Female Lawyers Aren’t Immune to Gender Discrimination

Sep 1 2017

We all wish that discrimination on the basis of sex was a thing of the past.  Unfortunately, wishing doesn’t make it so, and Connecticut and our nation still have a long way to go to achieve workplace equality.  According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, American workers filed 26,934 reports of sex-based discrimination in 2016.  Sadly, one sector where inequality is most obvious is in the legal field.

Female Lawyers Underrepresented in the Courtroom

A recent article in Bloomberg Big Law Business illustrates the sad reality.  Numerous female attorneys reported that they are routinely the only female attorneys on their cases.  Worse still, several female litigators said they had been mistaken for the court reporter, suggesting that women attorneys in the courtroom is still the exception, not the rule.

This is not so surprising, considering how infrequently female lawyers actually do stand up in court. According to a New York State Bar Association report, not only do female attorneys appear in court less frequently than their male colleagues, but they are much less likely to have a prominent role even when they do appear.  The report revealed that female attorneys comprised only 25 percent of lead counsel throughout all New York court – federal and state – in 2016.

Women are even less represented among law firm leaders.  In its report “A Current Glance at Women in the Law,” the American Bar Association found that women make up only 36 percent of practicing lawyers.  And only 18 percent of equity partners in their law firms are women.  The rest are either associates or summer associates.  It is not surprising then that female lawyers on average earn roughly $10,000 less per year than their male counterparts.

Changes are Coming

Over the past couple of years, some female attorneys have sued their law firms for pay and gender discrimination.  Recent lawsuits against big name law firms such as Sedgwick, Chadbourne & Parke, and Proskauer Rose have brought national attention to the issue of pay inequality.

Even some judges are attempting to change the landscape.  New York Federal District Court Judge Jack B. Weinstein recently issued a ruling that urges a more visible and substantive role for young female attorneys on the cases that come before him. The ruling, which the judge said was prompted by the NYSBA report, encourages “junior members of legal teams…to argue motions they have helped prepare and to question witnesses with whom they have worked.” The ruling has been praised by female attorneys around New York.

Leading Advocates for Workers’ Rights

At Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Fitzgerald & Pirrotti, P.C., we believe all women should have a voice in their workplaces. If you have experienced discrimination because of your sex anywhere in Connecticut, we are prepared to help you. Contact us now for more information.

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