Gender diversity in the legal profession
The JUVE-Azur Awards are
presented to a German law firm, among other things, for diversity. The
“Maria Otto Prize”, which has been awarded three times since 2010 by
the German Bar Association, also honours female lawyers who have rendered
outstanding services to the equality of women in the legal profession. The same
goes for the promotion prize in the executive assessment for female law
students and young lawyers, Panda University Law, which aims to support young female
executives and future partners in the legal sector from the beginning of their
Is this really still
Is gender diversity and
equity still a topic of discussion in the legal professions? Has equality not
been established here for a long time?
After all, for almost a
hundred years now, women have been able to become lawyers just like men in
Germany. For some years now, German universities have been producing almost as
many lawyers as women lawyers.
According to the Federal Statistical
Office, more than half of law students were female in 2017: Around 56 percent,
i.e. 64,833 out of a total of 116,217 law students, the number of female
lawyers in Germany has also been rising steadily for years. While in 1970,
according to statistics from the Federal Bar Association (BRAK), only 4.5
percent of the 23,000 lawyers were women, 48 years later the picture has
changed dramatically. By 2018 the BRAK had 164,656 lawyers in Germany, 57,251
of whom were women – more than a third. Not only has the number of lawyers
increased significantly since 1970, the beginning of the BRAK survey, but the
proportion of women has also grown disproportionately.
And of the 165,000 lawyers
admitted to the bar in Germany, 35% are now women. A pleasing number and
definitely in line with the trend if we compare the figures with those of our
neighbouring countries. The future study by the German Bar Association in 2013
predicts that these proportions will be equalised within the next ten years.
Gender diversity in the
legal sector is unlikely to conflict with anything, one might think. So why are
special efforts in this area and their awarding at all necessary?
In management and
decision-making positions, in representative functions and offices, as well as
at industry events and conferences, female lawyers still play hardly any role.
Even today, legal symposia are still held, the executive committee of which
consists exclusively of men. No wonder: The proportion of female lawyers in
management positions and at partner level is still below 10 % throughout
Germany, and even falling. The largest German law firms appointed only 6 women
out of 50 new partners in 2019. They had quite ambitious goals: many wanted to
achieve a share of women of between 25-30%. What is remarkable here is that
these figures have actually been achieved by the global players – but in
Germany they were far behind. And this despite the fact that the criteria are
identical (worldwide and also for men and women) and there is no shortage of
ambitious female lawyers who meet the “full war paint” requirements
with all the prerequisites.
It was not until 2014 that
the Working Group of Women Lawyers of the German Bar Association (DAV) was able
to achieve that at least a small percentage of the events of the German Bar Association
(Deutscher Anwaltverein) and the German Bar Academy (Deutsche Anwaltsa-kademie)
were deliberately staffed by female lecturers, after having been a purely male
domain for years. The occasion was probably also the DAV forum “Women Leaders
Today and Tomorrow”, which took place for the first time in Berlin and
made clear the last position of German female lawyers in an international
diversity did not yet seem to be an issue for the legal sector in Germany.
Other sectors, on the other
hand, have long since recognised this:
In special cases, the
police use policewomen specifically to de-escalate. The fact that mixed teams
of decision-makers are acting more innovatively and more successfully in
economic terms is particularly well received by the business community.
Criteria by which law firms must also be measured.
And indeed, even clients
from the legal sector are already demanding it:
Corporate legal departments
consciously decide to commission only external legal advisors with equally
mixed teams. And in certain particularly sensitive areas of law such as family
law, it is anything but irrelevant to the individual client whether he or she
is represented by a lawyer.
If a law firm wants to be
successful and fit for the future, it will not be able to ignore the issues of
gender diversity and equality.
A point that should not be
Universities already train
50% of female law students, a not inconsiderable state investment, as each law
student costs the state 4,560 euros a year. Which branch of industry can still
afford to do without highly qualified employees who would also contribute the
success factor of diversification?
So what would happen if
gender diversity in the legal profession were no longer just closed off, but
It is a fact that women and
men, due to their biological and physiological dispositions, typically absorb
and process information in different quantities and qualities. This has become
flesh and blood because of the millennia-old imprint on typical gender roles.
Women tend to have a panoramic view, are concerned about the welfare of the
general public and focus their approach on negotiation and agreement. Men, on
the other hand, tend to act with a tunnel vision in an emergency. This makes
them (apparently) faster, but they actually only decide in two dimensions
between attack and running away. Both of these factors severely restrict our
options for action, at least when we communicate typically male or typically
female. Typical” is nothing other than what we once defined as female and
male with regard to gender roles. Communication itself is neutral.
What does this mean for
The legal profession
requires a high level of communication skills, but this is not explicitly promoted
either in legal training or when starting a career. The same applies to soft
skills such as emotional intelligence, intellectual flexibility and cultural
awareness. To ignore the “typically female gaze” and “typically
female” communication patterns and characteristics would be to act with
only half the force. Some of the top 10 law firms have already recognised this
and promote it with targeted programmes such as Freshfields, Bruckhaus and
If the legal sector continues
to close its ranks to the topic of gender diversity, it is to be feared that it
will ignore social reality and lose confidence in its professional competence.
Dr. Geertje Tutschka, CLP –
Consulting for Legal Professionals