Utah law firms have more difficulty retaining and promoting women lawyers than their male colleagues, according to a new report based on four years of study by Women Lawyers of Utah (WLU). Melanie J. Vartabedian, current WLU President and an associate in Ballard Spahr's Litigation Department, chaired the committee that headed the study.

"The Utah Report: The Initiative on the Advancement and Retention of Women in Law Firms" concluded that Utah firms struggle to retain women lawyers for various reasons, including higher-than-expected levels of sexual harassment and sex discrimination, lack of mentoring and opportunities to participate in social activities, pay inequality, and failure to promote women to partnership. The report, based on surveys of the legal community and symposiums examining the challenges facing the legal industry, suggests ways that Utah firms and attorneys can best address each underlying cause of the disparity.

"It's our hope that firm leadership in Utah and beyond will take notice of these results, which confirm years of speculation," said Ms. Vartabedian. "Losing a single associate can cost a firm between $200,000 and $500,000. It's not good business, and it's certainly not good for the women attorneys involved."

Ms. Vartabedian's practice is focused on complex commercial litigation matters, and she has litigated cases in state and federal courts across the country. She has been a WLU member since 2004 and has served on the Board of Directors since 2007. Earlier this year Ms. Vartabedian received the Utah State Bar's Dorothy Merrill Brothers Award for the Advancement of Women in the Legal Profession. She has also been recognized by the Utah State Bar and Utah Legal Services for her pro bono work.

Related Area