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January 08, 2014 Practice Points

Roundtable on Pay Disparities

By Sara E. Dionne

On December 11, 2013, the Woman Advocate Committee, in conjunction with the Mass Torts Committee and the Commission on Women in the Profession, hosted a roundtable discussing strategies and solutions for addressing and eliminating long-standing pay disparity in compensation between male and female attorneys practicing in law firms. The roundtable was led by Roberta D. Liebenberg and Stephanie A. Scharf.

The speakers first discussed some keys to closing the gap in pay disparity. These include building transparency into the compensation process, including a critical mass of diverse members on the compensation committee, rethinking how billing and allocation credits are distributed, requiring diversity on pitch and related business development teams, getting firms to set concrete benchmarks to evaluate patterns in the number of partners moving into equity partnership, and implementing training for attorneys involved in compensation and evaluation.

The speakers also examined ways that law firm clients can contribute to reducing pay disparities between male and female attorneys. These contributions include demanding that pitch teams include female partners and associates, engage law firms in discussions concerning how they are approaching billing and origination credits, and requesting hours, billing, and committee data broken down by gender.

Carol Frohlinger also contributed to the roundtable by discussing the topic of negotiation. This discussion included explanation of second generation stereotypes, meaning the unintentional disadvantaging of women based on stereotypes of how women should act or workplace policies that are neutral on their face, but disadvantage women. Ms. Frohlinger encouraged women to advocate on their behalf and recognize that they need to negotiate for themselves.

Keywords: woman advocate, litigation, pay disparities

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