TBJ DECEMBER 2021 [Opinion]

What do Attorneys Need Now to Succeed?

An overview of responses from a survey conducted by the State Bar of Texas Women in the Profession Committee.

Written by Katherine Kunz

Kunz Attorney Success

“More time to be able to focus on health … having the option to work from home when needed was a huge relief on my physical and mental health.”
—2021 State Bar of Texas Lawyer Needs Survey respondent

The State Bar of Texas Women in the Profession Committee was formed more than 30 years ago to, among other goals, assess the status of women in the legal profession and identify barriers that prevent women lawyers from full participation in the work, responsibilities, and rewards of the profession. Needless to say, the COVID-19 pandemic and its changes over the past 18 months have destabilized the status of many Texas women attorneys, causing them to consider leaving the profession (or to leave outright), modify their hours, struggle with feelings of being overwhelmed or unfocused, or simply be unable to complete everything that needs to get done in a single day.

Our committee wanted to understand more directly the impact of the pandemic on women attorneys in Texas and accordingly worked with the State Bar to survey a representative sample of both male and female State Bar members. I encourage you to read all the results at but wanted to make note of some particularly important findings at the outset:

  • The State Bar population’s current median age for female attorneys is nine years younger than that of male attorneys (44 versus 53), meaning the female attorney population overall is younger than that of male attorneys. However, only about one-third of the bar’s attorney population is women.

  • Female attorneys reported a disproportionate impact in their inability to disconnect from work, increased workload and personal responsibilities, and trouble focusing on work tasks.

  • Women attorneys were more than four times as likely as men attorneys to consider leaving the workforce to care for their families full time and were nearly twice as likely to report feeling like they had to choose between caregiving and their job.

  • By far the most requested workplace recommendation by all survey respondents was for remote work and flexibility in work location and scheduling to continue post-pandemic.

Our survey data suggests that the pandemic presents an extraordinary opportunity to pivot to address these issues at this critical juncture while our profession is finding its way back to “normal” but before we collectively fall back into our old routines. Now is the time for employers to consider the equity of their workplace policies to increase the number of female attorneys and attorneys of color in the profession. Now is the time to dismantle systemic barriers that may overtly or implicitly dissuade female attorneys and attorneys of color from advancement in the profession. Now is the time to address attorney needs, especially mental health needs. Employers who take advantage of this opportunity to reimagine what a post-pandemic legal office looks like will do so by providing lawyers with technology, flexibility, and options for remote work. These employers will introduce innovative and progressive solutions for attorneys who are also caregivers and support attorney well-being, which will attract and retain happier, healthier attorneys.

The Women in the Profession Committee intends to offer support to affected attorneys, particularly those who may be seeking a job or struggling with ongoing caregiving responsibilities. We plan to develop programming to advise law firms and other employers how best to retain women attorney talent as well as (re)hire attorneys whose careers were derailed by the pandemic, either by choice or by default due to financial cuts or caregiving obligations. These efforts will not only benefit attorneys and firms, but will also improve the quality of legal services offered to the public. Finally, we hope that simply by noting the differences in male and female attorneys’ survey results, we can emphasize that a one-size-fits-all approach is simply not going to be sufficient to address and improve on the variety of pandemic-related concerns men and women attorneys alike have expressed in their survey responses.

Having these survey results is an essential first step in our committee’s efforts to mitigate the negative effects of the pandemic on women attorneys, but the key will be to take this knowledge beyond the pages of this survey and into actionable results in the weeks, months, and years to come.TBJ


is senior counsel to Gibbs & Bruns and practices commercial civil litigation in state and federal courts. She is chair of the State Bar of Texas Women in the Profession Committee and co-chair of the Houston Bar Association’s Gender Fairness Committee.

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