Pay disparity in legal jobs

September 29, 2008
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Women attorneys continue to make less than men.

It doesn’t shock or even surprise me. There’s no disputing that on average, women in all types of professions make less than men, often for doing the same job. It’s been that way for as long as women have been in the workforce.

The U.S. Census Bureau released data from its 2007 American Community Survey showing the disparities in pay between men and women in the legal field. Female attorneys make 77.8 percent of their male counterparts’ salaries; miscellaneous female legal support workers make 72.7 percent of what their male counterparts earn.

According to the data, female judges, magistrates, and other judicial workers make just 64.3 percent of what their male counterparts do. That’s incredibly disappointing, but the numbers have been dragged down because “other judicial workers” includes clerks, who have lower salaries.

On the flip side, paralegals and legal assistants make the closest pay compared to their male counterparts in the profession – 93.2 percent. My theory on this one is that’s because women tend to dominate this legal occupation, so there are fewer men around to make more money.

There are a few theories as to why women continue to make less than men in the legal field. Women may work more flexible schedules and fewer hours to keep up with the demands of being a mom. Maybe fewer women are on the partner track than men because of this disparity.

Frankly, take a look around at the managing partners of law firms around Indiana and the overwhelming majority are men. I’m not trying to accuse them of actively discriminating against women, but they are probably just continuing with the status quo of pay that the law firm has had in place since it began.

Once women start having more leadership roles in firms, perhaps this pay gap will close even more and people will be paid equivalent salaries for equivalent jobs, despite their gender.


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