Submitted by editor
Editor's note: The thirtieth anniversary edition of Women in Law by Dr. Cynthia Fuchs Epstein is now available in paperback from Quid Pro Books. The book features a new foreward by Deborah Rhode, Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law, Stanford University. We are excited to share the foreward with you today on Ms. JD. For an exceprt from the book, click here.
When Cynthia Fuchs Epstein published her pathbreaking account of Women in Law, their status in the profession was separate and anything but equal. They constituted less than 15 percent of lawyers and 5 percent of partners, earned about 40 percent less than their male colleagues, and were often relegated to low-prestige practice settings. With penetrating insight and painstaking detail, Epstein chronicled the biases that helped account for those inequalities.
Over the last three decades, much has changed but too much has remained the same. Now, about half of new lawyers in the United States are women and they are fairly evenly distributed across substantive areas. Yet significant gender disparities persist. Women constitute about a third of the lawyers in large firms, but only about 17 percent of equity partners. Attrition rates are almost twice as high among female associates as among comparable male associates. Women are also underrepresented in leadership positions such as chairs and members of management and compensation committees. Gender disparities are similarly apparent in compensation, even when controlling for productivity. Although female lawyers report about the same overall career satisfaction as their male colleagues, women also experience greater dissatisfaction with most specific dimensions of practice: salary, level of responsibility, recognition for work, content of work, chances for advancement, and control over their work lives. For women of color, all of these disparities are still more pronounced. Their attrition rates are the highest and their compensation and satisfaction rates are the lowest of any demographic group.