The legal profession is in a work-life crisis, with 78% of associates leaving law firms by their fifth year and nearly 50% of women lawyers leaving the profession at some point in their careers. The question is whether law firms will ever abandon their traditional practices to meet today's rising female workforce demands? They might have to, according to a special report in the August/September issue of Working Mother magazine. Produced in partnership with Flex-Time Lawyers, the report names the Best Law Firms for Women and examines the challenges and opportunities afforded to female lawyers.
"Women should not be denied the right to become partners, but the "billable hour" system is not allowing them to advance in their careers and raise a family. The 100-hour work week model is just not effective," said Carol Evans, CEO, Working Mother Media. "Today, with nearly half of law school graduates women, law firms will have to make a fundamental shift in their policies regarding partnership in order to remain competitive. We hope that by recognizing the pioneering firms that have already moved the needle, a paradigm shift will follow."
"Working Mother is very interested in the challenges female lawyers face because if law firms get this right, it will have positive ramifications for working mothers everywhere," added Evans. "It's an extreme job, which requires extreme measures and bold changes."
In order to effect change, Working Mother magazine and Flex-Time Lawyers partnered for the second year in a row to name the Best Law Firms for Women, which recognizes firms that have instituted female and family-friendly benefits. This year, 30% more applications were received, signifying the increased importance that law firms are placing on attracting and retaining women.
The good news is that some firms are making headway. This year's winners are redefining the standards of success and creating workplaces that encourage the retention and advancement of women. Among the current programs in place at the winning firms: 98% of winning firms host networking groups for female lawyers; 68% offer mentoring for senior female associates; and 62% offer management training for women.
"The 2008 Best Law Firms for Women are making progress and understanding the need to move in a new direction," said Deborah Epstein Henry, Founder and President, Flex-Time Lawyers LLC. "For example, we are seeing increases in our numbers of female equity partners -- an average of 19% this year, versus 16% last year. As the numbers increase, we anticipate other law firms will take notice and competition will drive more creative ways to enhance work/life balance and improve the status of women in the profession."
Bringing the balancing act of female lawyers to its pages, Working Mother examines a new breed of "part-time partners," a small but growing trend at law firms. Although women make up only 18% of equity and non-equity partners today, 100% of the winning firms allow reduced-hour lawyers to be elevated to at least non-equity partnership, which is becoming a critical recruitment and retention tool.
The 2008 Working Mother & Flex-Time Lawyers Best Law Firms for Women
- Click here to look up any of these firms
- Andrews Kurth, Houston, TX
- Arent Fox, Washington, D.C.
- Arnold & Porter, Washington, D.C.
- Baker & McKenzie, Chicago, IL
- Bass, Berry & Sims, Nashville, TN
- Bingham McCutchen, Boston, MA
- Bricker & Eckler, Columbus, OH
- Chapman and Cutler, Chicago, IL
- Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, New York, NY
- Covington & Burling, Washington, D.C.
- Cravath, Swaine & Moore, New York, NY
- Davis Polk & Wardwell, New York, NY
- Debevoise & Plimpton, New York, NY
- Dorsey & Whitney, Minneapolis, MN
- Farella Braun + Martel, San Francisco, CA
- Fenwick & West, Mountain View, CA
- Foley Hoag, Boston, MA
- Folger Levin & Kahn, San Francisco, CA
- Fox Rothschild, Philadelphia, PA
- Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, New York, NY
- Gibbons P.C., Newark, NJ
- Gray Plant Mooty Law Firm, Minneapolis, MN
- Heller Ehrman, San Francisco, CA
- Hogan & Hartson, Washington, D.C.
- Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn, Detroit, MI
- Hunton & William, Richmond, VA
- Ice Miller, Indianapolis, IN
- Jenner & Block, Chicago, IL
- Katten Muchin Rosenman, Chicago, IL
- Kutak Rock, Omaha, NE
- Latham & Watkins, Global
- Lindquist & Vennum, Minneapolis, MN
- Littler Mendelson, San Francisco, CA
- Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, Los Angeles, CA
- Miller & Chevalier Chartered, Washington, D.C.
- Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, Philadelphia, PA
- Morrison & Foerster, San Francisco, CA
- Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg, Chicago, IL
- Patton Boggs, Washington, D.C.
- Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, New York, NY
- Perkins Coie, Seattle, WA
- Shearman & Sterling, New York, NY
- Shook, Hardy & Bacon, Kansas City, MO
- Sidley Austin, Chicago, IL
- Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, New York, NY
- Steptoe & Johnson, Washington, D.C.
- Sullivan & Cromwell, New York, NY
- Vinson & Elkins, Houston, TX
- WilmerHale, Washington, D.C. and Boston, MA
- Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Palo Alto, CA
Profiles of the 2008 Best Law Firms for Women are featured in the August/September issue of Working Mother and at www.workingmother.com and www.flextimelawyers.com. Winning firms will be honored at a luncheon at the Mandarin Oriental in New York on September 15. That morning, Working Mother and Flex-Time Lawyers will hold a forum to report for the first time the findings of their national research on the trends and share best practices of work/life balance and women in the legal profession.
Methodology: The 2008 Best Law Firms for Women application was developed in a partnership between Working Mother and Flex-Time Lawyers LLC. Firms with at least 50 lawyers were eligible to apply and the application included detailed questions about the issues that are most important to the retention and promotion of female lawyers. The 50 winning firms were selected based on their responses to an application measuring areas such as workforce profile, family-friendly benefits and policies, flexibility, leadership, compensation, advancement and retention of women.