The nation's largest law firms are in a bit of a holding pattern when itcomes to the advancement of women within the firms, according to thepresident of the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) in regardto the group's second annual survey.
The numbers of women in equity partnership and management have stayedabout the same since last year, while the pay disparity between male andfemale attorneys has increased at certain levels.
"While in some respects there is some progress, there are some verydistinct areas where, in our view, firms need to be careful," NAWLPresident Holly English of Post Polak Goodsell MacNeill & Strauchlersaid.
Similar to last year's inaugural survey, 16 percent of equity partnersat large law firms are women and 15 percent -- down 1 percent -- ofgovernance committees are made up of female attorneys. Of the 112 firmsthat responded to the survey, 15 percent have no women on theirgovernance committees.
In a 3-percentage-point increase, 8 percent of managing partners atthe largest firms are women.
As women move up in positions within a firm, their pay disparityincreases as well, according to the survey.
Male of counsels earn about $20,000 more than females, male non-equitypartners earn about $27,000 more than females, and male equity partnersearn nearly $90,000 more than their female counterparts. According tothe 2006 survey, male equity partners earned about $81,000 more thanfemale equity partners.
At firms with higher billable-hour requirements, the difference growseven more. Male equity partners at those firms earn $140,000 more thanfemale equity partners, the survey showed.
While English said she understands that some of these disparities havereasonable explanations, she said it would behoove firms to payattention to their policies when such wide disparities can be seen atthe macro level.
One explanation for the larger disparity at the highest levels, thesurvey results indicated, could be that there are just fewer seniorwomen at these law firms.
English said there is a bright spot among the survey results when itcomes to the younger female attorneys.
For the smaller number of women attorneys who graduated before 1980, 9percent have become equity partners, the survey showed. In looking atfemale attorneys who graduated between 1980 and 1995, that numberincreases to 20 percent. English said the percentage increases to nearly25 percent for attorneys even younger.
Within the next few years, English said she expects to see someimprovement as more firms have women's initiatives, general counsel arepushing for diversity, and women are taking advantage of mentoring andnetworking programs available to them.
In 2006, NAWL implemented the NAWL 2015 Challenge, which called for lawfirms to double the number of women equity partners and for corporationsto double the number of women chief legal officers by 2015.
Even if the group doesn't meet all of the benchmarks set out by thechallenge, English said setting "stretch goals" is the only way firmscan really look to improve.
Bobbi Liebenberg of Fine Kaplan & Black is the co-chairwoman of thePhiladelphia Bar Association's Women in the Profession Committee and shesaid she found the number of women equity partners to be troubling.
"You're really seeing kind of the two-tier kind of partnership ...becoming entrenched," she said.
That may affect men just as much, but with more women taking firms up onflextime scheduling, Liebenberg said they might become relegated to thenon-equity partnership tier.
The Women in the Profession Committee has been tallying attrition atPhiladelphia law firms and will issue a report on the findings in thefirst quarter of next year. Liebenberg said the number of women equitypartners is continuing to decline.
There is a growing trend, she said, of women attorneys older than 50leaving the profession. That, coupled with attorneys with 10 years ofexperience also leaving, creates a grim picture for women entering theprofession in terms of mentors, she said.
"The pay disparity is also very unsettling," Liebenberg said.Even if the smaller number of senior female attorneys accounts for thatdisparity, it only shows an increased importance for women to be makingequity partnership in proportion with the large number of womengraduating law school, she said.
Deborah Epstein Henry, founder of Flex-Time Lawyers, said the surveyresults are consistent with the data she has found in naming the Best 50Firms for Women.
She said the work/life challenges pointed out by the survey areincreasingly affecting men as well as women.
Both Henry and Liebenberg pointed to the fact that it would be both menand women from the younger generation that will step up and demandbetter work/life balance. That might, in turn, improve the numbers forwomen, they said.
ADDITIONAL SURVEY STATISTICS
Women constitute 49 percent of first- and second-year associates, 47percent of midlevel associates and 43 percent of seventh-yearassociates. Women make up 30 percent of the of counsel positions and 26percent of non-equity partners.
At one-tier firms, women hold 6 percent of managing partner positionsand 9 percent at two-tier firms.
English said the organization felt more comfortable emphasizing the paydisparity in this year's survey because more firms -- 55 -- responded tothe compensation questions this year than last year's 35 firms. A manwas the highest-paid partner at 90 percent of the responding 55 firmsfor the 2007 survey.
The average median compensation for male of counsels in all firms is$208,000, in contrast to $188,000 for females of counsels. The averagemedian compensation for male non-equity partners is $263,000, compared to$236,000 for females at that level. The average median compensation formale equity partners is $625,000, in contrast to $537,000 for femaleequity partners.
The "Survey on Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms" was sentto the 200 largest firms in the country, with 112 responding. The dataare as of March 1, 2007, and the respondents were generally the largerof the 200 firms.