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Why women leave the profession

From the ABA: "In an effort to understand why women seem to leave the legal profession at what should be the height of their careers, more than 160 lawyers gathered at Harvard Law School in November to attend the ABA National Summit on Achieving Long-Term Careers for Women in Law.

Statistics show that although women enter the profession in equal numbers to men, a process of attrition occurs so that they make up just 23 percent of partners and 19 percent of equity partners.

he issue is a signature initiative of ABA President Hilarie Bass, and is co-chaired by Roberta D. Liebenberg, senior partner, Fine, Kaplan & Black in Philadelphia and past chair of the ABA Commission on Women; and Stephanie Scharf, partner, Scharf Banks Marmor LLC in Chicago and chair, ABA Commission on Women.

Why women leave the law

Documentarian Sharon Rowen, a lawyer from Atlanta, kicked off the first day by showing clips from Balancing the Scales, a film about women lawyers she spent more than two decades making. She said her research showed three reasons women leave the practice of law:

  • work/life balance,
  • unconscious bias, and
  • pay gap.

Iris Bohnet, professor of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School, and a panelist on the first plenary session on Why Experienced Women Lawyers Leave and Why We Should Care, said that for women, 'bias starts in year one.'

She said some women suffer from 'success fatigue,' and leave because of a work culture that forces them to minimize important parts of their lives. They ask themselves, 'Can I bring my whole self to work?' and 'Is this a place where I can thrive?'

Panelist Christina Tchen, partner at Buckley Sandler LLP in Chicago and former assistant to the president and chief of staff to First Lady Michelle Obama and former executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, pointed to secrecy about compensation as part of the problem and advocated for best practices in salary transparency."

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