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Even Harvard Law School Lawyers Face

Gender Based Obstacles and Varied Career
Summary: A recent report released by Harvard Law School shows that its
graduates continue to face various obstacles in their careers.

It's been over fifty years since Harvard Law School admitted female students
and the school just issued a report examining how HLS's female graduates
are faring in the workplace. The report confirms that a fancy law degree is no
free pass when it comes to gender related obstacles in the legal profession.
The report surveyed female and male HLS alums from the classes of 1975,
1985, 1995 and 2000.Though primarily focused on gender disparities, the
report also provides interesting insight into the career trajectories of HLS
alums of both genders. Most striking, the study found that over one-fourth
(28%) of graduates surveyed are no longer practicing law at all.
Gender Issues
The 70-page report concludes: "Even women who start their careers with the

benefit of an educational credential traditionally thought to be an important
hedge against adversity nevertheless continue to encounter greater
obstacles than their male classmates-particularly when they attempt to
integrate family obligations with professional goals."
One area of disparity is in full-time versus part-time work. For the class of
2000, for example, 98.9% of men and 97.7% of women worked full-time in
their first post-graduation job. But ten years later, zero percent of the men
worked part-time as compared to 13% of women. Of the women, 12% had
left the paid labor force altogether.
The disparity (and inequity) doesn't stop there. Among full-time law firm
employees, women reported working an average of four hours a week more
than men. Meanwhile, fewer women reported holding top management
positions. Moreover, although starting salaries were generally equal (except
for the 2000 class, in which men came in at $115,000 and women $85,000),
the economic disparity between the genders increased over time, perhaps
because more men than women migrated to high-paying non-law jobs in
businesses like investment banks and hedge funds.
As far as the lawyers' personal lives go, the women were less likely to be
married than men, and 93.6% of male law firm partners were married as
compared with 66.4% of female partners. When it came to having children,
women more than men reported adverse consequences such as having to
leave a job, experiencing a delay in promotion, having their commitment to
work questioned and even losing office space.
Mobility and Flexibility
Beyond "gender issues," the Harvard report provides other insights into
today's legal professionals. The trend appears to be towards greater mobility
within law sectors and among professions generally. Most HLS graduates
surveyed began their careers at law firms, but many transitioned to public
sector jobs or to business sector jobs, either working in a non-legal capacity
or as in-house counsel. Moreover, the 1975 graduates had on average 3.2
employers over a 40-year career, while the 2000 graduates already had an
average of 2.7 employers during their much shorter 10-year careers.
(Similarly, an American Bar Foundation study that looked at young lawyers
across the country from all different law schools found that in a 12-year
career many attorneys already had as many as four different jobs.)

As far as why so many HLS lawyers left the law, the reasons range from a
failure to find the work interesting to being dissatisfied with the work/life
balance to just being pulled in another direction. But even those HLS grads
who followed other paths expressed appreciation for their education. Over
80% reported they would still obtain a law degree if they had to do it over
Female lawyers continue to face gender and "work/life" challenges,
regardless where they went to law school. And just as more women are
moving out of law or into alternative law tracks than men, today's lawyers of
both genders appear to be moving around more. Whatever the impetus, the
trend is toward alternatives, mobility and flexibility.
And if the HLS lawyers are any indication, one very bright light at the end of
the tunnel is lawyers continue to value their law degree, however they use it,
and whatever compromises they make in doing so.
This article “Even Harvard Law School Lawyers Face Gender Based Obstacles
and Varied Career Trajectories” first appeared on LawCrossing is the world
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