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November 23, 2011

President Robinson Statement on New Town Hall Listening Sessions on Issues Facing Women In The Profession

ABA President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III

ABA President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III

Last month, the ABA Journal carried a story on its website about a survey that reported many legal secretaries preferred working for male lawyers.  Some ABA members communicated to us that the story unfairly perpetuated discriminatory stereotypes about women in the legal profession.

The ABA Journal has taken the complaints to heart, apologized, and examined its editorial processes to ensure it deals fairly with such important subjects.  (See “Letter from the ABA Journal Board of Editors.”)

Those are good and positive steps.

As president of an organization that consistently supports the advancement of women, I am confident the _ can and will do more to address the important issues that have come into sharp focus as part of this debate.

Women have made tremendous strides in the practice of law.  Almost half of law school students and associates at law firms are women.  Fifty percent of President Obama’s confirmed nominees for the federal bench are women.

In spite of these gains, women comprise only a third of all lawyers, 22 percent of the federal judiciary and 26 percent of state judges.  In law firms, just 15 percent of women have reached equity partnership.  Female lawyers earn 75 percent or less of what their male counterparts earn for doing the same job.  The ABA Commission on Women in the Profession and other groups within our organization have programs and publications designed to give female lawyers tools and strategies needed to change these statistics.

I believe it is important for the ABA to use this moment as an opportunity to take a closer look at the portrayal of women in the legal profession and critically assess what our organization can do to support the advancement of women in law.

To that end, the ABA will sponsor a series of Town Hall listening sessions on issues facing women in the law, beginning with a broad discussion of these topics at the Midyear Meeting in February.  The insight we gain from these programs will help us identify the work needed to ensure our organization speaks substantively to the issues challenging women and to develop best practices for the leveling of the field.  We recognize that equality for women is a work in progress, and we must reenergize the entire profession to recommit itself to the cause and achieve it without delay.

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(Media contact:  Meredith Josef, or -1092.)

Please click here for a biography and photo of Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III.