Q. Are there institutional impediments to the retention and advancement of women lawyers, and, if so, how can they be overcome?
A. We see gender differences in the assignment process; not that women don’t get good assignments, but when there are the less attractive assignments that invariably exist in any firm, women tend to get more of those assignments than their male colleagues do.
Another [impediment can be seen] in the evaluation process. Firms have to spend much more time learning how to do gender-neutral evaluations. There is a huge amount of research about how gender affects the evaluation process, and it’s really important for firms to start addressing that if they want to see changes in the numbers of women in leadership roles.
We also see disparities in business development, where men tend to inherit business in law firms so that they get credited for the work. As senior partners wind down their careers, they often will hand down billing credit to younger male colleagues.