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The American Lawyer reports that recent data released by Working Mother Media reveals that the legal industry is showing promising growth when it comes to gender equity among big law firms. Now in its 13th year, the annual Working Mother “Best Law Firms for Women” ranking highlights the top 60 law firms that define and implement best practices in recruiting, retaining, promoting and developing women lawyers. To compile the list, Working Mother assessed applications which included more than 300 questions about attorney demographics at different levels, schedule flexibility, policies for paid time off and parental leave, and development and retention of women lawyers.

Law firms selected for the list on average accounted for 23% of equity partners, up from 20% five years ago, the report notes. In addition, the number of female lawyers promoted to equity partner has increased by almost 25% over the past five years. When looking at other advancement statistics, multicultural women represent nearly 14% of the equity partnership, up from 11% five years ago. The number of multicultural, female associates also jumped to 33% from 27% in the same time period.

According to the report, all firms on the list offer women-specific mentoring programs and 50% of mentees are women. Two-third of the firms on the list have formal sponsorship with 62% of participants female, the report notes. Additionally, 36% provide gender-neutral fully paid parental leave in 2020, an increase from 35% in 2019; 36% provide gender-neutral paid parental leave with extra maternity leave, an increase from 24% in 2019; and 28% provide traditional maternity leave, an increase from 20% in 2019, (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

Working Mother also pointed out that flexibility has increased in the legal industry. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, all firms on the list offered reduced hours and remote work opportunities, with 39% of female lawyers working remotely in some capacity in 2019. “Law firms on this year’s list were better prepared to respond to the effects of the pandemic because of their continued support of flextime and remote work for working parents and caregivers,” notes Subha Barry, president of Working Mother Media. “We are proud to recognize their resilience and steadfast commitment to supporting gender equality.”

See more highlights from the rankings on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

Law360 released its sixth annual Glass Ceiling Report, which surveyed 300 law firms on gender diversity and ranked firms based on the percentage of female equity partners in the United States. According to the report, women make up 36% of all attorneys and 25% of equity partners in law firms across the country. Firms with the highest levels of female equity partners tend to focus on building a clear pipeline to equity partnership for women and offer benefits like work schedule flexibility, mentorship programs and greater leadership opportunities in order to retain top-performing attorneys.

Among the 300 law firms surveyed, small firms (20-149 attorneys) had the highest percentage of female equity partners, including Sideman & Bancroft (63.6%), Culhane Meadows (60.0%), Brundo Testan (60.0%), Wilson Turner (55.6%) and Walsworth (50.0%).

For medium to large sized firms (150-599 attorneys), the top five best firms for female partners were Fragomen Del Rey (47.1%), Nossaman (42.9%), Hanson Bridgett (38.2%), Shipman & Goodwin (32.2%) and Best Best & Krieger (32.1%).

In the biggest category of ‘Big Law’ firms (600+ attorneys), Littler Mendelson tops the list of the biggest firms with the most female representation this year, with 29.6% female equity partners. Additional firms with the highest percentage of female equity partners include Jackson Lewis (28.3%), Faegre Baker Daniels (24.3%), Akerman (22.9%), and Ogletree Deakins (21.7%).

See highlights from the full article and rankings on Law360.

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Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

Law360 released its fourth annual Glass Ceiling Report, which surveyed 300 law firms on gender diversity and ranked firms based on the percentage of female equity partners in the United States.

According to the report, women make up just 34% of all attorneys and 23% of partners in law firms across the country. Law360’s editor in chief, Anne Urda, notes, “Intentions among law firms are good, and some slight progress has been made, but overall the numbers indicate that law firms need to do much more to close the gap among male and female associates and partners.”

Firms with the highest levels of female equity partners tend to focus on building a clear pipeline to equity partnership for women and offering benefits like work schedule flexibility, mentorship programs and greater leadership opportunities in order to retain top-performing attorneys.

Among the 300 law firms surveyed, small firms (20-149 attorneys) had the highest percentage of female equity partners, including Adelson Testan (60%), Walsworth (57.1%), Stokes Lawrence (43.5%), Berry Appleman (42.9%) and Verrill Dana (41.5%).

