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Men Appear as Trial Attorneys Four Times More Often
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Summary: A new study conducted by two practicing female attorneys determined that women appear as the primary attorney in civil and criminal cases less often than men.

The gender gap in the legal industry goes beyond pay, billing rates, and making partner. The newest study by the American Bar Association looked inside the courtroom to see who was trying the cases. They used the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois to gather the data.


The study, titled “First Chairs at Trial: More Women Need Seats at the Table”, is the first study that took empirical information to examine who was lead counsel and trial attorneys in civil and criminal litigation cases. Attorneys Stephanie A. Scharf and Roberta D. Liebenberg co-authored the study. Scharf is a litigator at the women-owned firm Scharf Banks Marmor LLC . Liebenberg is a senior partner at Fine, Kaplan and Black PRC. She is also a former chairwoman of the ABA’s gender equity task force.

They used the 50 criminal cases and 558 civil cases that were filed in 2013. This represented over 2,000 lawyers involved in the cases as trial attorney or lead counsel.

The study found that over two-thirds of the attorneys in civil cases are men. Of those that appear as the lead counsel, almost one-fifth are women, making men three times more likely to be the lead counsel in a civil case. For criminal cases, men appear almost four times more as the trial attorney. Around 70 percent of those that represent the government as lead counsel are women while men appear two-thirds more as the lead counsel for defendants.

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They believe there are several factors that may contribute to this unequal representation. While women are graduating from law school and gaining employment at similar rates to men, there is still the problem of pay and making partner. With less women making partner, they have a harder time getting the better trial assignments. There is also a possibility for bias since most senior lawyers are men.





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