The recent studies have proven somewhat shocking to veteran women lawyers who thought there would be gender parity by now, Wendell added.
"I think women are perceived as not being good at generating business," she said. "It would be helpful for women attorneys to have more mentoring and guidance from successful rainmakers, and that is typically men."
Key to the problem, said Patricia Ireland, a partner at Miami-based Phillips Richard & Rind and former president of the National Organization for Women, is a lack of transparency about compensation at law firms. When law firms have a closed compensation system, women have no way of knowing if there is pay equity, she said.
"The biggest issue for women is transparency," said Ireland. "Law firms all companies are loathe to have people talk about their salaries. They actively discourage it."
Greenberg Traurig has a closed compensation system. However, two top female partners there say they are fine with that.
Kara MacCullough, a Fort Lauderdale shareholder, previously worked at law firms with open compensation systems, including Holland & Knight and Akerman Senterfitt. Yet she wasn't comfortable fighting for additional money and didn't fully understand her worth in the marketplace at the time.
"I suffered in silence, like a lot of women," she said.
But now, MacCullough said she knows what she is worth and is confident she is being paid fairly.
"In the past, I did have concerns about a closed compensation system," she said. "But in connection with my decision to join Greenberg, I decided that I was willing to give up a certain level of knowledge in exchange for the benefits of a closed compensation system. Based on my experience and calls that I receive from headhunters, I know what I'm worth."
Hilarie Bass, Greenberg Traurig's global operating shareholder and head of its 600-member litigation department, is one of two women sitting on the firm's executive committee. She said she has no issue with the law firm's closed system and is confident she is being paid fairly.