Throughout the 1970s there was a cigarette slogan, “You’ve come a long way baby.” And, according to a recent survey conducted by ALM Intelligence and Calibrate Legal Inc., we’ve got a long, long way to go.

First of all, trying to get a good compensation survey for the legal marketing and business development functions and roles in a law firm have not been easy, nor have they been consistent. The actual tool that comes with this survey allows you the ability to slice and dice a comparison of roles, regions, and titles. With more than 800 respondents, it is a good pool of data, and I look forward to the updates as more people participate.

I actually had a lot of fun comparing my role and salary to other regions, and the tool provided me with a trove of information supporting how I would like my team compensated.

Men v. Women

This survey is the most comprehensive one I have found. And while there is good news in there (download survey summary), one of the most disturbing ones has to do with pay disparity between men and women, especially at the AmLaw 100 and 200 levels. 

Why the Pay Disparity?

Some of the reasons for the pay disparity are easy to see and understand. Difference in size of the firm, the revenues. Others, are head-scratchers: men tend to jump around in their jobs more, while women do not. So, loyalty to your job or firm can negatively impact your salary.

That happened in my first jump. I was offered a position which would have meant a 33% increase in my salary, which was more of a salary adjustment as the titles and responsibilities were similar. My current firm wanted me to stay, but not at that price, yet they would have had to pay that price to replace me. Go figure. 20 years later, the executive director of that firm is still there. What are the odds that he has been getting more that 2-3% annual salary increases over the years?

So why do women choose smaller firms and stay?

I’m uniquely positioned to answer this because I have worked in both the AmLaw 100 and the smaller boutiques. I jumped jobs several times early on in my legal marketing career, yet have spent the past dozen plus split between two firms.

For me, those early jumps had to do with promotion and salary.

Later on, I chose to leave the AmLaw 100 and move to a smaller platform so that I could be more hands-on and available for my family while my kids were younger. I knew I would make less money, but that would be off-set with not having to travel, work late nights, and have my phone go off at any time. I see many of my female CMO friends either do not have children, or have a stay-at-home spouse (or a spouse whose job lends itself to a job that allows them to take on the day-to-day parenting).

Yet the disparity between me and my male counterparts in mid-sized firms is there.

How do we change this?

I believe the first step is this survey and the light it is shining on the results. This is a tool for each one of us to begin to have the conversations in our firms, but also in our next job interview.

I know that I have been on the negative receiving end of a gender pay disparity more than once. Always in hindsight. Part of this has to do with salary disclosures. Which is why I’m glad the State of California bans that practice.

If law firms are Mansfield Rule certified, then they should be transparent, fair and balanced in their salary histories for their business executives as well. Our counterparts through the Association of Legal Administrators need to do their part; to offer a woman less money than a man, for the same or equivalent role, has to be exposed and rectified.

Learn how to negotiate like a man

Many, many years ago I read Dr. Deborah Tannen‘s Talking From 9 to 5 (which is ALWAYS on my top list of business books to read). Game changer for me. One of the takeaways that has stayed with me is that women are too quick to accept the first salary offered when interviewing for a new job, while men look at it as a starting point for negotiations.

And while I get that, I’ll go back to transparency and collaboration: If I work hard to negotiate my salary to $150,000, only to find out that my counterpart (taking into account all things being equal) makes $200,000, why did the admin allow that? Why are women offered salaries less than the men we replace? And if you were willing to pay a man more to replace us, why not pay it to keep us?

Ladies, we cannot wait around. We need to take control over our salaries and work to close the pay gap.

Women and men communicate differently


Women and men communicate differently, which is why I am so thrilled to be part of Susan Freeman‘s Bubbles, Bites and Bits of Wisdom series that is kicking off next month. I look forward to joining everyone up in the Bay Area for the inaugural program on December 13, and will be speaking there in June.

Calendar allowing, I’ll make it as often as I can to support the all-star speakers roster. Incredibly, Susan has arranged for our mutual heroine, Dr. Tannen, to join the series at the end of 2019.

In the meantime, I hope you will join me in this adventure of working together to better understand our communication differences, shining a light on our roles salaries, bridging the gaps that lead to and perpetuate pay disparities, and rectify this not only for ourselves, but for those who follow us in this incredible profession.