A global investigation into the reasons why so many women lawyers leave law firms, and on occasion the legal profession entirely, has been launched by the International Bar Association (IBA) Legal Policy & Research Unit (LPRU). The investigation also seeks to secure information on the professional barriers experienced by women in the legal profession. Once the data has been collected and analysed, a report aimed at law firms and legal associations will be published. The report will include practical measures for stemming the attrition, as well as strategies for developing retention and re-engagement.
The in-depth survey will collect information from participants on topics such as: progression since admission to the legal profession; explanations for departure; and future career/non-career aspirations. None of the collected data will be attributed to individuals or organisations. It will be de-identified and aggregated for analysis and reporting only.
Chair of the IBA Women Lawyers' Interest Group Isabel Bueno commented: 'Women leaving law firms to the degree at which they are presently doing is very worrying. This specific issue lies within the broader serious problem of a major lack of diversity in the legal profession, particularly within senior roles. Urgent resolution is required, and I wholeheartedly support the IBA LPRU initiative to firstly understand the root causes behind the departure statistics and then to develop guidelines to halt them for the good of the legal profession and society in general.'
She added: 'Typically, women are graduating with law degrees and entering legal careers at the same or higher rates than men, however, significantly fewer women continue into senior positions. Over the coming weeks I will encourage peers in my network to complete the survey and to forward it to women in their own networks who may or may not still be practising law. We need to do all that we can to reverse the trend.'
Jane Ellis, Director of the IBA Legal Policy & Research Unit, commented: 'The professional barriers experienced by women in the legal profession are not necessarily unique to the legal profession. However, we consider the legal profession is well placed to identify the nature and breadth of the barriers that impede women progressing into senior positions - in law firms or in other organisations - or otherwise discourage them from wanting to do so. This survey is the first of its kind to be conducted globally and we encourage all lawyers - women and men - to complete it.'
The IBA LPRU global survey is based on the national model of the Law Council of Australia's National Attrition and Re-engagement Study and will take approximately 15-20 minutes to complete.