Gender Pay Gap in Law Firms Just Plain Discrimination?

September 14, 2010 ( – New research has found that lower productivity is not why women partners at law firms earn less on average than their male counterparts.

According to research by law and business professors from Temple University and the University of Texas-Pan American, women lawyers are just as productive as men, even though they consistently earn less. “If these women are underpaid and undervalued in terms of rank despite their conformity to a lockstep pattern, the inequalities could be due to intentional discrimination,” the researchers wrote, according to the National Law Journal.  

The researchers’ regression models indicated that firm productivity — measured by revenue per lawyer — remained largely the same at firms with a high percentage of women attorneys compared to firms with a lower percentage. “Even if women do not devote as much time to their careers due to caretaking duties, there is no evidence of it adversely impacting their revenue generating ability,” the researchers wrote. “By discrediting the idea that women are paid less because they are not as productive as men, discrimination is left as an explanation.”   

The news report said the researchers pointed out that the lockstep system is a likely source of the gender pay gap, since women who take time off to have children or be a caretaker are often excluded from the partnership track or passed over for other promotions; however, Temple law professor Marina Angel said that even women who do not take time off still generally earn less than their male colleagues.   

More about the study is here.