Is another lawyer as tired as I am? In the past few years, the ABA has published several reports on how women are doing at work. The most recent report reads “In their own words”. The report, subtitled “Senior Women Lawyers Explain Why They Are Leaving Their Law Firm and Their Profession,” has many examples. It is an agonizing decision for majority and minority lawyers to leave their law firms (or corporate law departments) and even decide to quit the profession.
The study focuses on women who have been in the practice for at least 15 years. So these are not newbies who have left or are going; These are female lawyers who have made significant investments in their careers. The reasons women have left can be traced back to a number of prominent categories: wage inequality, exclusion from credit, isolation, and the feeling that their contributions are not recognized or rewarded.
Despite my hopes that my second wave feminism would produce male children in the 1970s that women would consider equals, it did not. What makes me sad as I read the report is how little has really changed and how it is largely “same old, same old”. I blame corporate law firm and legal leadership, colleagues who do not view female lawyers as an asset, and business people who do not want women to be close to their affairs.
One of the Shockeroo statistics in the report shows that it will be 2181 (no typo) before female lawyers achieve professional equality with their male counterparts. Shame. Someone for cryonics?
And as if women didn’t already know, who do you think will be more represented when the offices reopen?
Some examples women have given for their departure are hard to believe that some men in the third decade of the 21st century still have the caveman attitude of hunter-gatherers, while women are supposed to tend the house fires.
Wage differentials, both real and perceived. “[A]At my last company, there were two male partners who were … probably an average of $ 75,000 more than me. And the two of them together didn’t produce what I produced. … [W]When I asked someone about this, I was told, “Well, so and so, he has two children and he has a family to look after.”
Many years ago, in my first corporate job, I was essentially told the same thing. A male attorney who graduated from another law school a year before me was hired after me but with a higher position and salary and the alleged reason given was that he was a wife and children and I only had one husband.
Origination Credit: When this attorney first walked into her office, a matter came up and the senior partner said, ‘I have no idea what this is. I do not want to do that. Does anyone want it? ‘The partner volunteered immediately, although the nature of the matter was not her specialty. She then built a million dollar ledger in this new role. However, the senior partner who passed the matter on to them took all the original credit. When addressing this inequality, the senior partner replied, “My God, we just didn’t think you cared about money that much.” “Really?”
Collegiality has gone the way of the video recorder. It’s hyper-competitive now instead of working as a team. It’s dog eat dog. Just one example: One respondent shared how she had built up an extensive ledger with a customer when an elderly man came into her office and said the customer was in his Rolodex. [Remember those?] When she protested, he insisted, and only through the client’s intervention could she get credit for the business. By the way, customers don’t want to be involved in internal disputes.
The isolation is taking an enormous toll on lawyers, especially because of the pandemic. There is no time to build relationships. It’s only about billable hours. It’s about closed office doors and isolated work with no time to exchange ideas, another side effect of the lack of collegiality. The absence of women in leadership positions adds to this isolation, and lawyers of color feel the isolation even more.
And of course we cannot forget about sexist and racist behavior. “I would say without exception that every attorney, attorney I’ve spoken to, be friends with, close enough to speak to, has experienced some form of discrimination.” Naturally.
One woman who has stopped practicing law and has now consulted for law firms said: “I am more focused on age discrimination with women than with men. I tend to look at undyed gray hair in women the way I look at visible tattoos. “Wait what? Women are told that a man with gray hair is often viewed as “gravitas,” but that does not apply to women. Age discrimination is alive and well and lives in hair color.
Other reasons women lawyers leave the company include being handed over for promotion at both outside firms and in-house, long hours, and unpredictable schedules. The report says, “Inequality issues are significantly reduced and may go away the day men realize something is wrong when they walk into a room in the law firm and don’t see a significant number of female lawyers.” We wish.
How much more difficult can it get for lawyers? Here is just one example:
And just three years ago a federal judge in Texas said, “It was a lot easier when you were wearing dark suits, white shirts, and navy ties. We didn’t let girls do it before. “Res ipsa loquitur.
Jill Switzer has been an active member of the State Bar of California for over 40 years. She remembers working as a lawyer in a kinder time. She had a varied legal career, including as deputy district attorney, as a solo practice and as a senior in-house gigs. She now teaches all day what gives her the opportunity to see dinosaurs, millennials, and the people in between – it’s not always bourgeois. You can reach them by email at [email protected].