The percentage of female lawyers has slowly inched up in recent years, according to the ABA National Lawyer Population Survey, a tally of lawyers by licensing agencies in every state. In 2010, fewer than one-third of all lawyers (31%) were women. Twelve years later, in 2022, 38% of all lawyers were women.
The long-term trend is easier to see when viewed over the course of decades. The biggest growth in female lawyers came in the 1980s and ’90s. From 1950 to 1970, only 3% of all lawyers were women. The percentage increased to 8% in 1980, 20% in 1991 and 29% in 2000.
The trend is also apparent at law schools. The number of male students has declined every year for the past 11 years – from 78,516 in 2010 to 52,058 in 2021. Meanwhile, the number of female law school students has increased every year for the past five years – from 55,766 in 2016 to 64,861 in 2021. Women now significantly outnumber men in U.S. law schools, and the gap is widening. In 2021, there were 12,800 more female students than male students.
The survey also revealed that half of all female lawyers (50%) said they experienced unwanted sexual conduct at work, and 1 in 4 women said they avoided reporting sexual harassment due to fear of retaliation. One in six female lawyers (16%) said they lost work opportunities as a result of rebuffing sexual advances.
Finally, the women surveyed said caretaking commitments are the No. 1 reason (58%) why experienced female lawyers leave their law firms, followed by stress at work (54%) and emphasis on marketing or originating business (51%).