Report of the Committee on Women in the Profession


June 1994


The Former Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association, Andr� L. Dennis, requested the Committee on Women in the Profession to consider whether the "Statement of Goals of Philadelphia Law Firms and Legal Departments for Increasing Minority Representation and Retention" could be modified and supplemented to further the goal of addressing the equally serious concern regarding the underrepresentation of women in the upper ranks of the legal profession. Since the spring of 1993, the Subcommittee on Policies for the Promotion and Retention of Women in the Profession ("Subcommittee") has collected pertinent data, consulted numerous members of the legal community and drafted the "Statement of Goals of Philadelphia Law Firms and Legal Departments for the Retention and Promotion of Women" ("Statement of Goals") accompanying this Report.

This is the Report of the Subcommittee in support of the Statement of Goals. The Subcommittee believes that it is time for the Philadelphia Bar Association to add its name to the Statement of Goals. The Subcommittee now proposes that all Committees and Sections of the Philadelphia Bar Association sign on as sponsors of the Statement of Goals and urge its adoption by the Board of Governors and by Philadelphia law firms and legal departments.


The intent of the Statement of Goals is to reach all organizations which employ lawyers, including corporations, partnerships, governmental entities and nonprofit enterprises (such as advocacy groups, hospitals, universities and trade associations). Reference to "law firms and legal departments" is meant to encompass each of these various practice settings.

Both the goals and accompanying guidelines within the Statement of Goals are stated broadly. The Subcommittee has not developed a magical set of "do's" and "don'ts" to achieve the objective of full and equal participation of women throughout the legal profession. Rather, the Statement of Goals was developed to promote critical self-evaluation by each signatory to analyze why its earlier efforts to retain and promote women have not been more successful, to examine its commitment to women in the profession and to undertake the necessary steps to create a more promising future for women within each signatory's law firm or legal departments.

a. Introduction.

The Introduction to the Statement of Goals acknowledges the discrepancy between those women entering the legal profession and those achieving full participation in it - in short, women are underrepresented at every level of the profession with the exception of the entry level.

Over the past two decades, women have entered the legal profession in increasing numbers. The U.S. Department of Labor has reported that, in 1980, women represented 12 percent of all lawyers. By 1990, the number of women lawyers had risen to 182,745 or 24.4 percent of all lawyers. In 1991, women comprised 42 percent of law school enrollment and 37 percent of associates at the 250 largest law firms in the nation.

Women continue to be underrepresented at the higher levels of the profession. In 1981, 23.9 percent of associates and 2.8 percent of partners at the largest law firms were women. In 1991, while women comprised 37 percent of associates at the largest law firms, they comprised only 11 percent of partners at those firms.2 Of those who have graduated from law school since 1967, only 18 percent of the women are partners or executives, compared with 45 percent of the men.3

It is difficult to account for the discrepancy between the number of men and women entering the profession and those achieving full participation in the profession. To the extent women encounter obstacles based upon stereotypes and gender-based considerations - no matter how subtle - correction is appropriate, not only because it is professionally responsible, but also because discrimination is illegal. As leaders of the Philadelphia legal community, the signatories can and must ensure that the attitudes and practices at law firms and legal departments promote the full representation and participation of women at all ranks of the profession.

Rather than debating the causes for this underrepresentation, the Statement of Goals condemns obstacles based on stereotypes and gender-based considerations, regardless of their contribution to the statistical disparity. The Statement of Goals then calls on the leaders of the Philadelphia legal community to correct such illegal and professionally irresponsible practices and attitudes at each individual's own firm or legal department. In this way, the Committee hopes to promote more appropriate representation and participation of women at all ranks of the profession.

b. The Statement of Goals.

The Statement of Goals requires each signatory to commit to three interrelated goals: achieving full and equal participation of women, increasing the rate of retention of women and improving the rate of promotion of women. The broad nature of these goals should not signal a lack of seriousness in the commitment of those who become signatories to the Statement. Rather, the lack of a more concrete statement of goals is a purposeful decision to take advantage of the wealth of creative talent within the community to help resolve this most challenging problem.

Law firms and legal departments are encouraged to under take these weighty commitments not only because it is right and professionally responsible, but also because it is practical. First, improving the retention and promotion of women by removing the attitudinal barriers and organizational bias impeding women's progress in the profession is required by law. Failure to attend to this responsibility encourages lawsuits, with their attendant costs and negative publicity. Second, almost one-half of all law school students are women, and they are overrepresented at the top of their class. Law firms and legal departments interested in recruiting and retaining the highest quality legal talent will have to convince women of their firm's or legal department's record and reputation for treating women lawyers equitably. Third, recruiting and training associates, only to have them leave, results in significant costs to law firms and legal departments. Finally, many corporations and governments take into consideration a firm's or legal department's record with regard to women when deciding whether to send business, fund or support a specific legal practice. Therefore, a good record of retaining and promoting women lawyers is to a firm's or legal department's competitive advantage.

c. Guidelines for Pursuing Goals.

The task forces and commissions of various bar associations as well as articles in the popular and professional press high-light several areas of legal employment which are particularly vulnerable to gender bias. The guidelines section of the Statement of Goals attempts to specify some of those "trouble-spots" and to make suggestions for minimizing the gender bias identified as accompanying them. Each signatory's pledge to examine critically and, where necessary, to modify those suspect components of employment of lawyers will go a long way toward meeting the objectives of the Statement of Goals.

Several of the areas referenced in the guidelines address issues that transcend gender lines. For example, accommodating lawyers' family and other responsibilities, as well as ensuring accurate and fair standards for promotion, raises crucial human and professional issues that will enhance the workplace for all participants. Moreover, many of the policies and attitudes of the legal profession were developed at a time when the composition of the legal profession, not just in terms of gender, race or ethnicity, but also in terms of life style, was different than today. The commitment reflected by signing the Statement of Goals also provides an opportunity for law firms and legal departments to examine the largely outmoded assumptions reflected in their existing policies and attitudes and to make them more reflective of the needs and desires of today's legal community.

Implementation of the guidelines and achievement of the goals may require expert advice. For example, dealing with the exclusion resulting from discomfort or uncertainty about how to relate to women as professionals or unease with regard to the merits of different practice styles may require training or consultation with experts on diversity. It is the hope of the Committee that law firms and legal departments will seek expert assistance in striving to meet the challenges raised by this Statement of Goals.

Respectfully submitted,

Audrey C. Talley
Joan W. Schwartz
Deborah Weinstein

1. Claudia MacLachlan & Rita Henley Jensen, Progress Glacial for Women and Minorities, Nat'l L.J., Jan. 27, 1992, at 34 [hereinafter Nat'l L.J. Survey].

2. Nat'l L.J. Survey, at 1, 34.

3. American Bar Association, Young Lawyers Division, The State of the Legal Profession 1990, at 63.