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Survey Finds 'Deep Vein of Anger' Among Women Partners Over Law Firm Pay Gap


What is being billed as a first-of-a-kind survey of female law firm partners has revealed a “deep vein of anger” over pay disparities.

“A recent Census Bureau report revealed that the median income of women lawyers is only 74 percent of that of male lawyers. Unfortunately, what starts as a $2,000 annual gap between male and female associates accelerates to a $66,000 annual gap between male and female equity partners,” write Roberta Liebenberg and Catherine Lamboley in a letter introducing a report (PDF) on the survey, New Millenium, Same Glass Ceiling? The Impact of Law Firm Compensation Systems on Women.

Liebenberg and Lamboley are, respectively, the chair and a member of the American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession, which collaborated on the survey with the Project for Attorney Retention and the Minority Corporate Counsel Association. PAR and MCCA released the report today. It includes comments from some unidentified female partners who say they are paid roughly half of what their male counterparts earn.

Although conventional wisdom says women lawyers are paid less due to a stronger focus on family, responses from the almost 700 partners surveyed suggested that being bullied out of origination credit and omitted from compensation committees may play a more significant role in an apparent gender-based pay gap, according to a press release from PAR and MCCA.

The survey found that women partners earn 22 percent less than what men earn.

“We knew there was a compensation gap, but we were surprised to find such intense dissatisfaction,” says Joan Williams in the release. Williams is a law professor at the University of California-Hastings and serves as director of the Center for WorkLife Law there as well as director of the Project for Attorney Retention.

For more about the survey, read the full report (PDF).

Related earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Partner Push-Out: Nearly 8 Percent of Women Partners Were De-Equitized, Survey Finds”

ABAJournal.com: “Multiple Women Make Partner at Some Firms, While Others Promote All-Male Classes”

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