At this rate, women equity partners will reach 30 percent—by 2081. Without extraordinary new efforts, parity remains a distant possibility[1]

It is no secret that a lack of gender diversity is a long suffering issue for most industries, resulting in women facing greater risk of disenfranchisement by implicit bias within predominantly male organizations and in a lack of women in top leadership roles.

Big Law, in particular, is at a crossroads when it comes to gender diversity. In fact, the number of female lawyers in the Am Law 200 has flat-lined for the past five years at slightly over 30% of the workforce.  There is no disputing that this is an embarrassing statistic.  As enforcers of equal opportunity, lawyers are at the forefront of the push for equality as a legal matter. At the same time, the law is consistently ranked as one of the worst industries for hiring and retaining a diverse workforce and has failed to improve the bottom line despite efforts to change.

ALM Intelligence analysis provides a new understanding for how to assist Big Law in both recruiting and retaining top female talent by focusing on market metrics to illustrate the critical role that underlying data, such as practice area and location statistics by gender, may have on Big Law diversity. Practice areas and locations with a lower female presence face more hurdles in battling implicit bias and in providing necessary training and mentorship to attract more female talent. Empowered with a new way to view the problem, Big Law can begin to improve its reputation.

The report, Where Do We Go from Here?: Big Law’s Struggle with Recruiting and Retaining Female Talent, offers a new way to approach solving gender diversity in the legal industry and equips firms with a checklist of best practices to assist firms in this endeavor. It also includes notable findings such as:

  • Underlying Metrics are the Key to a Solution: Firms who analyze their underlying statistics can gain greater understanding into which practice areas and locations are enabling implicit bias.
  • Niche Practice Areas are Better Represented by Female Attorneys: Niche practice areas (including immigration, family law, health care, education, and labor and employment), are the practice areas with the greatest proportion of women. However, top practice areas for Big Law (including litigation, corporate and banking) are not well-represented by female attorneys.
  • Female Talent is Often Underrepresented in States with a Large Law School Talent Pools: The data indicates that Big Law struggles with hiring and retention even in locations with strong pools of female talent.

While the headline data indicates that law firms are a long way off from solving this issue, the underlying data shows that there are defined areas where creative analysis and problem solving are the key to crossing the gender divide.

The report is complimentary and available here.

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[1] The American Lawyer on the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) Challenge.

Daniella is a Senior Analyst at ALM Legal Intelligence. Her experience includes advising law departments in relation to strategy, technology, market intelligence, and operations. A member of the New York Bar Association, Daniella holds a Juris Doctor degree from The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. She can be reached via email, Twitter, or LinkedIn.