WLU’s Initiative Report

Today Women Lawyers of Utah (“WLU”) releases “The Utah Report:  The Initiative on the Advancement and Retention of Women in Law Firms”—a groundbreaking report addressing why Utah law firms have trouble retaining and advancing women attorneys. 

The Utah Report is the culmination of the organization’s Initiative on the Advancement and Retention of Women Attorneys.  The Initiative was a four year journey to answer two basic questions: (1) Do Utah law firms face greater challenges retaining and promoting female attorneys than male attorneys?  (2) If so, what concrete, unbiased actions can Utah law firms and Utah attorneys take to meet these challenges?

To answer the first question, and if it was answered in the affirmative to isolate the causes, WLU worked with professionals to survey the legal community.  Following the survey, WLU held symposia – the first to explore the challenge further with the help of industry experts and the second to begin developing best practices. 

The Initiative confirmed what many have feared and experienced for years: Utah firms are having difficulty retaining and advancing female attorneys.  But more fascinating are the reasons why.  Although many have attributed female attorney departures as an unexplainable mystery or due solely to childbearing and family responsibilities, the survey responses demonstrated certain themes – some shocking – that are occurring in Utah law firms. 

Highlights include that a startling amount of sexual harassment and sex discrimination occur in the legal workplace in Utah.  Incidents of gender bias also emerged as a consistent theme in the survey responses.  Other issues identified include a lack of mentoring of women attorneys, a failure to include women attorneys in social activities, leading to a sense of isolation for women attorneys, unequal compensation for women attorneys, and a failure to promote women attorneys to partnership. 

 The Utah Report makes concrete suggestions for how Utah attorneys and law firms can help address this situation.  These suggestions are made with the underlying assumption that firms are businesses that exist to make money and that firms want women lawyers to succeed. 

 To see The Utah Report, please click on the links below:

Full WLU Initiative Report

Executive Summary