Thursday, April 22, 2010

Do Women JDs Receive Equal Compensation?

I ran into this article about women's salaries, JDs v. MBAs--who has a better chance of earning the same salary as their male counterparts?   According to the article, it's female JDs.  Well, with those of us that are blessed enough to land a Big Law job, I'm sure that is true.  There's no justification for paying a first year female differently than a male.

Also, women holding professional degrees (J.D.s, M.B.A.s and M.D.s) fare even worse -- over the course of their careers, they will earn $2 million less than the men in their graduating class, says Lang. "How's that for a graduation gift?"

But what about shit law?

When I was a shit law associate, I was painfully aware that the men in my office were making more than I was.  There was a guy named Ken who was married and roughly my equal as an associate.  BUT, I was more experienced than he was and I was often helping him with his cases.  He graduated a year after me, but was a bit older because he was a non-traditional law student.  He carried a lesser caseload. I was definitely the workhorse at the firm.  He was married, but his wife earned tons more money than he did.  After a couple of years, I found out that he was making $75K when I was making $60K.  I also found out that his bonus was larger than mine was.   In fact, I received less of a bonus than all of the associates.  But when I received that disgraceful bonus, and subsequently found another job, my boss almost cried.  For the next 4 years, he would call me up from time to time and ask me if I'd like to come back.  I wanted to ask him why he didn't pay me fairly.

Since I know that I was valued, but not compensated thus, I imagined a million and one reasons why I was paid the least and worked the most.  The hierarchy in my office was as follows:  (1) married men, (2) single men, (3) married women and (4) me, a single woman.  Maybe the married men were paid more because they had to support a family, even though their wives worked.  And the married women did not work as hard as I did because they could always fall back on their husbands.  One of the married chicks, Belinda, would just say no to my boss when he asked her to work weekends or stay late.  "My husband is waiting for me," and she'd walk out of the office.  But I had no one to lean on (not even a boyfriend at the time), so I had no leverage.  There were a couple of times that my boss would push the envelope so much that I couldn't breathe, and I would have a break down and quit, saying that my father would support me and I don't have to deal with his bullshit.  But in the end, my boss probably knew that my blue collar father could not help me that much.

When I went to the next firm, it was the same dynamic.  Even the only female partner earned less than the male partners--although she was the most well known attorney at the firm.  She too was single.  And the firm had a rotating door for female associates.  They couldn't hold onto them for longer than a year.  I really think that the main partner, a man, was much harder on the women associates.

In the end, is it still a good old boy's club?


  1. Are women treated fairly in the legal profession? The answer is not only "No," it is "Christ, no!"

    Even though I only graduated this past year (not the 1950s), the women in my class were really struggling to find the "good" jobs compared to the men.

    I've dealt with the illegal questions about my marital status. Not the sneaky kind, but the flat out "so, do you have children?" and "Why is there a second address on this resume? Is this where your husband lives?"

    And it's not just men. I think that many of the women I've run across actually end up being just as sexist (or even more sexist) than the men. Would the 60+ year old paralegal at my recent ill-fated job have been gung ho about running me off if I was on "her" level and was just "one of the girls" on the office staff and not an attorney? If I was male, would she have cared what my handwriting looked like? Would she have decided that I just couldn't "handle" the job even though I was never even given a chance to actually touch any of the work at all?

    At my job before law school, my boss (female) made a big stink about wanting to stay away from women because of the chance that they'd get pregnant, go on maternity leave, and then quit a week after they came back.

    In many jobs, I would watch as skilled women languish in "office assistant" roles for years and years while the establishment was trying to help out the young, stoned white guy and giving him chance after chance. They would pity the guy because he was in the embarrassing position of working in a "female" job, and they figured that his lazy behavior must be a byproduct of being stuck in a job that no self-respecting white guy should have to take that seriously. One day, he would get his shit together and "be" something. Until then, they kept looking the other way until the guy was so drug-addled that they couldn't ignore it anymore.

    Yeah, I'm not really sure why a penis = more pay, other than it being a symbol of where the power actually lies. It's sort of like seeing a TV show like "The Doctors." They may have a panel filled with women and minorities, but who is the central host? The white dude.

    It's why people will hate Obama with a passion. He's just not a white guy. They feel safe with the old white guy establishment in power, even if it is to their personal ruin, or if they don't personally benefit. It's a hidden acknowledgment that society grooms white guys to be the leader, and they don't understand how this guy got in because, at most, he's supposed to serve in a cute little post that holds some power within the cabinet, but still leaves the real decision power with the old white guy.

