Want To First Chair A Trial? Be A Man.


From the Department Of Why Isn’t This Getting Any Better, we have yet another study about a ridiculous inequity in the legal profession. No, it isn’t about how we suck at diversity generally, though we do. No, this time it is that for all we think women are gaining some sort of equitable status in the profession, an ABA study found that we still will not let them sit in that coveted first chair as often as men do.

While women make up at least 36% of the profession, according to the study, they comprise 24 percent of first-chair roles in civil cases. And those numbers are lower when looking at tort cases or the representation of businesses and individuals.  […]

This gets extra-terrible when you break out case types:

  • In class actions, women enter an appearance 32% of the time, but only 13% of the time as lead counsel.
  • Women are only lead counsel in 15% of contract cases, 21% of tort cases, 22% of labor cases, and 23% of IP cases.

Oh, and in the big huge major business cases that every BigLaw person hopes to try one day? Men are lead counsel 80% of the time.

The study acknowledges that this is a pipeline problem. We aren’t good at getting women into positions where they can gain the kind of experience that makes them the best choice for first chair. Until we solve this problem all the way down to every level of experience in the profession, the problem will persist.

Featured image: “Portrait of two lawyer sitting with woman in the background” from Shutterstock.


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  • Walker

    And guess what? It’s only going to get worse, thanks to the efforts of BigLaw and the US Supreme Corps to make sure that no natural person can ever exercise their 7th Amendment right to a jury trial, because the pipeline isn’t leaking — the pipeline is stopped cold, because corporations have succeeded in privatizing the justice system and pretty much eliminating civil jury trials.

    So, just as in academic publishing you stop seeing one and two author papers and start seeing battalions of co-authors, BigLaw lawyers are all going to do a more and more microscopic part of fewer and fewer cases, where the big dogs who started practicing when there was still a 7th Amendment will always be the first chair, and when they’re gone, BigLaw will defend meaningful big rials with refugees from the plaintiff’s bar who have tired of fighting against a stacked system designed to prevent civil justice.