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Firms Won't Tell. Women, Minorities Irked.

Publication Date: 
May 01, 2010
Law Firm Management

Professor Michele Landis Dauber is quoted on possible reasons why law firms have denied NALP's request for data on partnership structures:

It seemed like a rather innocuous inquiry. The career professionals group NALP sought to collect data on nonequity partners from law firms that supply other firm information for NALP's Directory of Legal Employers. NALP's inquiry was not greeted benignly. Most of its law firm members refused to supply the information and threaten to withdraw entirely from the NALP resource. In response, according to a Law News Now post, NALP dropped its effort to collect the data on nonequity partners.

At issue was the treatment of women and minorities in law firms. The NALP data, had it been successfully acquired, would have revealed which law firms were guiding women and minorities into lower-rank nonequity positions rather than full partnership. Women and minorities were particularly pressing for the information so law students could assess which firms provided the best opportunities for a full equity partnership.

Most firms cited privacy concerns when refusing to provide the information, NALP executive director James Leipold said. The firms said providing the data could help identify and stigmatize nonequity partners.

But Stanford Law School professor Michele Dauber suspects there is another reason. "It's not about protecting women, it's more about protecting billing rates," Dauber told the American Lawyer. "They don't want clients to know who's equity and who's not; ambiguity allows them to bill at higher rates."