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Women, the Business of Law, and International Women’s Day

October 11, 2019
Aviva Will

I’m of two minds about International Women’s Day. On the one hand, I welcome any celebration of women’s achievements. On the other, I believe such celebration is merited on the other 364 days as well—with a continuous and unrelenting focus on progress still to be made.

In the business of law, as I have written before, there remains a gender gap at the senior-most levels of law firms. According to research conducted by Major, Lindsey & Africa in 2016, there is a 44% difference in pay between female and male partners at large US law firms; research they conducted in 2017 found that female partners at London law firms receive 24% less compensation than male partners.

The “good news” is that the gender pay gap is shrinking—but at such a slow rate that achieving equity will take almost 30 years in the US, and 64 years in the UK. Law firms must address this issue—and not only out of fairness: Many large corporations use diversity-based criteria to select service providers, and recent events will only escalate the pressure they surely feel and will in turn put on their law firm partners.

Addressing the gender gap in the business of law will take time—more than one day, to be sure—but I believe that two of the most important tools available are mentorship and new streams of capital that can help women “rainmakers” win new clients. The capacity to bring in new business remains the most effective way to achieve seniority in law firms, so tools that address that particular area of need will arguably be more effective than any diversity initiative, however well-intentioned. Litigation finance has an important role to play in supporting and promoting women litigators.

On International Women’s Day—and the other 364—I remain committed to helping to close the gender gap for women in law.