Authored By: Iris Garrett
With news of the return of bright-eyed and bright-suited Elle Woods in Legally Blonde 3, it is easy to imagine other female attorneys like her defying the odds and achieving success in the legal profession. While this is true within the nation’s law schools, where women have made up more than 40 percent of classes for the last 30 years, it is not the case for them beyond graduation. Statistics show women continue to be underrepresented in private practice, especially in positions of leadership.
According to this year’s Law360 Glass Ceiling Report, at no level of the typical law firm (non-partner, partner or equity partner) are women leading the charge. The report shows that as of December 31, 2017, only 24 percent of partners were women, and they only held 12 percent of top leadership roles at that time. Statistics for women of color-- who represent 8 percent of private practice lawyers-- were also dismally low, showing they only made up 3 percent of all law firm partners.
Law360 surveyed the demographics of more than 300 U.S. law firms to collect the data in its report. Although its findings showed that female representation in private practice increased by no more than a percentage point from last year, it did offer insight into why these statistics need to change:
“Having a female leader sets an example for younger associates that they have a future and a path at the firm. In fact, the Glass Ceiling Report found that the 43 firms with women in a leadership role averaged a better representation of female attorneys across the firm.”
Women are doing their part to turn things around, too. The Women in Law Empowerment Forum, for example, is making great strides to assist female attorneys in achieving their career goals and educate them on how to become leaders in the workplace and community. While the American Bar Association and its president, Hilarie Bass are focusing on the long-term retention of women in law and their advancement by removing the implicit gender bias at law firms.
Law360 says if you look at female attorneys who have defied the odds to become partners at their law firms, you will see patterns in their behavior: strong mentorship, a balance of work and personal obligations, and an undeniable belief that a woman can and should be a leader in law.
You can read more about Law360’s report by clicking here.
Photo Credit: Hongqi Zhang