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Vying for lead in the "boys club"

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dana Alvaré writes, "Prior research has established that, despite nearly equal graduation rates from law school andentry into the profession for the last thirty years, a substantial and enduring gender gap inthe legal profession remains. When compared to their male counterparts, female lawyersexperience disparities in numerous areas including: earnings; receipt of necessarymentorship and sponsorship; promotion to partner and leadership positions within their firms;representation on the judicial bench; and serving as “first chair” or lead counsel in litigation.However, research has not yet specifically identified the extent of the gender gap in court-appointedleadership in multidistrict litigation. Multidistrict litigation (MDL) is a federal statutory mechanismthat consolidates complex civil litigation cases and transfers the consolidated matter to one federaldistrict judge for pretrial proceedings, accounting for 36 percent of all federal litigation. Thetransferee judge then appoints leadership counsel for the consolidated cases in a myriad of ways.Appointment to leadership of such large civil proceedings can be very lucrative and is consideredvery prestigious. While it is widely acknowledged by practitioners that a serious gender gap exists inMDL leadership appointment, research has not yet quantified the discrepancy across all types ofMDLs, or the ways in which the varied procedural and cultural factors contribute to this discrepancy.This study examines the most recent five years of MDL dockets to establish the current rate of genderdisparity in leadership appointments and identifies which, if any, case factors may have a correlationwith these rates. These findings will serve as the basis for further exploration of the institutional,cultural, and interpersonal factors that contribute to this discrepancy through depth interviews withpractitioners. It is intended that these findings will inform future initiatives for women’s advancementin court-appointed leadership and the legal profession as a whole."

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