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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, August 6, 2018

Why Do Experienced Female Lawyers Leave The Profession?

ABA Logo (2016)ABA Journal, Why Do Experienced Female Lawyers Leave? Disrespect, Social Constraints, ABA Survey Says:

Women in law already face unique challenges, but for those practicing more than 20 years, the likelihood of continued longevity becomes even more stark.

That issue was highlighted during the ABA panel discussion “Long-Term Careers for Women in Law: What’s Pushing Women Out and What Can We Do to Keep Them in the Profession,” on Friday during the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Preliminary results from a survey of 1,300 respondents from the nation’s 350 largest firms, conducted in partnership with ALM Intelligence, underscored the disparate challenges, stereotypes and burdens women lawyers faced compared to their male colleagues, even at the senior level. For example:

  • 81 percent of women say they were mistaken for a lower-level employee, but this didn’t happen to men.
  • 60 percent of women said they’d left firms because of caretaking commitments, compared to 46 percent of men.
  • 54 percent of women said they were responsible for arranging child care, as opposed to 1 percent of men.
  • 39 percent of women said the task of cooking meals fell on their shoulders, compared to 11 percent of men.
  • 34 percent of women say they leave work for children’s needs, versus 5 percent of men.

“Too many great minds are leaving the profession,” said JoAnne Epps, executive vice president and provost of Temple University, and former dean of Temple Law School in Philadelphia. “Everyone needs to care about that—not just women, not just men. I really believe that what we bring is valuable, and our loss is significant. If people recognize it’s a crisis, it’s a step in the process to fix this.”

National Law Journal, Women Partners, Law Firm Leaders Have Vastly Different Big Law Lives, Study Shows

Legal Education | Permalink


"81 percent of women say they were mistaken for a lower-level employee, but this didn’t happen to men."

This is sadly reminiscent of the results of a study conducted by Netxtion a few years ago: the think tank created a legal memo that was deliberately peppered with errors ranging from miniscule (grammar) to major (mistakes of law). The memo was then given to about 60 or so law firm partners, who were asked to score the memo and were told that it was written not by Nextions, but by a third-year associate and NYU Law alum at a major law firm named Thomas Meyer. The twist was that half the partners were told that "Thomas Meyer" was white, and the other half that he was African-American. The resultant disparity in scoring and commentary was exactly as predictable and depressing as you would expect.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Aug 6, 2018 2:12:17 PM

Here's Jordan Peterson's take on why talented women lawyers leave the profession:

Posted by: Michael W. Perry | Aug 6, 2018 4:05:05 PM

This is such a joke. They're called kids.

Don't trust "surveys."

Posted by: Anon | Aug 6, 2018 6:41:43 PM

“Too many great minds are leaving the profession,”

The law's loss is the nation's gain.

Posted by: John | Aug 7, 2018 2:49:30 AM

I think part of the reason is that male lawyers, particularly at the top levels of the profession, are much better at talking about women's rights than actually practicing them. This begins at elite law schools and continues all the way through. It changes but very, very slowly.

Posted by: Mike Livingston | Aug 7, 2018 3:31:33 AM

NB, they surveyed only BigLaw employees.

The thrust of this that it's a social problem when married couples have a certain division of labor (which they adopt without being coerced by anyone). Of course, the people leaving the profession are seldom 'great minds'. They're ordinary lawyers of varying skill levels, commitment, and aptitudes.

Posted by: Art Deco | Aug 7, 2018 10:21:33 AM

This is sadly reminiscent of

It's not reminiscent of that at all.

Posted by: Art Deco | Aug 7, 2018 10:22:44 AM

Women are not "pushed out," which the article doesn't prove and which exposes itself as nothing but a progressive gripe session. Women leave work because of individual choices, most frequently to care for their families, which they view as more important. But, many believe that the individual choices and families of women should be set aside for the statistical good of the sisterhood.

Staying home with kids is not bad. What is bad is demanding that women and firms set aside individual choices and needs for social "progress" as activists define it...and, the activists really don't care what others have to give up for their causes.

Posted by: Woody | Aug 7, 2018 12:45:18 PM

Art's assessment seems correct to me.
Woody's claim aligns with my observations over 35 years, though I can't know with confidence whether my experience (one BigLaw firm) is necessarily typical.

Posted by: Mike Petrik | Aug 8, 2018 7:10:24 AM