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Research

The Foundation actively searches for worthwhile research and is developing additional projects and goals.

NAWL and NAWL Foundation National Survey on Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms

Today, the NAWL Annual Survey is the only national study of the nation's 200 largest law firms that annually tracks the progress of women lawyers at all levels of private practice including the most senior positions. The Foundation’s statistics are telling. Despite robust hiring of entry level women, progressive policies, enlightened practices and good faith initiatives, only about 16 percent of the partners at major law firms nationwide are women, a figure that has held steady for some 20 years. Women continue to have low representation in law firm leadership, on governing committees and as managing partners. They are not viewed as the critical rainmakers. And, as has been the case ever since the Survey began collecting data in 2006, women at every stage of practice earn less than their male counterparts with the biggest difference at the equity partner level.

The NAWL Foundation's research seeks to provide data relating to troublesome issues about women in the law: Why has there been so little progress? Why do women fail to achieve the same career success as their male counterparts? What can be done to stem the exodus of women lawyers from the profession? The need to identify work environments that encourage and support the advancement of women has received growing attention throughout corporate America, in the media, academia and in conferences across many different professions. These are the issues that continue to drive the Foundation’s research.

 
National Survey of Corporate Law Departments

The NAWL Foundation is also turning its attention to the status of women in corporate legal departments. There has been a rapid increase in the number of women lawyers practicing in corporations, but there is a dearth of data about the actual numbers, the roles that women play and the reasons why some women advance in corporate law practice and others do not. The NAWL Foundation seeks to fill that gap with innovative research with two goals:

  1. to benchmark statistics about the advancement of women lawyers in corporate law departments, and
  2. to identify the factors about individual lawyers and law departments that together impact the advancement of women into leadership roles.

The Foundation intends for the research to show the pathways for women to succeed in corporate law departments, the role of “the business” in the success of women lawyers, whether departmental policies and practices have a greater impact on the advancement of women lawyers, and what role mentors andother networking relationships have on the advancement of women.

There will be a survey administered to law departments as a whole, to gather objective data about the retention and position of women as well as a survey of individuals in law departments, both women and men, to get personal perspectives about the skills and structures needed for people to advance and whether there are gender differences in the rate and routes of advancement. The Foundation expects to issue a report in mid-2013.

National Survey of Women's Initiatives in Law Firms

The NAWL Foundation recently completed the first-ever National Survey of Women's Initiatives in Law Firms. This research collated data about the structure and functioning of women's affinity groups in large firms and their impact on the careers of women lawyers. This innovative work identified the types of activities that take place under the auspices of law firm affinity groups; the funding, oversight and expectations for such groups; as well as analyzing factors that enhance the success of women's initiatives. The Foundation's report of its research was published in November 2012.  Click here to read the full report.