BigLaw:  Still A White “Bro’s Club”

Hey — who cares if BigLaw is white and male as long as you can charge $1,000 per hour (or more!).   Its all about the money, after all.  Isn’t it?

Woman, Girl, Sit, Bank, Silhouettes

Attorneys:  All the more reason to “go over the wall” and escape BigLaw … you have nothing to lose but your chains!

Now back to the post.

Things are moving fast around BigLaw when it comes to sexism, gender pay disparity and lack of diversity.

Women Sue BigLaw

First, we had the $100 million putative class action alleging pay disparity by a woman against her BigLaw firm alleging that lateral male partners made almost double what she made even though she had a greater origination.

Business, Men, Male, People, Businessmen

As Amy wrote here:

“Yep, at least five BigLaw firms across the country allegedly paid their female lawyers substantially less than their male counterparts.  For the same job!  … [They] have sued their former firms for sex discrimination, retaliation, and violations of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (“EPA”).”

Male Partners Make 44% More Than Female Partners

Then – the second shoe dropped: “A survey just released by Major, Lindsey & Africa found that ‘women partners make on average about 69 cents for every dollar male partners make. That’s a greater disparity than statistics on compensation by gender for all lawyers or only equity partners.’  That’s 44% more for males!”

“Much of the inequity is due to origination,” said a survey spokesman.  He continued: “That’s the crux of the issue: Why are men generating more business than women? Is there some boys club aspect or not?”

NYC Bar:  Diversity In NYC BigLaw In A Sorry State 

Now, the third shoe:  the New York Law Journal has just reported that “Despite more than a decade of New York law firms pledging to enhance diversity in their ranks, minority representation within associate and partners levels stalled last year, and attrition rates for female and minority attorneys remained disproportionately high, according to new survey results.”  The survey was conducted by the NYC Bar Association, and it is called the 2015 Diversity Benchmarking Report.

“The rate of progress … is disappointingly slow,” said the City Bar President.

Apparently 75 BigLaw firms responded to the Bar’s survey.  But why would these retrograde firms actually report these negative results?  Because … it was mandatory!   “[P]articipation in the survey was mandatory in order to be listed as a signatory to the City Bar Statement of Diversity Principles,” noted the Benchmarking Report.

Some of the key results set out in the Report, as noted in the Law Journal:

“Overall, firms are struggling to meet key statements in the diversity principles they signed onto, and women and minority attorneys are leaving at high numbers. Among all attorneys, 18.4 percent of women and 20.8 percent of minorities left last year, compared with only 12.9 percent of white men.”

“While only 44 percent of current associates are white men, they make up 75 percent of current partners. About 26 percent of associates are racial and ethnic minorities compared to 8 percent of partners.”

“And along gender lines, about 44 percent of associates are women, compared to 20 percent of partners.”

The latest data showed that 85 percent of all female partners were white. Among the rest of female partners, 7 percent were Asian and Pacific Islander, 3.6 percent were black and 2.5 percent were Hispanic.

“Minority associates dropped last year to 25.9 percent from 26.2 percent in 2014. It reached its highest in 2013 at 26.9 percent.”

There were a few bright spots – but not many.

Takeaway:  Everyone should read this Report!  Especially those for whom BigLaw is not the nirvana or golden goose you were always told it is.

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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]