Gendered Career Paths in Law: Recent Evidence From a Survey of Urban Lawyers

Kathleen Hull & Robert Nelson

In this paper, we use data from a random-sample survey of urban lawyers (the Chicago Lawyers II Study) to examine gender difference in first job after law school as well as in current position in the legal profession. Our analysis tests competing theories of gender segregation within the law, which can be grouped into two main categories. Choice-based theories - including human capital theory and sex-role socialization theory - emphasize women's active and voluntary choice of some occupational settings over others. Theories of institutional constraint, by contrast, view gender segregation as the product of structural obstacles confronting women in male-dominated fields. We find that gender is a significant predictor of both first position and current position in law, even after controlling for other relevant variables such as law school background, racial/ethnic identity, socioeconomic background, experience, family status, and leaves of absence.We find that women are significantly more likely to start their thers. Future analyses will attempt to elaborate on these explanations.

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