What 12 Gender Bias Complaints Say About BigLaw

Posted May 27th, 2019.

As It Appeared On
Law360

By Jacqueline Bell and Natalie Rodriguez

Law360 (May 27, 2019, 8:04 PM EDT) — Over the last three years, law firms have seen an onslaught of gender bias suits. What in the legal industry zeitgeist is fueling them?

Here, Law360 takes a data snapshot of a dozen complaints to see the threads that tie these suits together.

Lawsuits have hit a slew of respected BigLaw firms, including Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart PC and Jones Day, which made Glass Ceiling lists for higher-than-average representation of women. All the firms serving as defendants have denied the allegations and disputed how the claims characterize their law firm cultures. Two suits have settled on terms that have not been publicly disclosed, and two are currently in arbitration.

With so few suits reaching a public resolution — and law firms vehemently repudiating the claims — it’s unclear how far gender bias extends within the industry. Whether or not these specific firms are culpable, a look at all of the complaints gives a snapshot into the issues fueling the gender bias litigation movement.

Frustration with compensation and how women receive credit for generating business are the most common grievances, based on how often those and related terms pop up in each complaint.

While the suits have many issues in common, they are far from cookie-cutter. Some include allegations of boorish behavior on the part of male counterparts or managers. Others claim that once women raise issues with compensation, they face swift retaliation and a hostile work environment.

Suits filed more recently have focused heavily on maternity leave and opportunities for new mothers, as well as allegations of a fraternity culture that blocks women from advancement.

Viewed together, these lawsuits reveal points of friction for women who feel they’re being denied equal opportunities in the halls of private practice, and a window into the issues that could be preventing law firms from reaching greater gender parity.

Click to view interactive version

–Editing by Jocelyn Allison, Pamela Wilkinson and John Campbell.

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