Why Are Seemingly Satisfied Female Lawyers Running for the Exits?
Meyers, Erin E.
Despite the fact that women are leaving the practice of law at alarmingly high rates, most previous research finds no evidence of gender differences in job satisfaction among lawyers. This Article uses nationally representative data from the 2015 National Survey of College Graduates to examine gender differences in lawyers’ job satisfaction, and finds that any apparent similarity of job satisfaction between genders likely arises from dissatisfied female JDs sorting out of the legal profession at higher rates than their male counterparts, leaving behind the most satisfied women. This Article also provides a detailed examination of the specific working conditions that are associated with dissatisfaction for female lawyers before this sorting occurs, and compares job satisfaction of lawyers to that of other professions. The resulting analysis finds that recently graduated female lawyers have lower average satisfaction with their salaries relative to male lawyers, but that this result is likely due to differences in employer types. The data further indicates that a male-female satisfaction gap exists only among JDs, and not among those with other professional or graduate degrees. This finding suggests that analysis comparing lawyers to other professions could help to pinpoint unique characteristics of the legal profession that create dissatisfaction among women at the outset of their careers and causes them to exit the profession.