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August 28, 2017 Practice Points

Why Do Women Leave the Legal Profession?

By Meghan Dougherty

Hilarie Bass accepted the gavel from Linda Klein to begin her role as President of the American Bar Association on August 14, 2017. Her agenda for the next year includes an initiative designed to address the lack of women in leadership positions in the legal profession: “Achieving Long-Term Careers for Women in the Law.” The initiative seeks to understand why women are leaving their legal careers; the initiative’s purpose is to reverse the trend. In an interview with Law360, Bass addressed the fact that women are leaving the law at the point in their careers when they “should be at the height of their experience, value and success to their employer.” Bass highlighted the lack of women in positions of power such as practice leaders, equity partners and managing partners. She noted that the “number of women [in those positions] is certainly not reflective of the number of women entering the profession.”

The initiative will host a kickoff summit in November at Harvard Law School. The ABA plans to conduct surveys and focus groups to analyze the career trajectories of women lawyers and attrition rates in practice settings.

Like their male colleagues, women invest in their legal education and careers. They develop talent and obtain valuable experience in the early years of practice. The profession no doubt suffers as it continues to lose women decades into their careers. The ABA, with Bass at its helm, is embarking on a project that has enormous potential to benefit not just those of us in the profession, but our clients as well.


Meghan Dougherty is an associate at Bressler, Amery & Ross, PC in Florham Park, New Jersey.

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