2018 Trend: Hard to Deny Gender Bias in the Legal Industry

We write about trends in the legal industry and one trend in 2018 that sticks out is gender bias in the legal industry. The most recent piece of evidence is the partner announcement at Paul Weiss that optically is about as tone deaf as you can get and as Joe Patrice from “Above the Law” writes:

Did your mind first focus on the venerable firm’s 2018 commitment to putting the white in white shoe? Or, putting aside the monochromatic palette, did you notice that there is only one woman, and she’s visually consigned to bottom billing? Perhaps you noticed nothing at all, which is also an acceptable answer because everyone in the legal industry is so accustomed to images like this that they appear innocuous.

The reaction to the Paul Weiss partner announcement was swift and not positive from many in-house counsel according to Christine Simmons at the New York Law Journal:

For Paul Weiss’ new partner announcement, the comments on LinkedIn came swiftly. One lawyer posted that he was inspired to require a check of diversity records of all service providers as a “condition of continued relationships,” while other in-house counsel said they were “dismayed by the homogeneity of this set of new partners” and called the announcement “very disappointing.”

To its credit, Paul Weiss has vowed to do better:

Brad Karp, Paul Weiss chairman, said, “We certainly can—and will—do better. I regret the gender and racial imbalance in our newly elected partnership class (one woman, one Latino, one LGBTQ partner, only 25 percent diverse), which resulted from an idiosyncratic demographic pool and which I can assure you will not be repeated.”

From partner announcements we then shift to law firm and in-house lawyer pay gaps where the the gaps are significant. From Kathryn Rubino at “Above the Law” commenting on the Major, Lindsey, & Africa and Acritas Partner Compensation Study that was recently released:

Hold on for some infuriating and disappointing numbers. According to the fifth biennial Partner Compensation Surveyby Major, Lindsey & Africa and Acritas, on average male partners make $959,000 in compensation compared to the average $627,000 for female partners — that’s a difference of 53 percent. This year’s survey, which is based on the responses of 1,390 partners at large law firms across the U.S., reveals the worst pay gap since 2010, the year MLA began querying partners about their compensation. In 2010, the reported pay gap was 32 percent, 48 percent in 2012, 47 percent in 2014, and 44 percent in 2016.

There’s also a gender pay gap of 39% when it comes to General Counsels where according to Melissa Heelan Stanzione at Bloomberg Law female General Counsels make $125,000 less than male General Counsels this according to a study by the Association of Corporate Counsel and LawGeex.

The average pay for a general counsel in the U.S. is $408,000, including both salary and performance-based bonuses, according to the report. But male GCs earn an average of $453,625 a year in the position, and women GCs an average of $326,477.

We’ve also seen a variety of gender bias pay discrimination lawsuits being filed. Whether those make a difference remains to be seen but change has to come from within. Lawsuits don’t often foster change just more closing of the ranks and/or doing the bare minimum.

Hopefully, 2019 brings about a conversation and movement within the legal industry to close the gender pay gap in a meaningful way. The optics, the data, and the facts all jump off the page.