Paris Bar reveals higher number of women than men in the law

The number of female lawyers in Paris is fast outstripping the number of men – but women are failing to make partnership, research by the Paris Bar Association has shown.

A study prepared for a conference to be held today, International Women’s Day, shows that in 2009 there were an equal number of men and women registered with the Barreau de Paris. By 1 January this year, 11,892 women were bar members compared to 11,089 men – a 7 per cent difference.

For several years around twice as many women than men have been called to the Paris bar, and are joining the bar at a younger age. The average age of a new female lawyer in Paris is 28, compared to just over 29 for a man.

However, despite the rapid increase in the number of female lawyers in Paris, there has been very little change in the proportion of women who are making it to the top ranks of the profession.

In 2005 12.6 per cent of female lawyers in Paris were partners in a large firm, compared to 29.6 per cent of male lawyers. By 2011 15.6 per cent of women were partners, but the proportion of men who were partners had also risen, to 36 per cent.

The research also found that larger firms had proportionally fewer female partners than small ones.

Of the large French firms to have reported headcount figures to The Lawyer for this year’s European 100survey, Lefèvre Pelletier & Associés boasts a female partnership of 40.6 per cent, by far the greatest proportion. In contrast, Gide Loyrette Nouel (9.6 per cent), Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier (8.7 per cent) and Veil Jourde (5.9 per cent) all have much lower than average female partnerships.

Over half of all female lawyers in Paris (52.7 per cent) are associates in large firms, compared to 31.4 per cent of men.

Women are also missing out on remuneration. Every year the Paris bar gathers information about lawyers’ salaries. The most recent data shows that the average salary or profits for female lawyers in Paris was €57,818 (£48,171) compared to an average salary of €96,536 for men. The median salary for women was €42,000, compared to a median salary of €69,000 for men.

The study noted that the discrepancy can be partially accounted for due to the fact that male lawyers are collectively older than their female counterparts, and also due to the fact that more female lawyers are associates and tend to work in less lucrative practice areas. But it added that the excuses “are insufficient” and the difference was a disgrace to the profession.

Today’s conference, featuring input from former Baker & McKenzie managing partner, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, is to focus on raising the profile of women in law and business.

Paris firms are also being asked to sign up to a charter encouraging ways of working which would allow women to progress further in the profession.

Both the conference and the charter are being driven by the recently-elected president of the Paris Bar Association, Christiane Féral-Schuhl. Féral-Schuhl is only the second female president, or bâtonnier, in the 800-year history of lawyers in Paris.