For medium to large sized firms (150-599 attorneys), the top five best firms for female partners were Fragomen (40.7%), Miller Nash (37.7%), Hanson Bridgett (37.1%), FordHarrison (33.3%) and Chapman & Cutler (31.2%).

In the biggest category of ‘Big Law’ firms (600+ attorneys), firms with the highest percentage of female equity partners were Littler (28.5%), Faegre Baker (27.2%), Jackson Lewis (26.1%), WilmerHale (25.1%), and Ropes & Gray (25%).

See the full article and rankings on Law360.

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Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

The gap in gender parity in the legal industry remains somewhat stagnant, but there are Big Law firms that have adopted new cultures and strategies to attract and retain women lawyers. The National Law Journal highlights those firms in their annual survey of the top 100 firms with the highest number of women attorneys. The rankings were based on survey responses from 254 of the 350 largest U.S. law firms.

New York-based Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewry is the leading firm for women again, a repeating factor since 2011. With 62 percent of its attorneys being women, and 48 percent of partners, Fragomen has been a frontrunner in retaining women attorneys for years. Partner, Cynthia Lange, who joined the firm in 1986, tells the American Lawyer, “It starts from the top. Even 30 years ago, they were fabulous at recognizing women.” Behind Fragomen, the top 5 on the list are: Minneapolis-based Foley & Mansfield; Ford & Harrison; Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete of Atlanta; and Best Best & Krieger of Riverside, California.

Employment firm Jackson Lewis, at No. 8, has promoted a number of part-time attorneys to partners, says Stephanie Adler-Paindiris, co-leader of the firms’ class actions and complex litigation practice group. Adler-Paindiris explains, “There’s an understanding from above about the importance of family and people’s lives.”

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison deputy chair, Valeria Radwaner, explains her firm’s outlook, “We have to give women visibility in the community, encourage them to take leadership positions and run practice groups. We encourage them to say, ‘Yes.’ That’s how they become leaders.” Paul Weiss at No. 31 is the highest ranked Big Law firm in New York that made the list, with 40 percent of its attorneys being women and 22 percent of partners. The firm has created programs designed to motivate women attorneys and develop their careers. Radwaner notes that programs alone don’t create meaningful change. She says, “At the end of the day, the program mixed with the tone from the top is really what I think makes the difference.”

See more of the highlights from the 2016 NLJ Top 100 Firms for Women on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

Law.com reported that only 34% of lawyers in large firms today are women. That statistic has faced less than a 1% increase over the last five years, according to ALM’s Female Scorecard. Senior ALM Analyst, Nicholas Bruch, reported that only 18% of equity partners and a shocking 8% of lawyers making over half-a-million dollars are women. In a goal to meet gender parity, large firms are making slow progress–but not all hope is lost.

Despite the slow moving figures, there is supporting data implying that Big Law will reach the goal of gender parity, eventually. According to Law.com, ALM reported recent figures that women account for 47% of law school graduates. This figure is generally in line with the climbing 45% of entry-level associates at large firms that are women. The increasing numbers prove that Big Law’s strategies to hire more women are effective at this phase. Attacking the issue at entry-level is key for large firms to fix the problem from occurring further down the road.

ALM conducted a Women in Leadership Survey which revealed that one in four members on key governing committees are women. This indicates that firm leaders are making a noticeable effort to place female partners in top leadership roles. The 18% of females in equity roles to choose from seems to be what is slowing down efforts.

Firms are making significant efforts to hire females at the entry-level and at the most senior level, but the focus should be to retain women in Big Law and transition female associates into partners. Firms should target two critical pieces: supporting female career progression and developing a plan to gather data on why females are leaving the firm or the industry. According to ALM Intelligence, women don’t necessarily leave the legal industry at a specific milestone in their lives or careers. So, the assumption that women are leaving the law after having a child or during key partner promotion years is largely false. Data reveals that women are leaving the law at a slow and consistent rate–an indicator that law firms must creatively solve the issue of female retention.

Law.com suggests that a single, clear and obvious solution is not likely to be found. Leaders in large firms should take a broader approach and focus on developing an assortment of strategies to retain and promote female lawyers. Some firms have started implementing mentorship and coaching programs to target women in crucial transition years. Even though the results of such programs have yet to surface, the efforts to retain females in Big Law are undeniably progressing.

For more information, contact Bill Sugarman.