by Patrick Gaffney

In an age when women are graduating from law school at the same rate as men, why are they leaving the profession in such high numbers by age 50 and what can be done about it?

These are questions Miami’s Hilarie Bass studied during her term as ABA president.  The co-president of Greenberg Traurig, whose ABA presidential term concluded in August, launched an initiative, Achieving Long-Term Careers for Women in Law.

Bass said while women start out in the profession on par with men, they decline to 26 to 27 percent by age 50.

Florida Bar President Michelle Suskauer said the ABA study is troubling because it shows women are abandoning the law when they should be at the height, or approaching the height, of their careers.

“If women continue to leave the profession in the numbers we’re seeing, we’re never going to break that 20 percent mark of being equity partners,” Suskauer said.

“And we are losing that institutional knowledge.  We’re losing their contacts.  We’re losing their talent.  And we’re losing diversity in our firms,” Suskauer said.

Suskauer was also interested in the significant difference in perception men and women have about the profession when she saw the ABA results.

The ABA’s year-long series of three different studies involved focus groups containing women over age 50 who chose to stay in the profession and those who chose to leave.  Bass said they were asked in detail why they left or stayed, and what their firms could have done differently to alter that trajectory.

When asked why gender disparities remain at law firms, the focus groups pointed to:

  • Closed compensation system.
  • The credit system disadvantages women.
  • The breadmaker/homemaker stereotypes persist.
  • The “boys club” limits opportunities for women.
  • Ageism impacts men and women differently.

Suskauer said by early 2019, The Florida Bar anticipates rolling out a gender equality toolkit, and to award blue ribbon designations to firms that hire, promote, and retain women attorneys. Those recommendations are among 12 proposed by the Subcommittee on Gender Equality, a division of the Bar’s long-standing Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

“Women lawyers bring so much to their firms, to their practice areas, and to their legal communities that when they leave the profession when they should be at the height of their careers, it leaves a huge hole that is not easily filled.”1

1 This blog was taken from: Bitar, Rawan, Why are women leaving the law? The Florida Bar News, September 15, 2018, retrieved from,!opendocument

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