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MIND THE GAP: Income Disparities Between Genders Persist
By Kristen Senz

The complete survey reports are now available online.

The pay disparity for men and women performing equal job functions often widens as lawyers gain more responsibility, according to the results of the recent NH Bar Association Economics of Law Practice Survey.

The average annual income in 2013 for full-time private practice lawyers was $108,417 for women and $150,871 for men, a difference of $42,454, or nearly 40 percent, according to the survey results.

The income gap remained significant but became less pronounced when median annual income was analyzed; median income was $90,000 for women and $110,000 for men, a difference of 22 percent.

Curiously, women running solo offices with one or more associates reported earning significantly more per year than their male counterparts, with a median income of $200,000, compared with the $152,500 reported by men in solo practice with one or more associates. This was the only category in which women reportedly earned more than men. Solo practitioners with an office outside the home reported equal earnings regardless of gender, with the median salary for both coming in at about $75,000.

In the law firm setting, the gender gap appears to widen as the level of job responsibility grows. Men who were partners in large firms with eight or more total partners reported earning 38 percent more than women who were similarly situated. In firms with 2-7 partners, the men at the partner table took home 33 percent more than the women.

Those working as associates in firms reported a narrower gap between the earnings of men and women. Men in associate positions at larger firms reported incomes about 4 percent higher than those reported by women who were working in the same positions. Associates in firms with up to seven partners reported a 6 percent income gap, with men taking home an average net income of $68,750 per year, while women brought in an average of $65,000.

Correspondingly, an analysis of the gender income disparities by number of years in practice shows that the gap is the widest – in terms of dollars – for attorneys who have been in practice for 16 to 25 years. During that time period, men earn an average of $133,000 per year, compared with women's average annual earnings of $104,000 – a difference of $29,000 per year, or about 28 percent.

But the income disparity also is significant between men and women who had only been in practice for one or two years. In fact, proportionally, the gap is much wider for new graduates. Men straight out of law school earned an average of almost 50 percent more than women, with salaries of $53,750 and $36,000 reported for men and women, respectively.

Among government lawyers the gap was narrower. The average annual income for women working full-time was $70,562. Men on average earned about 14 percent more, at $80,591.

Overall, attorneys working as in-house counsel saw a similarly sized gap. Where women had an average annual salary of $129,913, men reported making $147,576 per year, for a difference of $17,663, or again about 14 percent. But the gap widens significantly mid-career, according to the survey results. Men who were working as in-house counsel and had been in practice between 16 and 25 years reported earning an average of $160,000 per year, a whopping 64 percent more than women at the same level, who reported an average annual salary of $97,500. In later years, the income disparity shrank again. In-house counsel in practice more than 26 years reported average annual salaries of $100,000 and $90,000 for men and women, respectively.

The average woman in private practice bills clients at a rate 10 percent lower than that of her male counterparts, according to the survey results. Private sector attorneys working full-time have an average billing rate of $229 per hour for women and $252 for men.

View a larger version of this chart.

Past Survey Comparison

The NH Bar Association Gender Equality Committee (GEC) and other groups work hard to raise awareness about the gender gap and achieve pay equality.

"The gender-based pay gap reflected in the Economics of Law Practice Survey tracks the pay disparity the Gender Equality Committee has found in its surveys since 1988," says Joni Esperian, chair of the GEC and executive director of the NH Commission for Human Rights. "It is consistent with national trends in law, medicine, accounting, and academia. Until the value of women's work is recognized and compensated equal to that of men, all American families suffer from the wage gap."

It's difficult to compare the recent results to past surveys conducted by the GEC, because the data was not collected in the same way. Past GEC surveys generally examined the percentage of women Bar members who were within certain salary ranges, compared with the percentage of men in the same ranges. However, looking at the results of the previous surveys can provide at least some historical context for the new gender gap statistics.

A 2010 article in the New Hampshire Bar Journal summarized the results of past GEC surveys and was the source for the following reporting.

The 2009 GEC survey highlighted the fact that men were more likely to make partner at the state's law firms. Those results showed that 82.9 percent of male attorneys with more than 10 years in practice at law firms or offices with 10 or more attorneys were either equity or non-equity partners. Sixty percent of similarly situated female attorneys were equity or non-equity partners.

The 2009 survey also showed that female attorneys' average hours of work and average billable hours had decreased from 10 years ago (46 average hours of work in 2009, compared with 50 in 1997; 31 average billable hours per week in 2009 compared with 35 in 1997). The statistics remain virtually unchanged for male attorneys in the same categories in 2009 and 1997 (51 average hours of work in 2009 and 1997; 34 average billable hours in 2009 and 35 in 1997).

However, the gap in average billing rates among men and women nearly doubled between 1997 and 2009. In 1997, male attorneys charged on average $12 per hour more than their female counterparts ($142 versus $130). In 2009, male attorneys charged on average $28 per hour more than their female counterparts ($235 versus $207).

The GEC surveys delved much deeper into the lives and perceptions of women attorneys compared with those of their male counterparts than did the current NHBA survey, which focused more specifically on income and other financial factors for all respondents.

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