Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 6

FROM OUR PRESIDENT

Tracey Salazar Photography

'Can Boys Be
Lawyers, Too?'
By Geoffrey M. Klineberg

M

y father liked to tell a
story to the students
in his Introduction to
Sociology class about
the time he first told me that my
mother was going to law school.
I was about eight years old, and he explained
to me that my mother generally would not
be home when I got back from school. When
I asked him what lawyers do, he said they help
people who are trying to solve complicated
problems in their lives and who need someone
else to stand up for them. Apparently quite
impressed with that description, I asked him,
" Dad, can boys be lawyers, too? "
The point of the story was to illustrate how
even young children internalize assumptions
about differentiated sex roles, and the story
usually got a respectful chuckle from the
students in the room due to the apparent
absurdity of the question. Even though much
progress had already been made in gender
equality by the early 1970s, the legal profession
remained a male-dominated business.
The obvious question now is why it remains
so. The 2019 ABA study " Walking Out the Door:
The Facts, Figures, and Future of Experienced
Women Lawyers in Private Practice " recognized
the statistical reality on its very first page:
While entering associate classes have [comprised] approximately 45% women for
several decades, in the typical large firm,
women constitute only 30% of non-equity
partners and 20% of equity partners. Women
lawyers face many other challenging hurdles
as they seek to advance into senior roles: the
number of lawyers named as new equity
partners at big firms has declined by nearly
30% over the past several years, and firms are
increasingly relying on the hiring of lateral
partners, over 70% of whom are men.

6

WASHINGTON LAWYER

*

MARCH/APRIL 2021

The ABA study attempted to answer the following questions: What is it about the experiences of women in law firms that result in such
differential outcomes when compared to men?
And why do even senior women lawyers have
so many more obstacles to overcome? Not
surprisingly, the answers are complicated.
According to the survey data, experienced
women lawyers are significantly more likely
than their male counterparts to be overlooked
for advancement; denied a salary increase or
bonus; denied equal access to business development opportunities; become subjected to
implicit biases, double standards, and sexual
harassment; and be perceived as less committed to their careers.
The survey also found that men and women
have markedly different perspectives on factors
such as whether firm leaders are active advocates of gender diversity (91 percent men
versus 62 percent women agree), whether firms
are succeeding in advancing women into
equity partnership (78 percent men versus 48
percent women agree), whether firms actively
promote women into leadership roles (84 percent men versus 55 percent women agree),
and whether firms work to retain experienced
women lawyers (74 percent men versus 47
percent women agree).
Of course, the legal profession encompasses
much more than private practice at the nation's
largest law firms, which was the focus of the
ABA study. My own experience underscores
the different ways that women lawyers may
succeed in different parts of the profession. In
2012 I took a year-long leave of absence from
my firm to work in the Office of the Legal
Adviser at the U.S. Department of State. The
office has approximately 200 career lawyers,
and although I don't know the precise breakdown of women to men, I often found myself
the only man in meetings with seven or eight
female colleagues. After spending the bulk of
my career in private practice, it was nothing

short of a revelation to see women lawyers
thriving at the State Department. I do not
mean, of course, to minimize the challenges
that women lawyers face in government and
other areas of legal practice, but I think it is fair
to note that private practice in large law firms
presents women a series of significant obstacles that, if not unique, make advancement
and satisfaction in those institutions extremely
difficult.
The authors of the ABA study recognized that
there is no silver bullet that will instantly create
meaningful gender diversity in all law firms.
And while they included a variety of recommendations at the end of the report, there
appears to be one essential ingredient to
achieving that goal - an affirmative desire
on the part of law firm leadership to make it
happen and the will to take concrete steps to
bring it about. The final words of the ABA study
drive home this point: " Only the full strength
and voice of a firm's leaders can give teeth
to a firm's efforts to ensure the advancement
and retention of experienced women lawyers
and position the firm as a leader in the marketplace. "
In the end, it is likely to come down to economics. When enough clients insist that the
lawyers on their teams reflect the kinds of
diversity that the clients themselves are implementing in their own businesses, law firms will
have no choice but to dedicate themselves to
recruiting, mentoring, promoting, and retaining
women in at least equal measure to men. It
requires a focused and steadfast commitment
to make this happen, and nothing matters
more to a law firm's success than to make its
clients happy.

Connect with Geoff at gklineberg@dcbar.org.



Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021

Digital Extras
From Our President
Calendar of Events
Practice Management
Toward Well-Being
Staying Put in Big Law feature
A Sisterhood of Latina Lawyers Sidebar
Increasing Diversity & Inclusion the the Legal Profession feature
Cultivate Mentorships sidebar
A Tribute to Judge June L. Green feature
Delicate Balance for Black Women Attorneys in Government Feature
Falling Short on Disability Inclusion feature
Elusive Justice in Violence Against Native Women feature
Worth Reading
On Further Review
The Learning Curve
Member Spotlight - Marcia Madsen
Member Spotlight - Simon Zinger
ABA Delegates Corner
Attorney Briefs
Speaking of Ethics
Disciplinary Summaries
The Pro Bono Effecy
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 1
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 2
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 3
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 5
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Toward Well-Being
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Staying Put in Big Law feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 11
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - A Sisterhood of Latina Lawyers Sidebar
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 13
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Increasing Diversity & Inclusion the the Legal Profession feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 15
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Cultivate Mentorships sidebar
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 17
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - A Tribute to Judge June L. Green feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 19
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 20
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 21
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Delicate Balance for Black Women Attorneys in Government Feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 23
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 24
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 25
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Falling Short on Disability Inclusion feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 27
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 28
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 29
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Elusive Justice in Violence Against Native Women feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 31
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 32
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 34
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 35
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - The Learning Curve
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Member Spotlight - Marcia Madsen
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Member Spotlight - Simon Zinger
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 40
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 41
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - ABA Delegates Corner
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 45
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 47
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - The Pro Bono Effecy
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 49
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 50
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 51
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Cover4
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