Hilarie Bass

It is a recurring refrain: Despite significant efforts, the progress of women toward proportionate parity in the ranks of leading lawyers, partners, general counsel positions and similar metrics has been painfully slow. Each time the topic comes to the fore, the participants highlight the value of a more diverse legal leadership, but the “why?” gets lost in the discussion of “why not?”

Why is it that law school graduating classes and bar-admitted are at least (and sometimes more than) 50 percent female, yet the proportion shrinks steadily as measured against time in the profession? Most of the answers suggested are based on anecdotal evidence, are statistically unreliable, and confuse cause and effect.

We therefore applaud the recently announced initiative of the president of the American Bar Association, Hilarie Bass, to provide an answer. This month the ABA is sponsoring a conference at Harvard Law School, with specific applied research projects and analysis to follow. “Achieving Long Term Careers for Women in the Law,” as the initiative is titled, hopefully will lessen the power of stereotypes and instead arm the profession with reliable information on which to formulate reforms.