A newly released American Bar Association (ABA) report entitled, “In Their Own Words: Experienced Women Lawyers Explain Why They Are Leaving Their Law Firms and the Profession,” aims to shed light on factors that affect career decision making amongst experienced female lawyers. This includes information on why practitioners choose to remain in practice, move to a different job within the law or step out of the profession altogether after 15 or more years of practice.
The report was written by Joyce Sterling, a professor at the Sturm College of Law in Denver, and Linda Chanow, executive director of the Center for Women in Law at the University of Texas. The report includes analysis on the components that advance or impede long-term careers for female lawyers. The research was carried out via focus groups in six cities across the USA, as well as through individual interviews, with comments made during the interviews including:
“You give me the hardest problems to solve, but you tell me I am less important with the compensation you give me.”
“I don’t feel like I have anyone in a position of power who can personally relate to me.”
“[T]he power dynamic is very real. . . [P]eople are very uncomfortable when women lean into their power.”
The report includes recommendations designed to increase retention of female attorneys which include:
- Assess the impact of firm policies and practices on female lawyers.
- Take steps to ensure there is a critical mass of female partners on key firm committees.
- Increase lateral hiring of female partners.
- Provide resources to relieve pressures from family obligations.
- Be flexible to support changing practices.
ABA President Patricia Lee Refo has said.“This report highlights the ongoing systemic barriers women still face in the legal profession. These women’s personal stories are eye-opening, and the recommendations illustrate the changes we need to make to support and advance all female lawyers.”