Connecticut Bar Journal
69 CBJ 161.
GENDER ISSUES IN THE LEGAL PROFESSION (fn*)
GENDER ISSUES IN THE LEGAL PROFESSION (fn*)"The Task Force recommends that the Connecticut Bar Association:
Study the extent to which gender bias adversely a ects women in the practice of law outside of the courtroom... [inclu fing_1... issues such as hiring and partnership... "
Gender justice and the Courts: Report of the Connecticut Task Force 1991
PREAMBLE TO THE ATTORNEY SURVEY REPORT
The study of gender bias in the administration of justice was begun by the Task Force on Gender, justice and the Courts, created by the Chief justice in 1988. Pursuant to a recommendation of that Task Force, the Connecticut Bar Association created a Committee on Gender Bias in the Profession. The attorney survey, which is the subject of this report, was the first effort of the Subcommittee on Women and Employment to document the existence and extent of gender bias in the legal profession in Connecticut. In so doing, the Subcommittee also intended to establish a benchmark for the Bar, establishing how women attorneys are currently treated in the legal workplace. Future studies and surveys of the status of women in Connecticut's legal profession can be measured against the current benchmark.
The efforts of the Gender Bias Committee do not exist in a vacuum. Society continues to reexamine the role and the status of women as the legal profession examines its goals and ethics, its organization and economics, and its relationship to American society as a whole. It is especially apropos, therefore, for the study of women's roles and status in the profession to occur at this time, when positive changes should stand a better chance of implementation.
The body of the report is a detailed treatment of the findings emanating from the responses to the attorney survey questionnaire. It also contains more than two dozen specific recommendations. In our review of the findings we report four disturbing observations that reflect the present condition of women in the legal profession: One, the persistence of sexual harassment; two, the disparity in both private practice and corporate settings between women's and men's compensation for the same work; three, the absence of women from decision-making positions and policy-making responsibilities; and, four the exploitation of female attorneys who are working "part-time" in order to meet family responsibilities.
There is a marked gulf between the perceptions of women and men as to the present status of women in the profession. Women in large numbers see themselves as disadvantaged in the profession as a whole and report actual experiences of disadvantage in far larger numbers than men. Men, on the other hand, see women as having achieved equality and in some areas as having an advantage. There is consensus, however, in that both men and women responding to the survey saw men as advantaged in several important areas, especially in opportunities for advancement within the profession.
Progress toward reducing and, if possible, eradicating gender bias in the legal profession requires the sustained commitment of both men and women. This is not a "women's issue." It is an issue of how the professionAill make the most of the talent and ability of all its members in order to provide not only a satisfying work experience but optimum service to the profession's reason for being, the client. Honorable H. Maria Cone
Honorable Joseph M. Shortall
Co-chairs, Women and Employment Subcommittee CBA Committee on Gender Bias in the Profession
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The attorney survey of the Connecticut Bar Association's Committee on Gender Bias in the Profession is designed to provide accurate information about male and female attorneys in each of four work settings: private practice, corporate, government, and miscellaneous settings. The final sample of legal professionals currently working in Connecticut includes 599 men and 648 women.
This report identifies findings and recommendations in the following specific areas: - Sexual harassment
- job responsibilities and status
- Client opinions
The Committee's recommendations are directed toward the Connecticut Bar Association, law firms, corporate legal departments and government offices. This summary describes some of the findings and related recommendations for each area.
In the four settings, the median number of years men have worked within the legal profession is between 15 and 17 years, whereas for women the median is 7 or 8 years.
A higher percentage of female than male attorneys work part-time. Most women who report working part-time are doing so because of family responsibilities; the few men working part-time are most likely to do so as part of their retirement.
The majority of women who are working part-time believe their work status is delaying their career advancement. Only a small proportion of the men who work part-time have that same belief.
There are few differences between men and women in the types of private practice in which they are engaged. Women are more likely than men to name domestic relations as their primary area of practice; men are more likely to describe themselves as general practitioners.
Legal and Administrative Responsibilities
There were no striking differences between men and women in the major areas of classically "legal" activities (e. g., negotiating contracts, developing strategies and preparing for hearings, litigation, legal research, representing clients at hearings before administrative agencies and boards).
In contrast, in the area of administrative activities, there were differences in the responsibilities of male and female lawyers. In both private practice and in corporate settings, men had considerably more decision-making power and authority.
In private practice, 20% more men than women reported that they participated in deciding whether to accept or reject a client or case (79% vs. 59%). In the corporate setting, approximately twice the percentage of men as women had the responsibility of making attorney personnel decisions, or had supervisory authority over other attorneys. This imbalance of power also extended to decision-making regarding fees and compensation.
In the government and miscellaneous settings, there was little difference in the administrative responsibilities of male and female attorneys.
Recommendations: Professional Responsibilities - Law offices in all settings should actively seek out female candidates for upper echelon and policy-making positions.
_ Merging firms should seek women to fill positions in the new organization.
_ The CBA should keep a job bank of women lawyers, their area of specialty, and the nature of their current practices to assist managers in finding applicants.
- Supervising or managing attorneys in allpractice settings should ensure that women serve on policy making committees, even if they are not currently supervisors, in order to ensure that the benefits, policies and standards for advancement do not unfairly discriminate against women or have a disparate impact on their ability to be promoted in the organization.
- Employers should encourage women to develop leadership skills by participating in professional and bar related activities and should use mentoring activities to develop the professional skills of women assigned to them and to prepare them for advancement.
- Supervised "case" or "project" responsibility in the early years of practice should be assigned in order to provide experience that can help women in their advancement. Mentors should provide avenues of opportunity for these more challenging assignments.
Hours Worked and Salaries in the Legal Profession
The average number of hours worked and billed per week for male and female attorneys was virtually identical in each work setting: private, corporate, government and miscellaneous.
Among full-time professionals only, the men in private practice reported billing 33.55 hours per week on average; their female colleagues slightly exceeded that number by averaging 34.50 hours per week.
Part-time work means very different time commitments for men and women responding to the survey. Men working parttime in private practice work an average of 17.88 hours a week to the women's average of 27.49.
The salary disparity between men and women is most pronounced among partners in private practice: men at the partnership level in private practice make an average of $23,282 more per year than similar women who are partners. This difference is not explained by the fewer years that women have been in the profession, since this factor was used as a control, or career interruptions or part-time status on the part of women, since the analyses included only those attorneys who have been continuously employed full-time in the profession. Thus, the salaries of male partners are compared to those of female partners who are equivalent in career involvement and work history. Among associates in private practice, the salary differential is not statistically significant.
Women in corporate settings who responded to the survey earn an average of $15,506 less per year than similar men in corporate settings. This difference is not explained by the number of years in the profession (since this factor was entered into the analysis as a control...