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September 27, 2021

ABA task force releases report on challenges facing women criminal lawyers

WASHINGTON, Sept. 27, 2021 — The American Bar Association ABA Criminal Justice Section’s Women in Criminal Justice Task Force today released a report titled “Pulling Back the Curtain,” which documents challenges in hiring, retention and promotion of women criminal lawyers. The report follows up on the initial task force findings that were published in the Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law and the ABA Criminal Justice magazine in December 2020.

“Pulling Back the Curtain” describes the results of a subsequent survey of diverse criminal lawyers and judges conducted at the end of 2020. The survey posed questions related to demographics; barriers related to hiring, retention and promotion; potential solutions; and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on work and life.

The report concludes that hiring, retention and, particularly, promotion of women in criminal justice continue to be a problem. The follow-up survey also revealed the following serious obstacles:

(1)   Limited flexibility with work schedules (which could be addressed, for example, through job-sharing, part-time work and working from home)

(2)   Insufficient wellness resources

(3)   Deficient training opportunities, particularly in state and rural criminal law offices

(4)   Short supply of meaningful mentorship. Some employers seem receptive to change

The report also includes recommendations to address the barriers faced by women criminal lawyers. Recommendations include:

  • Policies that allow job-sharing, part-time work and working from home; court schedules that accommodate children’s school schedules.
  • Creating wellness spaces in offices and courthouses; provide free therapy and other wellness information, policies and programs; meet regularly with attorneys to assess job satisfaction and avoid feelings of invisibility.
  • Pool resources with other jurisdictions; amplify existing free resources through ABA and state, local and affinity bars.
  • Pool resources with other jurisdictions; amplify existing free resources through ABA and state, local and affinity bars; create more meaningful mentorship opportunities and incentivize/recognize participation.

To read the full report, click here.

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