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It’s boys against girls in the courtroom, and the boys are still winning. That’s what a recently published study of more than 700 female attorneys found, with a large majority of the respondents saying that the legal profession is still a male-dominated world. More than half said they felt gender bias in the courtroom. Many said that they put off having children to make partner. And nearly all said that they struggled with balancing the need to be assertive with the fear of being labeled aggressive. “The playing field is certainly more level, but is it 50-50? No, we’re not there yet,” said attorney Keri Lynn Bush, who interviewed respondents for the study, conducted by the DRI-The Voice of the Defense Bar, the nation’s largest defense bar association. The recently released study included more than 100 interviews with attorneys and judges of both genders, as well as an electronic survey of 765 female respondents. Among the findings were: More than 70% of female lawyers reported experiencing gender bias in the courtroom. More than 65% said there is a glass ceiling for women defense attorneys. More than 61% have considered leaving the legal profession due to gender issues, such as the pressure of raising a family. In addition to statistics, the report also cited anecdotal evidence of gender bias. For example, a judge reported that often when female litigators get combative, their voices get shrill and turn off juries. Several male attorneys said they shied away from hiring female lawyers fearing their wives might get angry. And there were reports of judges calling female lawyers “honey” or “dear” and commenting on the way they dress. “It’s disturbing and it’s discouraging, but it’s not surprising,” Diane Yu, chair of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession, said of the report. According to the ABA, 29.1% of American lawyers are women, with more than 308,000 female attorneys in the U.S. Their median weekly earnings are $1,237, which is only 75% of the $1,610 earned by men. Stereotypes: a big problem Yu said one of the biggest and oldest problems facing female lawyers is stereotypes. Men are viewed as more competent, she said. And women are always careful not to appear too aggressive, or not aggressive enough. Yu said premature departures by female attorneys is a growing problem in the legal profession, costing firms between $250,000 to $500,000. “It’s a waste of talent. It’s a waste of potential achievement, and it’s a waste of money,” said Yu, who encourages law firms to work harder at meeting women’s needs. According to Yu, 40% of lawyers will be women by 2010.

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