Application for Status as International Research Collaborative (IRC)
International Law & Society Meeting in Hawai’i in June 2012
Names of organisers:
Indiana University Maurer School of Law, USA
University of Massachusetts, USA
American Bar Foundation, USA
FernUniversität in Hagen, Germany
Description of Proposed IRC
Women in Global Practices: Large Law Firms and Perspectives on Gender
In the last several decades, large law firms have emerged as important engines of global growth. Firms based in the US and UK have established networks of offices in major cities around the world, and at the same time, law firms based outside of the UK and US increasingly advise on international matters as cross-border investment grows and regulatory barriers recede. As the work of law firms takes on an international or cross-border flavor, opportunities arise for individual lawyers to construct career strategies that use globalization as a mechanism to gain status.
At the same time that the practices of large law firms have become international, women have entered the profession in substantial numbers. Women have represented approximately half of entering US law school classes since the early 1990s. Nevertheless, the general story in the U.S. has been one of persistent underrepresentation of women lawyers among the higher ranks and leadership positions of elite law firms. A recent report in the legal press stated, “[w]e all know there’s a problem. Women represent only 19 percent of partners in the nation’s largest law firms, fewer if only equity partners are counted (2008: 16%), and fewer than 10 percent of managing partners.” They account for about 34% of all lawyers in what we might call BigLaw (AmLaw 100-200), and about 45% of nonpartners.
Globalization offers opportunities for lawyers to create new paths to power. In this project, we are interested in examining how gender matters in these paths to power, and whether career strategies that involve globalization are as useful an alternative for women as for men. To this end, we propose studying the issues of gender and global lawyering from two sides: the US- and UK-based law firms with global offices and the local or national firms which draw from the same talent pool. We will examine how women’s experiences differ from those of men, looking for explanations embedded in the political and cultural environments in which the firms work, both geographically and occupationally.
Expected Scholarly Product
We want the work to evolve into a set of papers published together as a symposium or an edited volume on women and global practice. For a first set of papers we can aim at a special issue of the International Journal of the Legal Profession.