Each year, typically around this time, the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) and The NAWL Foundation release the results of their annual Survey on Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms. This survey is the only one of its kind, as it collects data on hundreds of law firms as a whole rather than from a subset of individual lawyers. The data comes from tracking of the progress of female lawyers at all levels of private practice up to the most senior positions.
As noted by NAWL’s 2015 report, the situation for female lawyers remains challenging. Some notable data include:
- Women account for only 18 percent of equity partnerships — that’s a two percent increase over the past ten years.
- Not a single firm reported having a woman as their highest earner.
- The typical female equity partner earns 80 percent of what a typical male equity partner earns.
- Lawyers of color represent only eight percent of equity partnership roles nationwide. Lawyers who identify as LGBT make up only two precent.
These numbers are a small sampling of the facts and figures available in the report. They help illustrate the breadth of the problem facing our profession and point towards an underlying systemic issue that routinely undervalues the role of women and minorities in the practice of law. I encourage you to download the report and give it a closer read.
Unfortunately, a lack of diversity in the legal arena is a persistent problem that plagues our profession. The only way to combat this kind of injustice is to make active strides towards inclusion. Every law firm in America needs to ask themselves if they’re doing everything they can to ensure that their firm doesn’t remain stuck in a non-diverse rut.
It is our hope at Milestone that this year’s NAWL Survey on Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms will be markedly better and will continue to improve every year. Unless the legal profession as a whole actively works to fix this problem, it won’t get better. The numbers published annually by NAWL is clear evidence that a lack of diversity continues to be a very real problem. It is incumbent upon everyone who considers justice to be a worthwhile goal that we take strides to improve the situation for women and minority professionals.