Hold on for some infuriating and disappointing numbers. According to the fifth biennial Partner Compensation Survey by Major, Lindsey & Africa and Acritas, on average male partners make $959,000 in compensation compared to the average $627,000 for female partners — that’s a difference of 53 percent. This year’s survey, which is based on the responses of 1,390 partners at large law firms across the U.S., reveals the worst pay gap since 2010, the year MLA began querying partners about their compensation. In 2010, the reported pay gap was 32 percent, 48 percent in 2012, 47 percent in 2014, and 44 percent in 2016.
The study’s author, Jeffrey Lowe, Global Practice Leader of Major, Lindsey & Africa’s Law Firm Practice, said the historical differences in compensation along gender lines causes them to take a close look at what goes into the discrepancy:
“Data from each of our five biennial surveys showed stark differences in average compensation between men and women. In our 2018 study, we took a much deeper dive into the gender pay gap to better understand what factors were contributing to this difference.”
Spoiler alert: Biglaw’s compensation model plays a big role. The survey indicated men are getting a lot more origination credit than women at Biglaw firms, as men reported an average of $2,788,000 in originations, compared to a $1,589,000 average reported by women. There was also a disparity in average billing rates, with men reporting an average hourly rate of $736, compared with $650 for women. And those two factors make up almost ~75 percent in the difference in overall compensation:
“Our findings show that originations and billing rates together were responsible for nearly 75% of the overall variation in compensation across all partners who responded to this survey,” said Lucy Leach, Technical Researcher Director of Acritas. “While the data doesn’t suggest a conscious bias against women, it does suggest that the predominant compensation model in BigLaw today, which heavily rewards partners for their originations and hourly rates, may fail to recognize other contributions to firms and may be putting women at a disadvantage.”