Although the decline may seem slight, the author notes that it is a red flag because the associates will feed the partner pool one day. "While the percentage of women partners, small as it is, has continued to grow each year, sustained incremental growth in the future is at risk if the percentage of women associates continues to inch downwards."
The legal profession needs to figure out why more women are foregoing the associate track. "It could be because some women are deciding not to pursue law firm careers, given increased attention to how demanding those jobs are and because the path to partnership has narrowed." Other have commented that the decline in law school attendees is to blame.
In 2010, I decided to forego the associate track in favor of an academic career. I realized that law firm life might not be for me, and the inherent adversarial nature and cutthroat competition that often accompanies this life was something that I did not want to deal with for an extended period of time.
Law firms need to consider more work-life-balance measures to bring women in. It's important to have diversity in the legal profession to truly represent the needs of a more diversified nation.