In 1872 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that women had no constitutional right to be admitted to state bars, sanctioning the exclusion of women from the practice of law. Over a century later, the first woman Justice was appointed to the Supreme Court. Twenty-five years after this historic appointment, our highest Court has only three female Justices.Although women have comprised nearly half of the student body in law school for more than two decades, women represent only 16% of equity partners at major law firms and less than 3% of those firms’ top earning partners. The statistics for women attorneys of color are even more sobering. They comprise just 3% of non-equity partners and only 1.4% of equity partners. They have the highest rate of attrition, with 86% of women attorneys of color leaving their law firms before their seventh year.
Women are only a third of tenured law professors. Women constitute 22% of the federal judiciary and hold only 26% of state court judgeships. Currently only six governors are women, and over 60% of states have never elected a woman to the executive’s office. As a nation, we have had only two female U.S. Attorneys General, three female Secretaries of State, and one female Solicitor General.
For the first time in more than 50 years the enrollment of women in law school is on the decline, and many law schools are struggling even to fill 40% of their incoming 1L classes with women. Female law students constitute only a third of law review editors-in-chief in the nation’s top 50 schools, and women still constitute less than a third of Supreme Court clerks. As these numbers illustrate, women lawyers have come a long way, but there is still further work to be done.