Few of us enjoy the process of negotiating our salary or justifying our professional existence, but only an ostrich or someone of independent means can afford to stick their head in the sand and ignore the realities of what it takes to get paid for what you are worth. The facts surrounding the compensation of women attorneys are generally grim. In the National Association of Women Lawyers’ fifth annual survey on the retention and promotion of women in law firms last year, of women attorneys in AmLaw 200 firms, female law firm associates had no noticeable income gap compared to their male counterparts, but at every higher level, the gap widens, and in 2010, women equity partners earned only 85 percent of the compensation of their male partners. Similarly, the 2010 report from the Project for Attorney Retention (PAR) and Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) on the impact of law firm compensation systems on women was blunt in its assessment: Less than half of women equity partners, and only about one-third of either income or diverse partners, are satisfied with their compensation systems. While these results focus on BigLaw, they are confirmed more broadly by a recent Census Bureau report revealing that the median income of women lawyers is only 70 percent of male lawyers’ income, and the gap between male and female equity partners adds up to a whopping $66,000 annually. For income partners, where rainmaking might not be such a factor, women still earn $25,000 less.
While we should be pushing for best practices in compensation—such as having objective criteria—here are 10 steps to take in the meantime to better negotiate the salary you deserve.