The more she climbed the legal ladder, the fewer women lawyers Tiffany Rider saw with her.
Rider, Indiana University graduate Robert H. McKinney School of Law who practices at Axinn Veltrop & Harkrider LLP, said she appreciates the dynamics and variety she encounters in her practice of complex litigation and antitrust law.
But she didn’t realize early in her career that she could be one of the few women at the top of her field.
Although she is ranked very well, Rider admitted that it seems difficult to break down barriers for women to get there.
“I think people in the legal industry, especially last year, have noticed this, and efforts are being made to rectify that,” she said. “But too often, and it’s human nature, we support people who look like us, and given the history of those who have held these positions before – white men – it’s a prejudice, but it can to be rectified when people make a conscious effort to recognize it and try to fix it.
Efforts to support women in the legal profession have intensified in recent years. Studies show that women are starting to outnumber men in law schools slightly and account for nearly half of all partners entering law firms, according to the National Association of Women Lawy’s 2020 report.
However, despite an increasing number of women entering the legal profession, something is still blocking the pipeline.
Go to root
Trying to pinpoint the problem, the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession recently released a study titled “How Unappealing: An Empirical Analysis of the Gender Gap between Appellate Attorneys,” which takes a close look at the persistent gap. gender among lawyers arguing at the federal appeal level.
Co-authored by 7th Court of Appeal judge Amy St. Eve and attorney Jamie B. Luguri of Munger Tolles & Olson, the study compares similar numbers from two years to a decade apart: 2009 and 2019. She revealed little progress in allowing women to appeal to federal courts of appeal.
Specifically, the study sifted through data regarding the number of women who litigated in the 7th Circuit, the types of cases they worked on, who they represented and where they worked.
The study found that men arguing in court outnumbered women almost three times, which has remained virtually unchanged for a decade. While slightly more women argued in court in 2019 compared to 2009, this change was mainly attributable to the public sector. Women were also found to be more likely to represent and work for government rather than for private entities.
But the gender gap was largest among lawyers in the private sector, especially those working on complex civil cases, including antitrust and insurance cases.
Barnes & Thornburg partner Jeanine Kerridge found herself drawn to complex civil litigation after graduating from law school. While these types of cases typically last for years before they reach the appeal level, Kerridge said if women don’t stay in companies in the same number as men or fail to partner up, they could. not be there when the call comes.
Indianapolis attorney Carol Joven of Williams & Piatt focuses her practice on complex civil plaintiff litigation, including antitrust and commercial litigation. But in law school, she had no idea she wanted to pursue complex litigation. In fact, she didn’t want to.
It was only after experiencing antitrust matters a few years after starting her legal career at another law firm that she discovered that the area of ââpractice interested her.
Looking back, Joven recalled being the only woman of seven lawyers to have a speaking and participating role in a three-week antitrust trial.
âIt’s hard not to notice it,â she said. âI guess I’m used to working in a small company and for a while I was the only woman. One in three did not appear to be outnumbered. You get used to it a bit. “
Although Joven has said that it is not unusual for her to be the only woman in the courtroom, it is not something that shakes her. But she said she believed the gender gap for complex lawyers could leave a bad impression on new lawyers.
âYoung women who are considering getting into this field, if they see a disparate impact, it might make them less likely to do so,â she said. “On the other hand, it could go the other way.”
But, Joven said, she believes it will eventually become more common to have women in these roles.
The lack of women in her field has not stopped Ladene Mendoza of Barnes & Thornburg from pursuing complex litigation. In fact, it convinced her that she should.
As a law student, Mendoza didn’t think she would be interested in complex litigation. But when she realized she was good at it, her focus shifted.
Surrounded by other women in the firm’s litigation department, Mendoza has more confidence in her work. The support and opportunities offered to her by women with more years of practice under their belt were instrumental.
âI think it hurts when women don’t see this portrayal by being able to say, ‘She does, I can too,â Mendoza said. âI was lucky to be surrounded by women in the law office. “
Rider said she thinks the ABA study and other similar studies are helpful in highlighting disparities across the board for women in the legal profession.
âSome people may think the disparities are gone, maybe at the lower levels if you look at law schools or even the young associates they have, but there are disparities in being able to get to the higher ranks,â he said. she declared.
Getting to the root of it, IU McKinney professor Max Huffman said he believed recruiting law firms played a role in the “embarrassing disparity” of women in the upper echelons of practice. antitrust.
âIf the recruiting and promotion process leads to what is obviously an incredibly long-lasting disparity, especially in these specialist areas, it seems to me that any responsible employer needs to ask, ‘What needs to change about this? recruitment and development of lawyers? process?’ Huffman said. âIf I were an employer saying, ‘I need more female leaders in the antitrust space,’ I could look at law schools across the country in general to recruit successful students in relevant classes. “
As a profession, Kerridge agreed that there was work to be done to hire and retain women and various lawyers.
âI have seen a lot of improvements in this area. But there is always room for improvement, âshe said.
When examining whether complex litigation is an area of ââinterest to female lawyers but can be barred from entering, Rider said wrestling is more representative of being at the highest level of practice.
“In the antitrust world, I think it could be the same for the lead lawyer of an agency, the lead lawyer in an antitrust criminal case or the lead lawyer in a complex antitrust litigation,” he said. she declared. âBut it’s all over the place when it comes to a high-stakes position, betting on the business. At this point, you’re really looking for people at the top of their practice who have the trust of the clients, CEO, or board, and I think there is still some comfort for some as some of these positions are. often dominated by Men. “â¢