During a court case, facts are examined, questions are put to witnesses, and the truth is pursued one fact at a time. So how can such a great fallacy committed against women exist at the very core of where justice is sought. Underrepresented, underappreciated, and passed over for powerful positions in the American Bar Association, women continue to struggle against a tide of prejudice in the workplace.
A study conducted in 2013 entitled “First Chairs at Trial: More Women Need Seats at the Table,” found women to be utterly misrepresented when compared to the number of men leading trials. The study went further to identify contributing factors to this deficit, like practice settings, type of client, case specific characteristics, and prejudicial biast. Current popular opinion places their confidence in men to lead as trial counsel, when no evidence supports such a belief.
However, the study did more than simply identify a problem that’s been all but spelled out for years. The authors of the study, Roberta D. Liebenberg and Stephanie A. Scharf, weigh in heavily on the topic. “A woman is going to get more opportunity to litigate by serving as a federal prosecutor than working at a private firm,” Liebenberg says. “And a lot of that has to do with the pipeline in law firms and issues that we have been discussing for years.” Continuing on to site that only 15% of equity partners at law firms are women, when a staggering 50% are graduating with the necessary degrees. This disparity indicates that women aren’t staying long enough, whether pressured by superiors or withheld advancement, to achieve the level of success needed to become partner.
Other staggering statistics were uncovered by the study, highlighting areas of gender disparity that run through a myriad of court cases. Women are far less likely to be lead council in contract, labor, intellectual property, and civil cases. In defense cases, men appear as 66% of the lead council. Though women take the higher percentile of government related cases, the vast majority of legal battles are being waged by men.