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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.

The American Lawyer reports that according to recent data released by Vault and MCCA, minorities and female lawyers are making gains in overall representation at the nation’s largest firms. According to the Vault/MCCA Law Firm Diversity Survey, female attorneys represented more than 46 percent of law firm associates and 23 percent of all partners, and for the first time in the 14 years of data collection, the percentage of women equity partners exceeded 20 percent.

Law firms also brought in more female partners as laterals than they have in the past: 28 percent of lateral partners hired in 2017 were women, compared to 24 percent in 2016. And even though women are better represented in the non-equity ranks, many of the new female partners are equity partners. Women represented 29 percent of all new equity partners in 2017, a figure higher than any previous year. The rising number of female partners can be attributed to increases in both lateral hiring and promotions, the report revealed.

Minority representation is growing at all levels, from associates to partners to those in positions of leadership, the survey notes. Since 2007, representation of minority lawyers among law firm partners has grown three percentage points, from 6 percent to 9 percent. Attorneys of color now represent 25 percent of associates and 13 percent of counsel. More than 9 percent of attorneys who serve on management or executive committees are minorities. These figures are all higher than those reported in previous years. Nevertheless, lawyers of color are still much less likely to be partners than white lawyers: 46 percent of white attorneys are partners, compared to 24 percent of minority attorneys, (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

Additionally, the report found that law firms are recruiting more lawyers and law students of color, and women make up the majority of these new hires. Among new attorneys hired in 2017, 26 percent were people of color. Approximately 32 percent of the 2017 summer class were minorities, which is a percentage point higher than the year before and six points higher than 2007. Women also hold more leadership positions than they have in the past, serving in increasing numbers on law firm executive committees, as heads of office and practice leaders, the report notes. Almost 24 percent of management committee members are female, as are 24 percent of attorneys leading practice departments and 21 percent of U.S. office heads, (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

See highlights from the full article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

The American Lawyer reports that recent data released by ALM Intelligence shows female attorneys have ascended into Big Law’s partnership ranks at a faster pace than ever before in the wake of the #MeToo movement. According to the analysis, the pace of promotions for female lawyers since the #MeToo movement began has soared from 125 per month to 265 a month —or more than double the rate from the previous period.

Mary Leslie Smith, who became managing partner of Foley & Lardner’s Miami office earlier this year, notes that the movement has raised awareness. “What the Harvey Weinstein and #MeToo movement has done is raise awareness,” Smith said. “Firms began to look internally and ask, ‘Are we doing right by our women?’”

In addition, the article reports on several high-profile elevations of women in Big Law including Donna Wilson, named to become CEO and managing partner of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips in July 2019; Julie Jones, who will become the first female chair of Ropes & Gray at the end of 2019; and Patricia Brown Holmes, who became managing partner of Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila in April.

Debra Baker, a lawyer and managing director at GrowthPlay, concludes that “the most significant force now encouraging firms to promote women is an increased demand by clients for diversity. Clients are looking for diverse lawyers, not just to appear politically correct, but because they want advisers that know something about their businesses, will share fresh perspectives and work collaboratively, added Baker, noting that women often do better on those fronts since they “tend to score higher on social sensitivity.”

See highlights from the full article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

The annual “Best 50 Law Firms for Women” list, released mid-year by Working Mother magazine, remains one of the key surveys of 2015.

The list reports that law firms featured in the Best 50 employed more female equity partners, at twenty percent, than the national average (seventeen percent).  The Best 50 compilation also boasts that sixteen percent of the firms now have three or more women among their “top ten rainmakers,” a five percent increase from 2014.

Five firms appeared on both the Working Mother’s ‘Best 50’ list and The American Lawyer’sEight Firms Where Women Thrive“: Quarles & Brady, Baker & McKenzie, Sidley Austin, Holland & Hart, and Reed Smith.

Read more from the report here.