  2. Ha. We had a chair in my office that was notorious. For some reason, every chick that got pregnant would be sitting on that chair at the time. My boss considered chucking it. And sexism is rampant.... I would regularly hear this statement: "Knock 'em dead in court tomorrow morning. Remember to wear a low cut shirt! Sleep with the judge if you have to." Something about being a lawyer makes lawyer bosses feel like they can BREAK the law and get away with it.

  3. None of this surprises me. Yes, the legal profession is still a boys club and the way it is structured (with them getting rid of women once they have babies) it will probably remain that way for a very long time. I saw the sexism in law school at my T14. Some of the old male professors were disgusting and sexist. It was no surprise if some slept with their students. They certainly flirted with women out in the open without any repercussion. The majority of male students you find at T14 schools know they are the cream of the crop and can easily bed college girls and golddiggers coming at them from all directions. This type of mindset obviously gets worse for those who become successful in law.

  4. While this is all true, the biggest reason for the huge gap in lifetime earnings is that huge numbers of women leave the labor force in the late 20s and 30s to have kids. And if and when they come back, the positions that are available are not the high-level and high-paying positions. Back in my school days, the econometric data showed pretty clearly that the labor force exit and re-entry phenomenon explained (I can't remember exactly) something like 70-80% of the 23% difference.

    I'm sure the problems are worse when the economy goes in the tank and you have long-term structurally high unemployment on top of the already significant problems with re-entering the labor force. That will affect women more than men since they leave and come back with more frequency, but at its core, it's a gender neutral attack on upward mobility.

  5. This is very interesting. Is there a racial breakdown on this too? I'd imagine the minority males don't fare as well as the white males, but are you saying the minority single males are treated better than the white single females as well?

    There is definitely discrimination going on in a lot of fields and employment. I have no doubt that white males still have the best opportunities, but I seriously question that minority males are in a better situation than white females.

  6. Gee, I think if I was making less money I would do the bare minimum & if asked to do things outside my description say "well if you want me to do THAT, it's going to cost you." My help would be bare-bones & limited. I'd also point out that I'm just a simple office assistance so clearly, you must be mistaken to think I'm doing THAT. Turnabout is fair play.

    Working on my own & becoming a lawyer has made me unwilling to stick my neck out or give 2000% to anyone who doesn't think highly enough of me to pay me what I'm due. Enough people I know experienced BS for me to see the warning signs before ever getting too deep.

    No one's ever brought up sexual things w/me (likely b/c I mention being married pretty quick + not a good idea to tick off a redhead, attractive or not). This is also yet another reason there's not enough money in the world to get me to work in a law firm as a lawyer & probably why I can't really work for anyone other than myself or someone who understands my mindset.

  7. As a minority (single) male in a firm, I would guess that we don't fair particularly favorably in terms of overall salary picture. I won't be able to find the articles, but in 2008, something ridiculous like a quarter of minority associates interviewed didn't expect to be in the same job in three years, and many were struggling to get projects (and therefore meet billable hours) in comparison to white associates. my own experience has been similar, and if I find a better firm or in house counsel position, I wouldn't hesitate to leave my firm (and the money) behind. The chances of a minority associate (especially at a firm without any minority partners) lateraling is comparatively high, and slows the potential for partnership (and therefore the overall earning potential). I imagine that retaining single female attorneys in firms without female partners is similarly difficult, and has a corresponding effect on salary statistics.

    If you look at it not as a racially or gender motivated situation, you'd probably find this: partners (mostly men with families and family ties) will bond most readily with other family oriented folks. That translates to more projects and better billable hours. People are unconsciously sympathetic to an out of work parent and are more inclined to hire, retain, and pay him or her better, as well as forgive the inability to work longer hours or at inopportune times. Single associates, on the other hand, will be expected to be more flexible about their hours and don't engender sympathy for our debts or financial obligations, because we don't have to take care of anyone else.

  8. These postings are rather interesting but not surprising. Law remains an "old boys club".

    Film Co has the right idea....starting your own practice. That's what I plan to do because personally I don't care to deal with the nonsense that people have to go through just to get and keep a job.

  9. quit your bitchin and get in the kitchen



Blog Template by - Header Image by Arpi