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November 9, 2010 6:00 AM

The Careerist: Not a Good Year for Women Lawyers

Posted by Vivia Chen

Let's not mince words: The latest survey from the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) about the state of women lawyers is a real downer.

First, the familiar bad news: NAWL finds that women constitute only 15 percent of equity partners (it's been the same rate for the last five years) and are barely represented on the most influential committees at their law firms. (The study looks at the representation of women lawyers at the 200 largest law firms in the U.S.) What's more, nearly half of the firms say that there's not a single woman among their top ten rainmakers.

Now, the (sort of) new bad news: Women did not fare well during the recession. In a nutshell, the changes in the profession and the economic downturn have not been kind to lawyers in general and women in particular. (New numbers from NALP tracking diversity in large law firms were released last week, and they were consistent with other recent surveys that registered a drop in diversity at law firms. It's believed that the recession is the main culprit here. Click here for more on the NALP numbers.)

One change in the profession is the proliferation of non-partner-track lawyers. NAWL finds that 80 percent of Am Law 100 firms and 50 percent of Second Hundred firms employ staff lawyers. But the big surprise is that "more than 60 percent of staff attorneys are women--the highest percentage of women lawyers in any category or practice, and by definition, a category with little possibility of career advancement."

Click here to read more about the NAWL report from The Careerist.

 

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Are there more female lawyers in practice now than in prior years? Is this data somehow reflective of a trend where fewer female lawyers are actively working, as compared to prior year's data when they were?

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