NYT: Comparing Apples and Oranges on percent of women in law firms

Although the nation's law schools for years have been graduating classes that are almost evenly split between men and women, and although firms are absorbing new associates in numbers that largely reflect that balance, something unusual happens to most women after they begin to climb into the upper tiers of law firms. They disappear.

According to the National Association for Law Placement, a trade group that provides career counseling to lawyers and law students, only about 17 percent of the partners at major law firms nationwide were women in 2005, a figure that has risen only slightly since 1995, when about 13 percent of partners were women.

Even those who have made it to the top of their profession say that the data shows that women's legal careers involve distinct, often insurmountable hurdles and that those hurdles remain misunderstood or underexamined. . . .

For their graph on the percentage of women law partners over time see here.

One obvious problem with their data is that people might be lawyers for 40 or 50 years, but women didn't reach 40 percent of law school students until twenty years ago and didn't reach 50 percent until 2000. It was 20 percent thirty years ago and 10 percent just 23 years ago. It is the average over the entire period that counts, not just the most recent graduation numbers. Indeed if it takes 7 years or so for people to become partners you can't even compare the graduation rates prior to 1997 (since their numbers end in 2004).

A second possible problem is that law schools might have let in lower quality women then men inorder to get the admission rates so high for women.

I am not sure what to say about this quote: "Lauren Stiller Rikleen says many women don't like being part of 'a billable-hour production unit.' " If workers don't like that arrangement and are willing to take sufficiently lower pay to compensate for the loss in efficiency, we would see law firms set up around those alternative arrangements. Since I don't think that we see many firms like that, it seems that isn't true.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home