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Women's work in the legal profession: An examination of women's *integration at the specialty-level

Elizabeth M Neeley, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The high rate of women graduating from law school and entering the legal profession suggests that this high paying and prestigious profession is becoming gender integrated. Research on the changing gender distribution of occupations, however, suggests that gender integration at the occupational level does not typically translate into internal integration. For example, an occupation may be integrated but the sectors, specialties, and jobs within the occupation can remain segregated with women more likely to cluster into sectors, specialties, or jobs defined as women's work. ^ While prior research has documented the gendered organization of the legal profession, especially at the job-level the gendered nature of legal specialties has not been thoroughly examined. A specialty-level examination is especially warranted given that women's integration into the legal profession coincided with a controversial transition to specialty law. By overlooking specialty-level integration it remains possible for women to enjoy occupational-level and job-level integration but remain segregated into devalued legal specialties which are characterized as “women's work”. ^ Using a self-administered mail survey of members of the Nebraska State Bar Association, I investigate two primary research questions: Are legal specialties gendered and what are the consequences of working in gendered specialties? ^ Results indicate partial support for the hypothesis that women will be more likely to work in legal specialties that are characterized by the features of women's work. More specifically, women are significantly more likely to work in legal specialties that are perceived to require less intellectual and analytical skill, as well as in specialties that are perceived as less prestigious and that serve less prestigious types of clients. While several of the characteristics of women's work are significantly related to both income and satisfaction, these specialty characteristics explain only a small percentage of the differences in respondents' income and satisfaction with their primary area of practice. ^

Subject Area

Law|Women's Studies|Sociology, Social Structure and Development

Recommended Citation

Neeley, Elizabeth M, "Women's work in the legal profession: An examination of women's *integration at the specialty-level" (2004). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3147149.