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Fewer women attorneys are entering big law firms

NAWL study shows noted decline for first time in six years

According to a study by the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL), fewer women entered big law firm practice. For the first time since the Survey on Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms launched in 2006, results marked a “noted decline” with women accounting for 47 percent of current first- and second-year associates at big firms, down from 48 percent in prior surveys.

Other survey findings:

  • Women account for about 15% of equity partners, a figure that has gone mostly unchanged in six years
  • Women constitute 44% of 7th-year associates, 34% of counsel, 25% of nonequity partners and barely 15% of equity partners
  • Most large firms have only two women members on their highest governing committee
  • 45% of large law firms have either no women or only one woman on their highest governing committee

“The sixth year of the survey presents a sobering picture,” Stephanie Scharf said in a Nov. 10 press release. Scharf, the NAWL Foundation’s president and a partner at Schoeman Updike Kaufman & Scharf, has designed and developed the survey since 2006. “Not only do women represent a decreasing percentage of lawyers in big firms, they are more likely to occupy positions—like staff attorneys, counsel and fixed-income equity partners—with diminished opportunity for advancement or participation in firm leadership.”

View the full 6th Annual National Survey on Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms report.

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Cathleen Flahardy

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