Women lawyers still find it difficult to break through the glass ceiling

The study reveals the significant economic weight of lawyers in Brussels, including a certain weakness among the youngest and the wage gap between women and men.

This is a document that is in its fourth edition and which confirms every year the surprising reality of the place of Brussels lawyers in the city. And first of all, their impressive economic weight: as of 2021, lawyers from the French-speaking and Dutch-speaking bars of Brussels weigh in. 1.3% of the gross domestic product of the Brussels region.This figure has slightly increased since 2017.


According to the X-ray calculations of the Brussels lawyer, among lawyers, men earn on average 53.9% more than their female colleagues.

They also present 11.14% of total self-employed turnover. in the Brussels region. “This is a figure that deserves to be highlighted, which shows the importance of the Brussels Bar. And this does not count the many lawyers who have their residence outside the Brussels capital area”, analyzes Gregory Levkovic, professor at ULB and author of this “X-ray of the Brussels Bar”, which Just posted this Thursday on the bar website.

Among the new lessons to be learned from the research is the reflection on lawyers’ earnings and, in particular, the significant differences in wages between men and women. If the collected statistics are to be nuanced – they are based on lawyers’ declarations of semi-gross annual income – they show that “men earn an average annual salary almost twice that of women”, that is, on average. 53.9% more. As it seemsA glass ceiling exists for women with semi-gross annual turnover equal to or greater than €100,000: 45% of lawyers reach it, against 21% of female lawyers.

“Female lawyers earn less than their male counterparts, also because their areas of expertise bring them to less affluent clients.”

Gregory Levkovich

Professor at ULB

How can this situation be explained, when today women are the majority in the Brussels bar? It seems – and X-ray confirms this for the first time – that the nature of their clients also differentiates lawyers from solicitors. 22% of male lawyers have international clients, compared to 9% of female lawyers. In short: female lawyers earn less, mainly because their clients are… less affluent.

Today, there is an overrepresentation of gender in terms of legal issues. For men, in commercial and corporate law, and for women, in personal law. Female lawyers also earn less than their male counterparts because their areas of expertise bring them to less affluent clients. And this has its source from the university when it comes to the choice of specialties”, – says Gregory Levkovich.


Another important example of the existence of a glass ceiling: the low share of partners among female lawyers. Therefore, it is important to note that 52% of female attorneys are associates or interns at a law firm, compared to only 28% of male attorneys. and that finally 41% of female lawyers aged 50 to 65 are dissatisfied with their pay.against only 16% of lawyers.


49% of lawyers are dissatisfied with the balance between personal and professional life.

For me, Didier Chaval, a member of the Council of the Bar Association, “there is no longer discrimination in the relationship between the business world and lawyers. I do not know anyone who refuses to defend a woman, it seems, on average. They are more attracted to things that are more social and less related to business law. On the other hand, there are more young women at the bar as well as at university. But the trend turns in favor of men after 50 years.

And that’s another lesson from this study: more and more lawyers are considering leaving the practice of law, and it goes like this: 49% of lawyers under the age of 35 are “dissatisfied with the balance between their personal and professional lives. Stable results over the years. “Young people are more flexible, they no longer dream of a career in one company and they are more demanding In terms of pay,” Didier Chaval notes.

It sums up

  • The Brussels Bar X-ray conducted by the Perelman Center (ULB) was published on Thursday.
  • This shows the main economic weight of lawyers in the region, i.e. 11.14% of the total turnover of the self-employed in Brussels.
  • Research shows that female attorneys on average earn half as much as their male counterparts.
  • This is especially so as women are still very underrepresented in business law, the most lucrative subject.

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