Schultz and Shaw: Women in the World’s Legal Professions

In 2003, Ulrike Schultz and Gisela Shaw concluded their decade-long project of compilingscholarly analyses of women’s varying positions within the legal profession across the world. The outcome was Women in the World’s Legal Professions comprising the work of nearly thirty scholars from fifteen countries under both under common law and the civil law code.[1] The geographical and cultural breadth alone make Schultz and Shaw’s project entirely awe-inspiring. It is worth noting the scope of this project is truly encompassing of the legal profession; that is, scholars study not just the role of female attorneys and judges, but female notaries and women holding a great many other legal positions. Contributors range in their use of empirical data to demonstrate women’s roles in the legal field; this is understandable as data availability varies from country to country. Several scholars rely on personal interviews to illustrate gender disparities, thus putting a written “face” to the trends described.

All contributions contend with the incredibly pervasive theory of difference, which, some assert, tokenizes women’s role in the legal profession. Bryna Bogoch explains that difference will be found regardless of empirical data because “gender stereotypes can act as a filter through which the behaviors of [women] are understood.”[2] What do women bring to the legal profession? This is the broader question all scholars strive to answer in their respective contributions. Deborah Rhode, for example, argues women may, but do not necessarily, carry “feminist commitments” which result from their experiences as women.[3] As for the methods which may bring about increased gender diversity, each scholar has his or her own opinions, but nearly all agree the “trickle-up” phenomenon has not and will not result in gender parity. Several scholars cite the “brotherhood” culture of a legal workplace as a factor in women’s upward mobility—or lack thereof. This question of culture again raises the concern that benefits of women’s inclusion in the legal workforce do not outweigh the detriments or inconvenience of altering the workplace.

Women in the World’s Legal Professions is extremely thorough in its assessment of women’s roles in the legal workforce. The diverse perspectives represented by contributors greatly informs the books position as a global analysis. As a unified work, Women in the World’s Legal Professionsdiligently records women’s mark on the legal profession.[4]


  1. Schultz, Ulrike, and Gisela Shaw, Women In The World’s Legal Professions, (Portland, Hart Publishing, 2003),
  2. , 257.
  3. , 7.
  4. , lix.

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