For those of you who may have missed it, we refer you forthwith to Brian Dalton’s latest column on Above The Law, Is There a Business Case for More Female BigLaw Partners?” Anyone with a scintilla of conscience can only look at the information presented there with some combination of shame and dismay—if not despair.

A few quick highlights and then our own take on the situation. (Disclosure: Brian is a friend and we had an early peek at the data underlying his article.)

  • The ratio of male:female law school graduates has been all but equal for at least the past 30 years. (The NALP figures for the Class of 2012 are here, showing a 47% female: 53% male ratio.)
  • Yet for as long as most of you practicing today have been around, the AmLaw 200 has averaged around 17% female partners—that’s about one in six.
  • Anyone and everyone looking at this situation has reached the conclusion, as Brian puts it, that “if the legal profession — specifically law firms — is truly trying to foster the advancement of women attorneys, we can all stipulate that the effort is thus far a failure.”

Comes now the National Association of Women Lawyers with a breathtaking chart on the gender distribution by law firm role, and it’s two straight lines with opposite slopes showing the lower-ranked and lower-paid the position in a law firm, the more women are there:


[Note: Both the HBR article that reprints this NAWL finding and the Above the Law piece note incorrectly that “every year, top law firms recruit 60% female and 40% male law graduates.” That’s not the case; they recruit roughly 50/50. It’s the staff attorneys whose ranks are >60% female and <40% male. This correction only makes the news worse, of course, since {partner-track} associates are higher on the prestige food chain than staff attorneys. The correlation between male/higher prestige and female/lower prestige is only reinforced.]

One reason I’ve written so infrequently about diversity and gender imbalance issues here at Adam Smith, Esq. (an intentional decision, since you ask) is that there has seemed so distressingly little of cogence to say on the subject beyond lamenting the blistering inequity of it. I also find sermonizing unbecoming.

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