Women at law firms are still paid less than men, and that fact doesn’t change even if they put in more hours in the day or years of experience, according to a new report from Sky Analytics.
The legal invoicing company analyzed $3.4 billion in invoices from more than 3,000 law firms, including many of the largest in the country. It found that no matter what tier firm women work at, determined by the number of attorneys and its geographic footprint, they will be billed at “significantly lower rates per hour” than men, on average getting $47, or 10 percent, less per hour. While 2 percent of men at top tier firms are billed at over $1,000 an hour, virtually no women make that rate, and while about half of them charge more than $500 an hour, less than a third of women bill that rate.
And even if a woman stays with a firm, she still won’t see her rates budge. Additional years of experience mean a rise in hourly rates for men, but for women it means their rates “rise only moderately, if at all,” the analysis finds. The only area of equality is at the lowest tier firms, where neither gender is rewarded for tenure.
Female law firm partners also put in more hours, billing 24 minutes more per day than male ones, and male and female associates put in about the same number of hours.
Overall, women in the profession earn about 87 percent of what men make. Some of that gap may come from the fact that women are heavily concentrated at the bottom of the ladder: Sky Analytics found that women make up 75 percent of paralegals and 46 percent of associates but just 22 percent of partners. It also found that the kinds of work they’re being given differs. Only 7 percent of what the report terms large matters, or those that have teams of 20 or more people, are staffed with teams that are more than 50 percent female. Meanwhile, 81 percent of small matters, with teams of just 5 people, are staffed by a majority of women.
The law field may also be penalizing women who are more likely to need more flexible working conditions. In a recent paper, Harvard economist Claudia Goldin found that it is one of the professions that places a high premium on employees working at specific times, which means working at more irregular hours can hurt pay. Given that women are far more likely to interrupt their careers to care for children, it can have a big impact on their wages, and she found this difference explains much of the pay gap in the legal field.
But there are extremely few jobs where women can avoid the gender pay gap. They make less in more than 100, compared to making more in just three. Generally speaking, women’s different career tracks can account for about 10 percent of the gender wage gap, which stands at 77 percent for women who work full-time, year-round. But about 40 percent of it can’t be explained and may be due to discrimination — something a third of women say they have experienced and which is evident in cases like the one filed against the country’s largest jewelry company. Examples of bias against female workers have cropped up in the legal profession, such as a law firm memo telling women how to dress and telling them to “practice hard words” or a blog post from a federal judge telling female lawyers not to dress like sluts.