Women Lawyers Gaining Representation in Law Firms

women lawyers leadingGender inequality in the workplace has been a hot topic in the media for quite some time now and we’ve frequently reported on it here at the Commission on Professionalism. For example, as we’ve written before, male lawyers are three times more likely to be lead counsel in civil cases than women lawyers.

It makes you wonder, if this is going on in the courtroom then what does today’s law firm office setting look like? The visual isn’t much better, but there’s hope, especially as the enrollment numbers of women in law school have continued to rise over the years.

Each year, Law360 surveys more than 300 law firms in the United States to track the representation of women lawyers in the profession. This year, the numbers went up, but unfortunately not by much.

This year’s report compared the percentage make-up of female v. male lawyers at more than 300 law firms, specifically measuring their percentage across the board, the percentage of partners and non-partners, and the change in percentages from 2013, 2014, and 2015. The study also compared these results with the size of the firm in question as well.

From 2013 to 2015, the percentage of female attorneys in the firm barely moved, rising from 33.2% to 34% (+0.8%), showing that men make up still about two-thirds of the office.

When looking strictly at nonpartners from 2013 to 2015, the numbers look somewhat better. Female representation increased by 0.4% for a total of 43.8% meaning the representation of males was at 56.2%.

However, when looking at the number of women in both partner and equity partner roles, the number of women lawyers remained low. 22.2% (up 1% since 2013) of women were partners, and female equity partners make up 19.2% (up 2.3% since 2013) of the law firms surveyed in this study.

This report broke the numbers above down and compared them with the size of the law firm in question, looking at firms with less than 100 lawyers, firms with 101-499 lawyers, lawyers with 500-999 lawyers, and those with over 1000 lawyers. Interestingly enough, the size of the firm didn’t impact the rate of women lawyers employed at these firms at any leadership level.

Generally speaking the percentage of all female attorneys ranged from 32% to 36.3%, the percentage of female nonpartners ranged from 42.5% to 45.2%, and the percentage of partners including those with equity ranged from 21.8% to 23.6%.

Though the percentage of women lawyers taking on leadership levels is generally still very low across the board there are exceptions – these firms are breaking that trend, meaning there’s hope for our women lawyer leaders.


[Please note that the study was completed by Law360 which requires a paid subscription to read.]


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