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The Legal Field's Dirty Little Secret: Female Paralegals Are Paid Less


The Cenus Bureau issued a report in August with astounding, shocking and disappointing news:  Women lawyers made a median of $93,600, a salary that was 77.8 percent of male lawyers’ median salary of $120,400. The fact that women lawyers make less is really not news. We all know or at least suspect that female lawyers lag behind males in the parity department as much as law firms deny it. 

However, the report concluded that female paralegal and legal assistants earned a median of $42,600, which was only 93.2 percent of the $45,700 median that men earned.

Let me get this straight.  1) The paralegal field is NOT a field that is male dominated.  All recent surveys show that while the gender gap is closing, the field remains female dominated.  2) This is a relatively new field that took off approximately 40 years ago with almost 100% females as it originated from the legal secretarial field that at the time, was practically all women.  3) The field started out with a fresh slate:  No one can claim that there were more men in the field, nor that men had the upper hand in terms of having a head start in the field (as is claimed about the lawyer position) nor that the field appealed more to men nor even that women were ever denied entrance to the field.  In fact, it's just the opposite. 4) Paralegal schools admit just about anyone who qualifies and have no quotas we know of regarding gender.

So, what on earth has happened? Are you telling me that the majority of men do a better job than all women paralegals? So much so, that men will automatically get paid more?  Are you telling me that men are promoted to the manager position faster than women?  Not according to the International Paralegal Management Association whose membership lists approximately 90% of its members as women.

The ABA Journal reported in an article entitled "In Search of Equality" that the conversation about gender equality has changed over the last 20 years. "But we hear an echo,” said commission chair Pamela J. Roberts of Columbia, S.C. “Barriers and impediments to gender equality remain.” One has only to look, she noted, at the dearth of wom­en in law firms as full equity partners, as tenured profes­sors in aca­demia and as corporate counsel to see how elusive the goal continues to be.

OK, but with paralegals whose genesis is women?  C'mon, Joe.  Say it ain't so.