The American Bar Association's Commission on Women in the Profession this month released a second edition of "Fair Measure Toward Effective Attorney Evaluations," which is a guide for law firms about how to eliminate bias toward female lawyers.
The manual specifically looks at how to conduct performance reviews that are fair to both men and women. According to the guide, women now constitute nearly half of law school graduates and 30 percent of all lawyers, but make up only 17 percent of partners in private firms. The guide says this is at least partially due to a biased job evaluation process.
The manual was written by Joan Williams, a professor at Hastings College of the Law-University of California and co-director of the Project for Attorney Retention, and Consuela Pinto, education director for the Project for Attorney Retention. They write that, over time, gender bias can lead to lower evaluation scores for women, which can translate into fewer opportunities to build client relationships or work on challenging assignments.
Bryan Cave partner Elaine Koch helped edit the report. She emphasizes that the workplace environment for female lawyers has vastly improved since she began her law career. Still, she says some prejudices remain, such as the impression that "a woman who has the same assertiveness as a male is too aggressive" or that a woman is less committed to her career after having a child.
Koch says the report "can't change society" but hopes it will help employers recognize workplace biases. She says one of the most important tips offered in the manual is to be as specific as possible during performance reviews by focusing on certain skills and results as opposed to relying on broad generalizations.
First reported in The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times