Latest Acritas Star Lawyer Nominations Reveal Gender Bias in Selection: Male Clients Pick Male Lawyers

Topics: Acritas, Client Relations, Diversity, Law Firms, Legal Innovation, Surveys, Talent Development, Women’s Leadership Blog Posts

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LONDON — Upon analyzing the results of its latest Star Lawyer nominations, global market research firm Acritas stumbled across a surprising finding: Male clients were half as likely to nominate a female Star Lawyer.

And yet the research revealed that clients rated male lead partner performance the same as female lead partner performance on every single performance attribute.

Acritas has spent the last three years building up more than 10,000 independent nominations of stand-out lawyers from law firm clients all over the world. More than 8,000 individual lawyers have been identified altogether from 4,300 clients.

This gender disparity was even more evident when the full numbers were examined, said Lisa Hart Shepherd, CEO of Acritas. “Only 15% of male-nominated Stars were women,” she said. “This compared with 29% of female-nominated Stars being women — almost twice the level.” The effect of this bias is multiplied when you consider four out of five senior in-house counsel are male, Hart Shepherd explained, adding that, given this, it’s easy to see why female partners find it difficult to reach the equity partnership level in law firms.

You can download a copy of Acritas’ latest report here.

The Star Lawyer nominations are collected during a broader research study of senior in-house counsel, Acritas’ global Sharplegal study. The research has revealed the huge impact Star Lawyers make on a variety of performance metrics, but also revealed this gender disparity.

Indeed, when Acritas looked closely at the reasons behind the selection of nominees, the data showed the quality of expertise was the number one star quality for both genders in equal measure. However, female Stars on average had a higher number of qualities mentioned in their nominations. Female Stars were significantly more recognized for being responsive, approachable, professional and diligent.

“The gender gap at equity partner level will only see material change if clients use their buyer muscle to give female lawyers in private practice more power,” Hart Shepherd noted. “Money still talks in law firms and those who bring in the business are the ones who rise to the top.”

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