working women

No Pay Gap for Female Legal Rainmakers Who Bring in $1 Million

Since 2010, legal search firm Major, Lindsey & Africa has surveyed major American law firm partners regarding their compensation, the criteria for their compensation, and their satisfaction with both their job and compensation.  This year, they published this report which includes interesting findings about median/average pay across different practice areas, tenure, geographies and firm sizes.  For this post, I’m only going to focus on the differences they found between male and female partners:

  • Male partners continued to out-earn female partners (making on average, $779k compared to $531k, with median earnings of $525k compared $375k)
  • Male partners originated more business than female partners (on average, $2.2 million compared to $1.2 million, with median originations of $1.1 million versus $650k)

Originations are perceived by partners to be the most significant factor in determining pay:Screen Shot 2014-09-19 at 3.14.04 PM                            Screen Shot 2014-09-19 at 3.15.09 PM

Therefore, you might think a large part of the pay discrepancy between male and female partners is due to the big differences between their origination revenues.  However, most (i.e. 75%) of the time, the survey found that given equal levels of origination, female partners still generally made less than male partners.  The one exception was extremely high performing women partners.  When female partners originated over $1 million of revenue per year, some of them made more than their male partners.  This is the first instance of women being paid more for generating the same amount of revenue, that the survey has ever recorded.

Let’s not mistake this for happy news, however.  As The Careerist points out, this means the vast majority of female partners are worse off where it really matters (i.e. originations).  Worse yet, even when women are performing equally in this area, its still not enough to overcome the pay gap.  All of this is particularly depressing because there is a significant amount PR, support programs and other initiatives that appear to indicate that law firms are trying to be supportive of their female staff and help them develop business skills (as reported by The Careerist, among others).  At the end of the day, there’s nothing quite like hearing what its like from the women themselves.  That’s the critical piece of information missing from all of the firm-sponsored information and from surveys which, though helpful, only talk about the numbers.  If you’re a female associate or partner, consider sharing what its really like at your law firm, and see what other women are saying, at Fairygodboss.


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