Skip to main content

Are you a legal professional? Visit our professional site

Search for legal issues
For help near (city, ZIP code or county)
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location

Female Lawyers Work Harder Than Men for Less Pay: Study

Article Placeholder Image
By Mark Wilson, Esq. on May 19, 2015 12:53 PM

Good news, women who get paid a fraction of what men get paid! You're also working harder for that fraction of pay! That's what the women's equality movement was all about, right?

A survey of four Harvard Law School alumni classes -- one from each decade since the 1970s -- revealed that women from the class of 1975 worked about six more hours per week than men, and women from the class of 2000 worked almost eight more hours per week.

Versatile Degree, Indeed

Now for the caveats and the highlights. The survey results are self-reported, and the survey's authors tell us only that they had a 35% response rate. Even so, the sample size -- across four Harvard Law classes -- appears to be over 700 people.

The other thing of note is that these results don't apply only to people in law jobs. The survey notes that men were more likely than women to leave law for non-law business jobs. (This, the authors say, might account for the pay gap between men and women; men are earning more at non-law business jobs than women are.) Even so, women are more likely than men to leave law firms for other "employment sectors," though these sectors aren't specified as being law or non-law areas.

But there's also a lot of commonality. Both men and women are steadily moving away from law firms, and both genders report that they're probably not going to go back. And even when men and women leave the legal profession, they still say they're satisfied with their decision to attend law school (although that's a little tough, given they did attend Harvard law school, which opens doors even to non-law jobs).

Things Are OK, But They Could Be Much Better

The good news is that things are getting better when it comes to gender equality in the law. We're far from a time when women attending law school was novel and strange. HLS went from being 15% female in 1975 to 47.6% female in 2013.

The bad news is that income inequality is still a problem, though it may be the result of which fields graduates chose to work in. The pay differences between the classes of 1975, 1985, and 2000 weren't very high compared to the class of 1995, where men made over twice as much as women. The survey attributes this to the large amount of male graduates from that class going into non-law business fields. But even so, women are still less likely than men to be equity partners in law firms.

And if you thought there'd be work-life balance, think again: Across all classes, there's a gap of 10-20 percentage points between married men and married women, with women reporting being married less often than men (but divorced more often!).

What do we learn from this survey? A lot of things we already knew: Men make more money, but have to sacrifice less, than women in order to make it in the legal profession.

Related Resources:

Find a Lawyer

More Options