Florida State University Law Review
We first noticed a possible "gender gap" in attorney discipline when we ran across the Oklahoma Disciplinary Commission's annual report for the year 2000. Women currently constitute 27% of Oklahoma attorneys, but 0% of the disciplined attorneys—none of the seventeen named—were women. Wondering whether the Oklahoma figures were aberrational, we attempted to locate research concerning gender and attorney discipline. But there have been few such studies, although “[p]robably no issue in the social sciences receives more attention than the difference between men and women.”
We thus embarked upon a national study of disciplinary actions decided in 2000. After collecting, coding, and analyzing about 3500 publicly available cases from all fifty states and the District of Columbia, we conclude that female attorneys are, in fact, disciplined at a significantly lower rate than male attorneys, relative to their respective proportions in the United States attorney population.
This Article presents the primary statistical findings of our study of gender differences in attorney discipline. We examined, with respect to male and female attorneys, the overall rates of discipline imposed, the frequency with which different types of sanctions (such as disbarment and suspension) were imposed, the frequency with which male and female attorneys committed different types of ethical violations (such as incompetence or failure to communicate with clients), and other potentially relevant differences. Through regression analysis, we also attempted to discover if gender was a significant predictor of the severity of a sanction.
Part II describes the methodology used to collect, code, and analyze the observations included in our database. Part III presents the results of our statistical analysis. Part IV discusses, necessarily speculatively, possible factors contributing to the gender differences that were found in the study, with attention to other empirical studies of gender and moral reasoning.
Patricia W. Hatamyar & Kevin M. Simmons, Are Women More Ethical Lawyers – An Empirical Study, 31 Fla. St. U. L. Rev. 785 (2004).