Lawyer Pay

Women Lawyers at the Top Earn Significantly Less than Men

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A new survey shows “slow progress” for women in the upper echelons of big law firms.

The survey (PDF) by the National Association of Women Lawyers finds that only 16 percent of equity partners at large law firms are women, and they earn almost $90,000 less than their male counterparts, a salary disparity that increased from a year ago.

Male equity partners earn a median salary of $625,000 and females $537,000, the Legal Intelligencer reports. The survey says at least part of the difference may be because of the substantially greater number of male equity partners.

The pay difference is even greater at firms with higher billable-hour requirements, where female equity partners earn $140,000 less than males.

Salary differences continue at other levels, though they are not as pronounced. Female of counsels earn $20,000 less than males (with median compensation of $188,000 and $208,000 respectively), and female nonequity partners earn $27,000 less (with median compensation of $236,000 and $263,000 respectively).

Women hold 30 percent of the of counsel positions and 26 percent of nonequity partnerships.

Bobbi Liebenberg, chair of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Women in the Profession Committee, told the Intelligencer she found the low number of women equity partners to be troubling and the pay disparity “unsettling.”

She said there is a growing trend of women lawyers over the age of 50 leaving the profession and more women opting for flextime schedules. Those who stay may be relegated to nonequity tiers because they chose flexible options, she said.

The survey was sent to 200 of the nation’s largest law firms, and 112 responded. Only 55 firms offered compensation information.

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