The legal profession is not immune from the gender pay gap.

Women law firm partners earn about $66,000 a year less than their male counterparts, according to a 2010 study by the Project for Attorney Retention and the Minority Corporate Counsel Association. At the largest 200 firms in the country, women equity partners earn just 89 percent of their male peers.

A new effort from the American Bar Association aims to eliminate that pay gap through a series of free resources, the first of which is a "Toolkit for Gender Equity in Partner Compensation." The toolkit was developed by the ABA’s Gender Equality Task Force and includes a template for firms or other legal organizations to host summits or panel discussions about the gender pay gap and why it matters. The toolkit suggests bringing together a general counsel, law firm managing partner, a bar association leader and law firm compensation committee member to address matters ranging from how fair compensation systems are developed to why an equitable pay system benefits firms.

"Unequal compensation diminishes women’s prospects for success, and unfairly undervalues the material contributions of women to their firms," wrote ABA President Laurel Bellows in her introduction to the toolkit. "Plus, pay inequities have a profound effect on a firm’s performance and profits."

If women aren’t compensated fairly they will simply leave their firms, which in turn creates a brain-drain problem, Bellows wrote.

The toolkit also includes a series of slides that can be used to help drive the discussion about the pay gap problem and how it can be addressed, as well as a series of articles that highlight current research on the pay gap.

Bellows appointed the Gender Equality Task Force in August with the job of recommending solutions to eliminate the pay gap and gender bias within the legal profession. The toolkit is free, and is being distributed to law firms and bar associations around the country.

Karen Sloan can be contacted at