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Jill Backer | PACE UNIVERSITY

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"Westchester Lawyer" featured Pace University's Elisabeth Haub School of Law Assistant Dean Jill Backer's cover article in "Gender and Salary Equity in 2019"

07/15/2019

"Westchester Lawyer" featured Pace University's Elisabeth Haub School of Law Assistant Dean Jill Backer's cover article in "Gender and Salary Equity in 2019"

Jill A. Backer, Esq., has been the Assistant Dean at Pace Law School’s office of Career and Professional Development since 2014. She began her legal career as a criminal defense attorney in Chicago before going into legal sales. Upon return to her native New York in 2002, she took a job at Brooklyn Law School where she built one of the first employer outreach programs in the nation at a law school. Jill spent 12 years at Brooklyn Law School. She has been the Chair of the NALP employer outreach section. Jill is a graduate of Marquette University and Quinnipiac University School of Law.

When asking for a raise at your current employer ... It is important to cometo the table with data and facts about what you do for your employer and highlight what more you have taken on.

In January 2019, Citibank revealed that female employees earned 29 percent less than its male employees. A 2018 study of the 100 largest law firms found that 93 percent of the highest compensation earners were men, despite zero differences between men and women in billable hours overall.

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research believes that it will take until 2059 to achieve pay parity in the United States (longer for minority women). On a global level, it is estimated that pay parity may not happen until 202 years from now, that is in the year 2221. Pay disparity is real, pervasive and widespread.

What is shocking is that most women don’t believe that pay disparity exists at their company. The statistics on pay disparity are so large that every woman must consider that it is happening where they work. Knowing for a fact that the ubiquitous and institutionalized Citibank was engaging in pay disparity to the tune of 29% proves how pervasive this issue is in our economy.

These statistics and facts are disheartening for women who experience the compounding effects of pay disparity over the lifetime of their employment. How can it be that we are still experiencing this in 2019 after generations of women’s rightsefforts? Despite systemic and historic pay discrepancies, we are now seeing an increase and traction in laws and movements gaining momentum, to move the needle on pay parity. There are aggressive statutes in places like New York City, Philadelphia and San Francisco that strive for pay equity between genders. Some of these statutes disallow any potential employer to ask for a salary history to combat and set right the systemic continuation of lower salary for women. In April 2018, the New York State assembly passed an equal pay law for women to address and that hopefully will bridge the pay gap between men and women performing the same job.

One of the ways women can personally combat pay disparity is actually negotiating a raise or a higher initial salary for themselves. Asking for more money can be a sticky situation for anyone, and it may cause the employer/ employee relationship to sour.

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"New York Law Journal" featured Law School Assistant Dean Jill Backer's piece in "What Is Diversity in the Legal Market? Or Is Everyone a Special Snowflake?"

04/27/2018

"New York Law Journal" featured Law School Assistant Dean Jill Backer's piece in "What Is Diversity in the Legal Market? Or Is Everyone a Special Snowflake?"

In August 2017, it made news that the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division would investigate and bring cases over “intentional race based discrimination in college and university admissions.” Their hypothesis is that some admissions offices are discriminating against White students. Their allegation is that using race as a factor to admit students who have been historically under-represented on the campus is itself discriminatory. Perhaps this is a way for the Justice Department to try to eliminate affirmative action? This got me thinking about the nature, distinctions, and definitions of diversity in our country—especially in the legal market. What exactly is diversity, or is everyone a special snowflake?

In May 2015, the Washington Post reported that the legal profession was the least diverse profession based on information reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). According to the BLS, 88 percent of lawyers are White, surpassing all other professional fields including architects, which are 81 percent White, accountants 78 percent White and physicians at 72 percent White. When analyzing diversity, including Black, Latino, Asian and Native Americans, these groups comprise about 33 percent of the American population but only about 20 percent of all law school grads.

