Women in the Law

Continued Dip in Number of Female Associates Is 'Significant and Troubling Trend'

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The percentage of female associates in law firms has fallen slightly for the third year in a row, even as women made small gains in partnership ranks, according to NALP, the Association for Legal Career Professionals.

Women made up 45.05 percent of associates in an “incremental but steady slide from 45.66 percent in 2009,” according to a NALP press release.

Women account for 19.91 percent of law firm partners, compared to 19.54 percent last year. Overall, women represent 32.67 percent of lawyers in law firms in 2012, compared with 32.61 percent in 2011 and 32.69 percent in 2010. The high water mark, reached in 2009, was 32.97 percent.

NALP executive director James Leipold calls the lower numbers for women associates “a significant and troubling trend” in the press release. “While the percentage of women partners, small as it is, has continued to grow, that incremental growth will likely become unsustainable if the percentage of women associates continues to inch downward,” he says.

Minorities now make up 12.91 percent of lawyers at law firms, compared with 12.7 percent in 2011. Minorities account for 6.71 percent of law firm partners, up from 6.56 percent last year. Minorities make up 20.32 percent of the associate ranks, up from 19.9 percent last year.

Minority women are “the most dramatically underrepresented group” at the partnership level, comprising 2.16 percent of partners in 2012, the press release says.

The figures are compiled from NALP’s Directory of Legal Employers.

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