Bloomberg Law
May 31, 2022, 8:45 AM

Big Law and Pay Equity: Is the Time Ripe for Change?

Lisa Helem
Lisa Helem
Executive Editor

Gender pay equity developments have generated big news across a range of workplaces from the soccer field to the supply chain. And for decades, members of the legal profession have considered the challenges of achieving a more equitable workplace. Now, as lawyers make more demands for greater diversity and inclusion in top U.S. law firms, the time is ripe for change, some industry observers say. So starting today, we’re taking a fresh look at Big Law and pay equity in a new special report.

In today’s debut column, Vivia Chen looks back to 2003 when she first wrote about how women were faring in Big Law. She writes in today’s piece that back then, “female partners were like rare orchids” constituting just 16% of all partners. She was optimistic that she’d see a significant change—eventually. But today, women are still lagging behind men in the partner ranks and when it comes to pay, so she’s now resetting her expectations to reality. Chen also revisits some notable gender pay equity litigation battles launched by women lawyers against Big Law firms over the past few years and explores what has changed as a result and what hasn’t. Check out her column here.

On Thursday, Roy Strom explores how innovative law firms and others are working to achieve greater equity in the profession. From tinkering with succession plans and origination credit systems to more closely monitoring and aiming to fix work allocation disparities among gender and race, some firms and companies are starting to demonstrate that they really “get it.”

Later this month, Erin Mulvaney will look ahead to November, when New York City is expected to see a new pay transparency law take effect. Will the new law shake the tree at all in Big Law? And Meghan Tribe will examine why equity has been so hard to achieve in the legal profession.

In the series, we’ll also feature a robust collection of commentary from your lawyer peers who offer their insights on pay equity topics—from concrete steps that law firms can take to close the gender pay gap to practice tips for attorneys who represent both employers and plaintiffs in equal pay litigation settlements. Those pieces will be curated by Lisa Rockelli Gordon, MP McQueen, and Rob Wilhelm.

For now, enjoy Vivia’s column. And we’ll see you back here soon.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lisa Helem at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lisa Helem at