In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

In House Sexism is Alive and Inexcusable, Study Finds

It's no secret that the legal profession, like every other industry, has not rid itself of the invidious scourge of sexism and discrimination. In fact, a recent study revealed that the not-so mythological "old boys club" plays a significant part in why female partners are selected less often than male partners by clients.

According to a recent study, the numbers are rather jarring. Male clients will choose a female partner to handle their matter only 17 percent of the time. Almost more shocking, when it's a female client, the number only increases to 25 percent. Interestingly, and making the dismal numbers even more disappointing, as Above the Law explained, the statistics on performance quality between male and female led teams of attorneys tend to be about equal. Additionally, single gender teams performed worse than teams that included both genders. 

Implicitly In House

Just like we learned years ago from the studies on implicit bias, not only do men hold an implicit bias against women due to the social programming, women hold similar biases against women. We are all similarly programmed, but also have the capability to recognize our own biases. It's challenging, but gets easier with practice.

In addition to our biases, decisions for in-house attorneys can often be dependent on an attorney's personal network. And given the overwhelming majority of in-house attorneys appear to be male, it stands to reason that the clients and other firms or partners they work with will also be male, based on the choose-who-you-know-and-who-your-friends-are-philosophy of doing business that still exists and isn't likely to go away soon.

Equality Requires Some Effort

The hard part seems to be that people simply want to know the people they're doing business with. And since men are more frequently friends with other men, this leads to sending business around amongst a seemingly male-only circle. Understanding the in house/business attorney/client selection process in this crass manner is crucial to fixing the problem of gender disparity as it's suggested that it may require some drastic affirmative action by clients.

In this modern day and age, luckily the action you have to take to fight gender discrimination isn't too burdensome. If you're on the client side, all it requires doing is looking up the firm's partners online, then calling up your current attorney and telling him that you want to send your business to one of the female partners. If he replies there isn't one, consider gasping. And don't worry, if a law firm isn't ready for it when a client inquires as to the lack of gender diversity, it's on them. Big corporate clients have already made headlines over their demands for diverse representation.

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