November 14, 2011 Articles

The Myths and Realities of Law Firm Compensation for Women

A recent study notes that at the current pace, women partners will achieve pay equity with their male counterparts in 2086.

By Jennifer Hoekel

On Friday, August 5, the Women Advocate Committee presented a panel at the ABA Annual Meeting in Toronto focused on a study entitled “New Millennium, Same Glass Ceiling? The Impact of Law Firm Compensation Systems on Women.” The study was conducted through the collaborative efforts of The Project for Attorney Retention (PAR), Minority Corporate Counsel Association, and the ABA Commission on Women. The panel included Manar Morales, executive director of PAR, Bobby Liebenberg of Fine Kaplan, and Jim Goh of Ogletree Deakins. Both Liebenberg and Goh are commissioners on the ABA Commission on Women. The panel was moderated by Beatrice O’Donnell of Duane Morris.

Liebenberg opened the program by highlighting the reasons that the study was performed. Pay equity has been a focus of the Commission since its inception under Hillary Clinton in 1987. Liebenberg noted that, at the current pace, women partners will achieve pay equity with their male counterparts in 2086. Unfortunately, the higher one looks within the law firm structure, the worse the inequities become. The largest compensation gap is between male and female equity partners. It is estimated that this compensation gap adds up to $1,000,000 during a woman’s legal career.

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