According to the 2019 National Association of Women Lawyers Survey on Promotion and Retention of Women in Law Firms in the last decade, women have made up 50 percent of law school graduates. According to the American Bar Association, Commission on Women in the Profession- A Current Glance at Women in the Law, April 2019, women made up 48.69 percent of total J.D. enrollment and 50 percent of J.D.s awarded. Despite those statistics, women make up only 38 percent of the legal profession. (ABA Current Glance 2019). Somewhere along the line, we are actually losing women in the practice of law despite increased enrollment in law school.
In Fortune 500 companies, women make up 30 percent of general counsel and less than 24 percent of Fortune 500-1000 general counsel. (ABA Current Glance 2019). In law firms, women make up about 21 percent of all equity partners, nationally. (2019 NAWL Survey). White women make up 88 percent of female equity partners and 19 percent of equity partners overall. Women of color represent only about 3 percent of all equity partners, and 12 percent of female equity partners. Id. Globally, male partners are paid 27 percent more than female partners. (ABA Current Glance 2019).
In the civil litigation, women represent 32 percent of attorneys appearing in civil trials. (Where are all the women lawyers? Diversity in the legal profession in California: 2015 by D. Chang and S. Chopra, Ph.D.) 24 percent of lead counsel at trial are women. Id. When women are lead counsel, it is for the defense 60 percent of the time. Id. According to the Stanford Law School Stanford Criminal Justice Center Diversity in Prosecutor’s Offices, Views from the Front Line 2016, the study found that women are not generally underrepresented among total state prosecutors but are underrepresented in supervisory positions; 41.2 percent supervisory and 32.7 percent of elected District Attorneys.
In a perfect world, there is gender equity in the practice of law. In a perfect world, women and men get paid the same for the same amount of work; women and men get advanced based on merit alone; women and men stand equal chances in getting elevated to the bench. In a perfect world, women lawyers wouldn’t have to worry about taking time off if they get pregnant or if their child is sick;women lawyers wouldn’t have to worry that having a drink with their senior partner while talking about a case would put them at risk for sexual assault or sexual harassment; women lawyers wouldn’t have to sit second chair; women lawyers wouldn’t have to hear how they only got a certain client, job, or appointment because of the way they look; and women lawyers wouldn’t hear that they should dress differently or lose weight or smile more.
But this isn’t a perfect world.This is why there’s MSheLE.
Women lawyers of all ages, races, experience, and across all locations struggle every day to walk their path and continue moving forward. We, as women lawyers, have a choice; we can accept the dynamic or we can work to overcome it. MSheLE is geared towards empowering women lawyers and helping them overcome obstacles to success in their careers.