A study shows the significant economic burden of lawyers in Brussels, a certain malaise among the youngest among them and the pay gap between men and women.
This is a document that is in its fourth edition and which year after year confirms the astonishing realities of the place of Brussels lawyers in the city. And first of all their impressive economic weight: according to data from 2021, lawyers from the French-speaking and Dutch-speaking bar associations of Brussels weigh 1.3% of the gross domestic product of the Brussels regiona figure that has increased slightly since 2017.
They also represent 11.14% of the total turnover of the self-employed in the Brussels region. “This is a figure worth highlighting, which demonstrates the importance of the Brussels Bar. And that’s without counting the many lawyers whose residence is outside the territory of the capital Brussels,” analyzed Gregory Lewkovich, professor at ULB and author of this “radiography of the Brussels Bar” that was just published this Thursday on the Bar’s website .
Among the new lessons to be learned from the study is a reflection on the earnings of lawyers and, in particular, the significant wage gap between men and women. If the collected statistics are to be nuanced – they are based on lawyers’ declarations to the Bar of semi-gross annual income – they show that “men receive an average annual remuneration of almost double that of women”, i.e. average average, 53.9% more. It appears thatthere is a glass ceiling for women above a semi-gross annual turnover equal to or greater than €100,000: 45% of lawyers achieve it against 21% of female lawyers.
“Women lawyers earn less than their male counterparts also because their areas of specialization lead them to less wealthy clients.”
How can this situation be explained when today women are the majority at the Brussels bar? It seems – and the x-ray demonstrates this for the first time – that the nature of their clients is also what separates lawyers from solicitors. 22% of male lawyers have international clients compared to 9% of female lawyers. In summary: female lawyers earn less, mainly because their clients…are less wealthy.
“There is an over-representation of the sexes in legal matters today. For men under commercial and company law, and for women under personal law. Female lawyers also earn less than their male counterparts because their areas of specialization lead to less wealthy clients. And this has its source in the university when it comes to choosing majors,” says Gregory Levkovich.
Another important example of the existence of a glass ceiling: the low share of partners among female lawyers. It is therefore important to note that 52% of female lawyers are associates or trainees in law firms, compared to only 28% of male lawyers. And finally, 41% of female lawyers aged 50 to 65 are dissatisfied with their payagainst only 16% of lawyers.
For me, Didier Chaval, member of the Council of the Bar Association, “there is no more discrimination in the relationship between the business world and lawyers. I don’t know anyone who refuses to be defended by Women Look Average, to be more attracted to subjects that are more social and less related to business law. On the other hand, there are more young women in the bar as well as in the university. But the trend reverses in favor of men after 50 years.“
And here’s another takeaway from this survey: More lawyers are considering leaving the bar and eventually do: 49% of lawyers under the age of 35 are “dissatisfied with their work-life balance. Stable results for years. “Young people are more flexible, they no longer dream of a career in one company and they are more demanding in terms of remuneration,” notes Didier Chaval.
- The X-ray of the Brussels Bar, taken by the Perelman Center (ULB), was published on Thursday.
- It shows the main economic weight of lawyers in the region, ie. 11.14% of the total turnover of the self-employed in Brussels.
- The study found that female lawyers earn on average half as much as their male counterparts.
- This would arise in particular from the fact that women are still very little present in commercial law, which is the most lucrative subject.