By Casey Sullivan
(Reuters) - In an effort to promote gender-pay equality at
law firms, the American Bar Association has created a set of
tools for state and local bar groups to organize conferences on
the topic, the ABA said Friday.
The "toolkit," which is available through the ABA's website
and is free, includes a program agenda, PowerPoint slideshow and
handout materials for bar leaders to educate law firms about
ensuring equal pay.
As proposed, the conferences run either an hour-and-a half
or two-and-a-half hours and feature a keynote speaker addressing
topics such as "Challenges to achieving pay equity" and "Effect
of gender bias in compensation decisions." The ABA toolkit
eventually will provide suggestions and contact information for
appropriate for speakers, though those names are not yet
The ABA introduced the guide in response to recent surveys
that have shown women lawyers continuing to lag behind men in
both pay and employment, said ABA president Laurel Bellows.
A 2012 partner compensation survey by legal recruiting firm
Major Lindsey & Africa, with data from 2,200 law firm partners,
said that male partner compensation averaged $734,000 compared
to female partner pay of $497,000 last year. The pay gap widened
from 2010, the survey said, when male partners made $675,000 and
female partners made $513,000 on average.
The initiative is meant to spark dialogue among law firm
leaders about possible changes to their compensation and hiring
models, said Bellows. "I think almost every law firm
compensation policy could use some tweaks," she said.
The complex issue of gender equality in pay is not new to
law firms and has been widely discussed throughout the legal
industry. But Robyn Crowther, a partner at law firm Caldwell
Leslie, said she thought conferences on gender pay inequality
would help remind law firms that the issue persists.
"I think it is easy for each firm to justify its own
compensation decisions on an individual basis and only in the
larger picture do the inequities appear," said Crowther.
Law firms are beginning to focus on pay inequality now
because their female employment rates have not kept pace with
those of in-house legal departments at corporations -- a factor
which could affect their business relationships with clients,
said Sabina Lippman, a legal expert who has written editorials
on the subject. By staffing and promoting women, law firm can
build working relationships with females in those in-house
roles, Lippman said.
Changes law firms might consider that could improve pay
equality include requiring a specific number of women to be
seated on executive or compensation committees, incentivizing
partners to mentor young female lawyers and encouraging partners
to share origination credit, said lawyers and legal experts
contacted by Reuters.
Robin Cohen, the head of the insurance recovery group at
Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman, said she had attended client
pitches at companies with female general counsels where
competing law firms had sent all-male teams to make the
presentation. The competing firms were operating at a
disadvantage, Cohen said.
"I think women general counsels, if they can, they like to
help women," Cohen said.
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