Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Arbitration Insights: Female representatives in large commercial arbitration cases

Our study used data from commercial, construction, international and exec­utive employment cases with a claim or counter­claim of at least $500,000 that were initiated with the American Arbitration Association between April 1, 2016 and June 30, 2016. There were 371 cases in our sample. Out of the 371 cas­es studied, a majority were domestic commercial and construction cases. Below is a breakdown of the cases by type.

In order to assess female counsel represen­tation, the AAA® reviewed the representatives listed for the first three parties of each case. In order to determine gender, we used public resources such as firm websites to verify the gender of the counsel listed. Our study found that 12 percent of representa­tives were women. We also observed that, overall, there was no difference in the percentage of women ad­vocates for claimants and respondents. Looking at the type of cases we found that commercial and employ­ment cases had the highest percentage of female advo­cates – 15% each for com­mercial and employment cases. Construction and international cases had much lower percentages, with only 7 percent and 8 percent female advocates, respectively.

It is important to con­sider that women consti­tute 36 percent of all licensed lawyers in the United States. (National­Lawyer Population Survey, American Bar Association, 2016) Despite this repre­sentation in the profes­sion, only 18.1 percent of equity partners in law firms are women. (National Association for Law Placement, April 2017 Bulletin)

Comparisons can be made between this study and the study conducted by the American Bar Asso­ciation in 2015 that looked at female representation as lead trial lawyer in civil and criminal cases. (Ward, Stephanie F. “Women underrepresented in lead trial lawyer positions, ABA study reports.” ABA Jour­nal, 2015 That study concluded that women were underrepre­sented in lead trial lawyer positions, and that implicit bias is likely the cause. The study pulled data from 2013 cases filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and randomly selected 558 civil cases and 50 criminal cases to review. Out of the 558 civil cases, 14 percent of lead counsel were women. These numbers are strikingly similar to what appears to be occurring in arbitration matters with 12 percent of women listed as named counsel in the subset of cases that we reviewed.

These studies demonstrate the significant underrepresentation of women in both courts and in arbitration as lead counsel, and highlights that more attention is needed to address this deficiency and ensure that women have opportunities to serve as lead counsel.

Published September 7, 2018.