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August 4, 2009

Women and Minorities Working Toward a Level Professional Playing Field

The pay gap between women and minority equity partners and their male counterparts can be up to $140,000 annually, said panelists during “The Credit Crisis – How Compensation Practices Adversely Affect the Advancement of Women and Minorities in the Law and How We Must Change Them.”

In addition to inequitable pay, women and minority lawyers—at the associate and partner level—face a variety of challenges, including exclusion from key discussions and opportunities, according to the National Association of Women Lawyers. For instance, few white women reported receiving invitations to participate on compensation committees. At the same time, minority women are virtually absent from this decision-making process.

Women attorneys also report regular appointments to low-visibility roles, such as heading up summer programs, rainmaker initiatives and associate development programs. While these programs are critical in grooming talent, they are non-billable opportunities that make it difficult to fulfill billable hour expectations.

With such a grim outlook, where do we go from here? Panelists at this program had several suggestions. Michele Coleman Mayes, Allstate Insurance Company, encourages women and minorities to ask clients to drop a note to the firm’s partners voicing their satisfaction. Panelist Gregory Johnson noted his firm’s use of origination credit, which ensures that those overlooked lawyers receive credit for their work.

Training firm partners on performance evaluation systems can also encourage fair treatment of women and minorities in law, as it increases the likelihood of fair assessments. Other ideas include development of women’s initiative networks and promotion of women and minorities into high-visibility positions.

Comments (1)

  • pgb
    3:41 PM August 5, 2009

    drop a note … sheech, is that lame.