters of responding firms employ nontraditional “staff” attorneys, which are not partner-track jobs. Women represent 55 percent of staff attorneys, the highest percentage of women lawyers in any law firm position.

Women are not credited as rainmakers: Women partners are less likely than men to receive credit for even a relatively modest $500,000 “book of business.”

Women have low representation in law firm leadership: The majority of large firms have, at most, two women members on their highest governing committee. A substantial number have no women (11 percent of firms) or only one woman (35 percent of firms) on their highest governing committee. Only 5 percent of firms place women in the role of overall managing partner.

Compensation decisions disfavor women: Women at every stage of practice earn less than their male counterparts, with the biggest difference at the equity partner level. In 2011, women equity partners earned 86 percent of the compensation earned by their male peers.

Two-tier/mixed-tier firms are less favorable to women: The phenomena of two-tier and mixed-tier partnership structures continue to have a negative impact on women lawyers. Regarding both compensation and advancement to equity partnership, women lawyers appear to be most consistently successful in one-tier firms.

Source: The National Association of Women Lawyers and the NAWL Foundation’s results of their sixth annual Survey on Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms, issued in October 2011. The survey studies the nation’s 200 largest law firms.