Although there are currently more women than men attending law school and research shows women are outpacing men in joining top law firms, it appears that as they advance in their legal careers, many women lawyers leave their firms, don’t make partner, grow disillusioned with the industry and leave the practice of law. These numbers have starkly increased since the pandemic. Some are calling it the “she-cession” where women are downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce completely.

So why are so many women lawyers leaving the practice of law? Why would they abandon a lucrative career path especially after investing so much time and money into obtaining a JD?

In collaboration with ARK Group, Leopard Solutions is conducting a survey to identify the ways in which shifts in the legal profession – particularly over the past couple of years – are impacting women lawyers and their career paths.

Designed to gather information on the experiences of women lawyers who left Big Law firms, this voluntary and anonymous survey aims to offer insight key challenge areas and through the distribution of that information, improve how the industry supports female lawyers. Leopard is seeking to identify what factors or experiences led these women to leave the field and what changes would encourage them to stay in the profession.

Share your experience here by taking the Women Leaving Law survey.

I recently sat down with Laura Leopard, the CEO and founder of Leopard Solutions to find out more about Leopard’s Women Leaving Law survey.

Why did you undertake this survey?
When we were doing the research for our 2021 year-end wrap up, we saw that there was a high number of women who had returned to a law firm or company that cover. It prompted us to do further research to see if any new information on their exits was available. In some cases, there was new information, but there was also a large number that still had a question mark about what they were doing now. We found women who had left the law, gone into academia, back to school, became consultants and many who had just disappeared on social media. We wanted to find out more, so we began the survey.

What do you hope to uncover from this survey?
Early results have been rather surprising. Many suspected the pandemic was the cause of the exits, but early results belie that claim. We see women who did not feel supported at the firm, who found an uneven playing field, lack of mentorship and more. For these women, the old boy network was still in play. We have recently seen that we have not come as far as we had hoped with racial equality and according to these answers, it looks to be the same for gender equality issues. We just were not as far along as we thought.

Do you have any early hypotheses on why women are leaving their high-paying legal jobs in higher rates than ever before? 

The pandemic brought a host of issues, but it also brought introspection. We hear of associates (both women and men) who have begun to question the big bargain, and that is trading a good chunk of their working lives to make partner, (where would work even harder). Working from home brought them closer to their families and the thought of returning to the office grind lost its appeal. A new perspective can shake up your plans and make you question what you really value. For some people, they decided the tradeoff isn’t worth it and doing something else makes more sense.

As an entrepreneurial woman-owned business yourself, what advice would you give women who are forging their own paths?

Be brave! It isn’t easy to take a leap and believe in an idea and form a business but for those who do, it can be liberating. As a serial entrepreneur, I have had businesses fail but I learned from each failure and kept going. Persistence and nerve is key to success! Ask for help, ask for advice but make decisions on your own. You will live or die by your decisions and they should truly be yours. You will never have a harder job than being a parent, but being an entrepreneur is a very close second. Stay true to yourself, your vision and your commitment and you will find your way.

Share your experience here by taking the Women Leaving Law survey.

I can’t wait to bring you the results of this survey with Leopard Solutions in late May – stay tuned!