Gender diversity is also still not achieved in the legal profession and the “old boys network” is still alive and well in 2018. Law firms can deny this, but the metrics make it an obvious state of affairs. The Diversity Lab created the Mansfield Rule based on the Rooney Rule in the National Football League. The Rooney Rule states that one black person must be interviewed for every head coaching job in the NFL. Likewise, the Mansfield Rule asks that firms consider at least 30 percent women and minority lawyers as part of the pool of candidates for all governance roles, senior lateral positions, and equity promotions. In 2016, there were 44 global mega-firms that had agreed to the Mansfield Rule, hopefully affording a greater number of female attorneys partner track positions to improve upon the meager 20 percent of female partners. So, does this new rule mean all women in the law should be given protected status? Should it just be for leadership roles that women are given special status? Currently, just over half of all law students are women, yet only one-third of lawyers are women. Is it necessary to make adjustments for the loss of women who choose not to enter practice?

In the 2017 study “A Portrait of Asian Americans in the Law,” it was stated that Asian American enrollment in law school has gone down 43 percent since 2009. The term “bamboo ceiling” was coined to give context to the struggle for Asian Americans to gain leadership roles at top law firms. It is almost like no one can break the ceilings to gain access to law firm leadership seats. Currently, Harvard University is being sued by both the Justice Department and the Students for Fair Admissions, a non-profit organization that challenges admission policies. The claim is that the university discriminated against Asian American applicants by utilizing a cap, limiting the number of Asian American admitted. This case continues to be litigated.

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"New York Law Journal" featured Assistant Dean Jill Backer in a piece "Law School Employment Data Reporting: Are We Losing the Forest for the Trees?"

03/20/2018

"New York Law Journal" featured Assistant Dean Jill Backer in a piece "Law School Employment Data Reporting: Are We Losing the Forest for the Trees?"

By: Jill Backer

Jill Backer is the Assistant Dean for Career and Professional Development at Pace University, Elisabeth Haub School of Law.

Career centers at law schools are faced with the sometimes competing interests of reporting data and building a service relationship with their new graduates. The regulators and indeed the legal profession as a whole need to decide what is important.

For several years, the ABA has had a required employment data reporting protocol as a part of all law school’s accreditation. NALP and of course US News also have long standing protocols for reporting job data. The gold standard of jobs are jobs that either require the bar exam or prefer a J.D. Schools that do not have a high percentage of students landing these gold standard jobs are not considered competitive in the law school marketplace. So, law grads that enter investment banking, start/run their own business or “practice” in any other non-traditional way are not counted in that golden number. I do not think it is a revelation to anyone that there are law students who come to law school with no intention to practice law in a traditional way. In fact, more and more millennials intend to earn a J.D. to use the knowledge it offers in more novel, entrepreneurial venues. Most people agree that a J.D. is a flexible degree, so are we losing the forest for the trees with what we count and how we count it?

What We Count

The law can be a nimble and future-looking profession, yet we are still defining a lawyer in the same way we have for hundreds of years. Can there be no evolution of a lawyer beyond those depicted in the movie Inherit the Wind (a 1960 movie taking place in 1925)? With the complete understanding that we cannot have law schools counting a student working as a barista in their employment stats (because this would cause misrepresentation in their graduates’ employment statistics and is just wrong), is there no better way to provide job data than counting only the Clarence Darrows among us? I hypothesize that the legal market would be better for counting in some way those law school graduates that choose alternative paths that are not specifically J.D. advantage in their golden number. Attend any legal tech event and you will find hundreds of non-practicing attorneys in lucrative and game changing roles that neither the ABA, NALP nor US News validate with their golden number. In turn, the lack of validation hurts the law schools that graduate these entrepreneurs, financiers, etc.

With summer programs decreasing nationally and far less call for traditional first-year associates, the narrow definition of what we “count” as lawyers has to evolve.

How We Count

In general, the legal profession is unaware of the actual reporting requirements of law schools in regard to their job statistics. Everyone can agree that there should be transparent and not misleading reporting on employment numbers, but what has been really lacking are concrete ideas on how exactly to achieve transparent reporting. Currently, law schools are required by the ABA, US News and NALP to provide employment statistics. (The ABA is a required regulator as they are the law schools’ accreditors. The NALP and US News submissions are constructively required by the marketplace.) Each regulator asks different questions and uses different methods, resulting in what publicly looks like career centers “cooking the books” because the numbers for an individual law school look different for each regulator. Due to this “cooking the books” concept and other outside influences, the ABA instituted its comprehensive review of law schools’ jobs statistics three years ago. In those three years, they have yet to find any evidence of malevolent or intentional misreporting or misrepresentation.

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