Knowledge Center


  • In the 2009-2010 class, women made up 47.2% of J.D. students.1
  • 1993 was the year of the highest percent of women as J.D. students—50.4%.2

  • In the 2009-2010 class, people of color made up 22.4% of J.D. students.3




The Gender Gap in Law

  • In 2012, women made up 31.1% of all lawyers. 4
  • Women were 45.4% of associates in 2011.5
  • Women were 47.7% of summer associates in 2011. 6
  • Given the same rate of change, Catalyst estimates that it will take more than a woman lawyer’s lifetime to achieve equality.7



  • There is a drastic difference between women and men at the highest levels in law firms. According to a recent survey of law firms,

    • 11% of the largest law firms in the U.S. have no women on their governing committees, 8

    • Women partners constituted only 16% of those partners receiving credit for having $500,000 worth of business or more. 9



  • A recent study revealed that no state has ever achieved equality of women and the men in federal or state judgeships.10

  • Only 23% of all federal judgeships were held by women, and only 27% of state judgeships were held by women. 11

  • In one study of law school faculty, only 20.6% of law school deans were women.12

  • In a survey of the 50 best law firms for women,

    • 10% of firm chairpersons were women, 13

    • 12% of the firms had women managing partners, 14

    • 19% of the equity partners were women, 15

    • 28% of the nonequity partners were women, 16 and
    • 41% of the of-counsels were women. 17



  • Women appear to be most successful in single-tier firms. 18 Promotion rates of women equity partners is strongest in single-tier firms, in one survey of the top 50 best law firms for women: 19
    • 21% of all equity partners were women at single-tier firms vs. 17% of equity partners at two-tier firms.20
    • Of newly appointed equity partners, 36% were women at single-tier firms vs. 23% at firms with two-tiers. 21




  • Women were 101 of general counsels at Fortune 500 companies in 2010. 22








  • Women Presidents of the American Bar Association:23
    • Roberta Cooper Ramo (1995-1996)

    • Martha W. Barnett (2000-2001)

    • Karen J. Mathis (2006-2007)

    • Carolyn B. Lamm (2009-2010)

  • Women lawyers made 79.6% of men lawyers’ salaries in 2012.24



Work-Life in Law

  • One study found that nearly half as many men lawyers as women lawyers (44% vs. 84%) have a spouse that is employed full-time.25

  • At the top 50 best law firms for women, on average, women receive 14 paid weeks of maternity leave, but on average, only take 12. 26

    • Men received just six weeks paternity leave, but on average, only took two weeks. 27

    • For paid adoption leave (for the primary caregiver), on average, individuals received 11 weeks, but on average, only took three weeks of leave. 28

  • The best law firms for women have made great strides in work-life policies:

    • 100% have reduced hour policies; 29

    • 44% of have written full-time flex policies; 30

    • 78% offer full-time telecommuting; 31

    • 94% of firms allow their reduced-hour lawyers to be eligible for equity partnership; 32

    • 78% provide backup childcare at a facility. 33

Women of Color in Law

  • One Catalyst study examined the experiences of women of color at law firms, comparing their experiences to people of color’s experiences and white women’s experiences. The findings included:

    • Women of color were more likely than any other group to experience exclusion from other employees, racial and gender stereotyping.34

    • Women of color were most likely to consider leaving the firm. 35

    • Women of color were most likely to feel it necessary to make adjustments to fit in. 36

    • Women of color cited dissatisfaction with current level of work relative to work experience, and with access to high-profile client assignments. 37

    • Women of color experienced lack of constructive feedback as a barrier to advancement. 38

    • Women of color perceived a lack of commitment from senior leadership towards promotion of diverse candidates. 39

    • Women of color were less likely to aspire to partnership. 40

  • Another recent study found 11.0% of associates are women of color. 41

  • Only 2.0% of partners were women of color. 42

  • In 2010, there were only 15 women of color general counsels in the Fortune 500. 43

How to cite this product: Catalyst. Catalyst Quick Take: Women in Law in the U.S.. New York: Catalyst, 2013.