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Female lawyers are still trying to break the glass ceiling

The study points to the significant economic weight of lawyers in Brussels, a certain malaise among the youngest among them and the wage gap between men and women.

This is a document that is already in its fourth edition and which year after year confirms the astonishing facts about 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 bars in Brussels weigh 1.3% of the gross domestic product of the Brussels regionwhich is a number that has increased slightly since 2017.


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

They also represent 11.14% of the total turnover of self-employed people in the Brussels region. “This number deserves to be underlined, which proves the importance of the Brussels Bar Association. And this without counting the many lawyers who reside outside the territory of the capital Brussels,” analyzes Gregory Lewkowicz, a professor at ULB and the author of this “radiography of the Brussels bar”, which was just posted on the bar’s website this Thursday.

Among the new knowledge that the study will take away is the reflection on the incomes of lawyers, and especially on the significant differences in salaries between men and women. If the collected statistics need to be changed – they are based on lawyers’ declarations of semi-gross annual income – they show that “on average, men receive an annual salary almost double that of women”, i.e., on average, the median, 53.9% more. It seems thatthere is a glass ceiling for women above a semi-gross annual turnover equal to or greater than 100,000 euros: It is achieved by 45% of male lawyers compared to 21% of female lawyers.

“Women lawyers earn less than their male counterparts, partly because their areas of specialization lead them to less wealthy clients.”

Gregory Lewkowicz

Professor at ULB

How can this situation be explained when women are the majority in a Brussels bar today? It seems – and the x-ray proves it for the first time – that lawyers and lawyers are also distinguished by the nature of their clients. 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 wealthy.

Currently, there is an overrepresentation of the sexes according to legal matters. For men in commercial and corporate law and for women in personal law. Female lawyers also earn less than their male counterparts because their area of ​​expertise leads them to less affluent clients. And that has its source in the university when it comes to the choice of specialties,” says Gregory Lewkowicz.


Another significant example of the existence of a glass ceiling: the low proportion of female partners among female lawyers. It is therefore important to note that 52% of female lawyers are barristers or paralegals compared to only 28% of male lawyers. And finally, 41% of female lawyers aged 50 to 65 are dissatisfied with their remunerationagainst only 16% of lawyers.


49% of lawyers are dissatisfied with their work-life balance.

For me, Didier Chavala, member of the Bar Council, “there is no longer any discrimination in the relationship between the business world and lawyers. I do not know anyone who refuses to be defended by women who, on average, seem more attracted to subjects that are more social and less related to commercial law.On the other hand, there are more young women at the bar as well as at university. But the trend reverses in favor of men after 50 years.

And here’s another takeaway from this study: more and more lawyers are considering leaving the bar and eventually do: 49% of lawyers under 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.


  • An X-ray of a Brussels bar by the Perelman Center (ULB) was published on Thursday.
  • This proves the great economic weight of lawyers in the region, ie 11.14% of the total turnover of self-employed persons in Brussels.
  • The study found that, on average, female lawyers earn half as much as their male counterparts.
  • This is mainly due to the fact that women are still very underrepresented in commercial law, which is by far the most profitable subject.

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