The Legal Advocate

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The Gender Gap in Law Firms: A Little Less Talk and A Lot More Action

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written by guest blogger Caren Ulrich Stacy

The lack of women lawyers in the upper ranks at law firms has been a problem for decades, and it’s only getting worse.

Although there is typically a 50/50 gender split at the entry level, only sixteen percent of partners are women.   And, to further exacerbate the pipeline issue, this year marks the fourth consecutive annual decline in the number of mid-/senior-level female associates in large law firms.

No one seems to debate that this is an important issue that warrants attention.  But it also seems that no one knows exactly what to do about it.  So, we talk about it.  We brainstorm.  We come up with ideas and then dissect them to the point that nothing ever gets done because the solution is not easily achievable.

Four major law firms—Baker Botts, Sidley, Cooley, and Hogan Lovells—are finally moving past the “talk” stage into serious action.  To replenish the leaky pipeline, they are banding together to pilot a new initiative called the OnRamp Fellowship.

The Fellowship is a re-entry platform for women lawyers who have taken a break from practicing for one reason or another.  These returning women broaden their skills, experience, and legal contacts through one-year, paid fellowships at top law firms through complex legal work and training provided by legal career development experts and CLE vendors.  There are fellowship opportunities this year in fifteen cities across the United States, including Houston, Dallas, Chicago, Washington, D.C., New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

The goal is to increase gender diversity in law firms.

But, for this initiative to succeed, the word must get out to women lawyers who want to return.  You can help by telling two people and asking them to tell two people.  Post an announcement about the OnRamp Fellowship on LinkedIn and Twitter.  “Share” this blog post with your colleagues.  Direct anyone who is interested to

A little “action” on your part will go a long way in helping us to increase gender diversity in the profession.

2 thoughts on “The Gender Gap in Law Firms: A Little Less Talk and A Lot More Action
  • This is no mystery to me. Practicing the kind of law described is hard work and brings sacrifices with it. You know the old saying about the law being a jealous mistress. It’s also a jealous mister, too. Also, it’s not just women where this problem exists, but across the board. It just has the appearance of men not being subject to the same thing as there are more of them, though the demographic on that is changing as time goes on.

    The reason behind the problem is always shouted down as sexist and discriminatory, yet it’s true. The vast majority of women simply don’t want to work as hard as you have to work and sacrifice what you have to sacrifice to reach those goals. I’ve been in a medium sized firm most of my career and it is extremely difficult to get the female members to do anything more than work 8 to 5 and pick up a check. Not one of the females has remained, though only about one-third of the males have made it, too.

    In my firm they have had every opportunity and even more indulgences to accommodate their wishes, but it always ends up the same way…they want an easier job, or a bigger cut than their production and contribution justifies. That usually means doing one certain kind of thing for a government or government-like employer in the end after leaving and trying to run their own practice–unsuccessfully in most instances.

  • I’d offer that it’s more pressing to support and retain the midlevel and senior female associates who are still out here hacking it in BigLaw.

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