Lorelie Masters has her own theory about women’s lack of progress in the legal profession. It isn’t so much about telecommuting on Fridays or meeting draconian billable goals. The president of the Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia has a different beef — with the subtle slights, hidden assumptions and veiled sexism that undercut many women in the corporate legal world. It’s what some have called “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

It’s far too easy for law firms today to shrug their shoulders when yet another woman departs, says Masters. They tell themselves: We tried, but there’s nothing we really could have done — she just wanted to spend more time with her family. That exculpates the firm and shifts the blame to the lawyer who’s leaving.

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