Marketing Corner: Challenges and Taking Control
By Kimberly Alford Rice
After spending nearly two decades working in law firms, I have witnessed and experienced enough discrimination and recrimination to know from the front row the many challenges women lawyers face in law firms today.
According to a 2012 National Association for Law Placement (NALP) survey on the demographics of equity, we should not be surprised to learn that 64 percent of male partners are equity partners while 47 percent of both women and minority partners were equity partners, a differential of 17 to 18 percentage points. More dramatically perhaps, among equity partners, about 85 percent are men, 15 percent are women and fewer than 5 percent are racial/ethnic minorities. (The minority figures include both men and women, so the three figures add to more than 100 percent.)
Among non-equity partners, the respective figures are 73 percent men, 27 percent women and 8 percent racial/ethnic minorities. Finally, among all partners, the equity/non-equity split is about 61 percent-39. Just over half of partners are male equity partners, just over 9 percent were women equity partners and almost 3 percent are minority equity partners.
What these stats may convey to us is caucasian males remain in the power seats and women lawyers must step it up if we are committed to making a measurable advancement in our careers and the quality of our work environments.
Despite these figures, the ranks of women lawyers also must claim their role as well by "leaning in" (Sheryl Sandberg reference intended) to clear the path for power and advancement in their legal careers.
In Sheryl's book, "Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead," she says that we women are hindered by barriers erected by ourselves, as well as society (read "law firms"). "We hold ourselves back in ways big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in," she says, pointing out that women tend to internalize lifelong negative messages that say it is wrong to be outspoken, aggressive, more powerful than men. "We lower our expectations of what we can achieve," she says. "We compromise our career goals … Compared to our male colleagues, fewer of us aspire to senior positions."
Compound these troubling realities with the well-known fact that the law school curriculum does not appropriately prepare law students for the business of law or how to build and grow a client base, and women lawyers have their work cut out for them, as we sometimes say.
Difficult, no doubt, but possible nonetheless.
Over the summer, I will address how women lawyers must take control over their careers and not be hindered by history.
Kimberly Alford Rice (firstname.lastname@example.org) is principal of KLA Marketing Associates.