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2020 Equity Project study: General counsel & the gender gap in law

In January 2019, 170 GCs penned a letter to the law firms that represent them: Do more to close law’s gender gap, or risk losing business, underscoring a critical point:

The corporate legal department has a significant a role to play in closing law’s gender gap, as do law firms.

To better understand how GCs are actually using their “power of the purse” to incentivize change, Burford Capital commissioned the 2020 Equity Project study, a groundbreaking report based on interviews with 77 general counsel and senior in-house lawyers at companies with a median revenue of $8 billion.

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Highlights from the report include:

Origination credit is an obstacle

  • 52% of GCs and senior in-house lawyers are unaware of how their law firms award origination credit—a key metric of success and a basis for the enduring gender pay gap in law

Women lawyers continue to face an unlevel playing field

  • 58% of GCs and senior in-house lawyers cite external factors—such as bias, historical inertia, law firm culture and work-life balance—when asked about the primary obstacle to improving gender equity

GCs and senior in-house lawyers want to close the gap

  • 48% say their companies have asked their law firm to put a woman on a litigation or arbitration team
  • 55% say that knowing about The Equity Project—a $50 million pool of capital dedicated solely to women-led commercial litigation and arbitration matters—will change the way they think about or prepare for future affirmative litigation