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Women plaintiffs lawyers fight to end MDL 'boys club'

Meredith Hobbs writes, "Women and their male allies in the plaintiffs bar want to see more women in charge of big, multiplaintiff cases. This week in Atlanta, a group of leading lawyers and judges from around the country convened to figure out how to make it happen.

It's a conversation that big corporate defense firms have been having for years: how women can overcome barriers and biases that have kept men controlling most major matters. Research presented at the invitation-only conference in Atlanta, held by Duke Law's Center for Judicial Studies, addresses the imbalances on the plaintiffs side.

Women plaintiffs lawyers made up only 16.6 percent of the attorneys appointed class counsel or to plaintiffs steering committees in multidistrict litigations filed from 2011 to 2016, a new study found. However, in a sign of progress, the percentage of women in lead MDL roles jumped to 27.7 percent in 2015—an 11 percentage point increase over the five-year average.

"We needed data," said Dana Alvare, a Pennsylvania lawyer and doctoral candidate in sociology at the conference and who authored the MDL study, Vying for the Lead in the Boys' Club, for Temple University Law School's Women in Legal Leadership Project.

"The enduring gender gap has not been going away, even though women have been graduating from law schools in the same numbers as men for 30 years," Alvare said."

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