2005 Spring, 56. Gender Equality in the New Hampshire Courts and Legal Profession - A Survey.

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New Hampshire Bar Journal

2005.

2005 Spring, 56.

Gender Equality in the New Hampshire Courts and Legal Profession - A Survey

New Hampshire Bar Journal Volume 46, No. 1, Pg. 56 Spring 2005 Gender Equality in the New Hampshire Courts and Legal Profession - A Survey Bar Journal Author -

INTRODUCTION

The 2004 Gender Equality in Courts Survey was created by the New Hampshire Bar Association Committee on Gender Equality in the spring of 2004. The purpose of the survey was to find out whether gender issues existed in the court system, among Bar Association membership and between attorneys and clients. If gender issues did exist, the survey would also assist the Committee in determining how prevalent the issues were in the hope of using the survey results to assist the Bar Association in finding methods to resolve gender issues and inequality in the practice of law in New Hampshire.

The survey was sent out electronically via e-mail to all Bar members who had listed an e-mail address with the Bar Association. Not all survey participants responded to all questions. The percentages are based on the number of respondents who responded to a particular question and not the total number of those who responded to the entire survey. Some of the questions did not provide options for all of the respondents to be able to respond, such as questions that pertained to those who are in active practice rather than those who are not, or take into account those respondents who may have responded twice to questions. Additionally, the survey offered respondents the opportunity to provide narrative responses to some of the questions. The Committee has paraphrased and summarized individual comments in order to protect the possible disclosure of the identity of those individuals who made comments.

Who responded to the survey?

The Committee received 470 survey responses from 235 male attorneys (51.5 percent) and 221 female attorneys (48.5 percent). The majority of the responses came from attorneys who practiced primarily in Hillsborough (36.3 percent), Merrimack (30.2 percent) and Rockingham (16.4 percent) counties.

Survey responses were received from attorneys engaged in solo practice (16.4 percent), as well as those who worked in small firms (21.0 percent), mid sized firms of 6 to 20 attorneys (19.4 percent) and large firms comprised of more than 20 attorneys (29.3 percent). Numerous Bar members responded who did not practice in a law firm setting (15.8 percent).

Attorneys of all ages responded to the survey. The highest percentage of responses, 35.2 percent, was received from those attorneys in the 46 to 55 year old age group, followed by 30.4 percent in the 36 to 45 year old age group. Attorneys 25 to 35 years old constituted 20.1 percent of the responses while attorneys 56 to 65 years old constituted 12.7 percent. Only 1.8 percent of the survey responses came from attorneys who were over 65 years old.

[Editor's Note: See accompanying sidebar, prepared by the Bar Association staff, comparing the demographics of the survey respondents to the Bar Association's actual composition. This comparison provides a benchmark for further understanding of the survey's findings.]

It was interesting to compare the results from Question #2, which asked the age of the participant, to the answers provided to Question #4 pertaining to how long the participant had been practicing law in New Hampshire. The largest segment, 30.3 percent, of the respondents had been in practice for five years or less. Since only 20.1 percent responded earlier in the survey to falling within the 25 to 35 year old age bracket, the survey results suggest that newer attorneys in New Hampshire are beginning their careers in the law at an older age, were practicing law in another state before coming to New Hampshire to practice, or turning to the practice of law as a second career. One in four respondents (25.4 percent) indicated that they have been practicing law for over 20 years, while the remaining 44.3 percent of responses fell fairly evenly over the 6 to 20 year practice period. (Interestingly, almost half (49.7 percent) of the survey participants said they were 46 years or older, only one-quarter reported being in practice for more than 20 years). Since almost half of the participants were age 46 or older, the Committee expected to see a reflection of this in the total number of years of practice. In response to Question #5, which asked how long the participant had practiced law in a state other than New Hampshire, 60 percent replied that they had practiced outside of New Hampshire with 25.8 percent having practiced outside our state for five years or less. Forty percent indicated that they had practiced only in New Hampshire.

Of those attorneys who practiced law in more than one state (54.4 percent of all respondents), more than one-third saw no difference between practicing law in New Hampshire as opposed to other states on the issue of sensitivity to gender/gender awareness. Furthermore, 12.6 percent found New Hampshire to be less sensitive to gender/gender awareness issues in comparison to their practice in other states as opposed to 7.7 percent who saw a greater sensitivity to gender/gender awareness while practicing law in New Hampshire.

Is the practice of law in New Hampshire affected by gender?

Most (451 of the 470 responses received) answered the key question: "Is the practice of law in New Hampshire affected by gender?" Of that number, 63.4 percent of the respondents (284) indicated that gender does affect the practice of law in New Hampshire.

Respondents were then invited to identify any number of ten areas where they believed that gender affected their work. Those areas included: salary, promotions, networking, rainmaking, admission to professional organizations, treatment in the courts by any court employee, treatment by clients, treatment by other attorneys, choice of practice area, and informal/social practice-related activities. Many respondents indicated that gender-based "treatment by other attorneys" affected their practice. That was followed by "networking" (167), "treatment by clients" (155) and "informal/social practice-related activities" (151), "rainmaking" (138), "salary" (127) and "choice of practice area" (117). Respondents also identified "promotions" (104), "treatment in the courts by any court employee" (91) and "admission to professional organizations" (17) as areas affected by gender, albeit less frequently as indicated by the numbers.

The selection of "treatment by other attorneys" as the biggest category affected by gender is greatly disturbing. The fact that the category "treatment in the Courts by any Court employee" is the second least selected option is extremely encouraging and reflects well on our judiciary and its employees. However these responses demonstrate the great need to increase awareness among members of our Bar.

Narrative Responses

Participants were also given an...

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