When it comes to women in leadership roles at Pennsylvania’s Am Law 100 firms, they are more likely to be found on firm governance or compensation committees than as office or practice group leaders, according to data compiled by Legal affiliate The American Lawyer.
Nine Pennsylvania firms provided data to The American Lawyer on the number of women on firm leadership committees and in charge of offices or practice groups. The percentages of women in the four categories tracked by The American Lawyer were typically higher when looking at governance and compensation committees as compared to how many women are running offices or practice groups. The data focused on women partners and included information from 93 Am Law 100 firms.
Reed Smith had some of the highest percentages of any Am Law 100 firm in a few categories. There are 16 voting members of the firm’s executive committee and six of them, or 38 percent, are women. Of the 16 people in Reed Smith’s compensation group, which is a subset of the executive committee, seven, or 44 percent, are women.
The percentages drop a bit for Reed Smith when it comes to practice and office leadership, but are still higher than some of the firm’s Pennsylvania counterparts.
There are 10 women among the 38 practice group leaders at Reed Smith, which means women account for 26 percent of practice group leadership. Of the firm’s 23 offices, women lead three, or 13 percent, of them.
Reed Smith global managing partner Gregory B. Jordan said part of the firm’s success in having a significant number of women in leadership roles stems simply from the fact that it has a number of talented women who rose to the top. There was also a bit of work on Reed Smith’s part in the way of structural changes to the executive committee that allowed for greater diversity on the board.
“About 10 years ago or so, we amended the partnership agreement in terms of how the executive committee would be elected, and we created three positions that, at the option of the executive committee, could be filled in order to accomplish greater diversity,” Jordan said.
While the other positions on the committee are elected, Jordan said the firm has used the three appointed slots to create more diversity of all kinds, including gender, race and geography, in an effort to make the committee look like the firm. The structural changes combined with more women running and winning elections to the committee have resulted in a strong percentage of women on the firm’s most influential committees, Jordan said.
In looking at the fact that, at most firms, more women have seemed to find places on powerful, firmwide committees than running a single office or practice, Jordan said, “There are a lot of places where you can have a big impact on your law firm, but being on the board that is charged with governing the whole firm and who makes what is a pretty good place to be.”
Though women are more likely to be on governance and compensation committees, the numbers aren’t as high as some would like. The American Lawyer noted only 14 of the firm’s survey respondents reported women comprising more than 25 percent of their governance board.
And while women are finding their way onto firmwide governance committees, chairing those committees seems to be a different animal to tackle.
Duane Morris partner Jane Dalton, current co-chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession, said it’s up to both the firms and the female partners to improve the numbers.
“I think that firms could do better in terms of advancing women to leadership positions, but I think that, also, women should ask for such positions because that will increase the numbers,” Dalton said. “If somebody knows that somebody is interested, it makes it harder to say no.”
Dalton said Philadelphia is often seen as the standard for the state in terms of the number of women in firms and in leadership roles. But she said it’s actually harder for women in other parts of the state than it is in Philadelphia.
Pepper Hamilton is the only Am Law firm in Pennsylvania with a woman in charge of its executive committee, and one of 13 among the 93 firms that shared data with The American Lawyer. Nina Gussack has served as chairwoman of Pepper Hamilton’s executive committee since 2007. Current firm general counsel, Barbara Mather, had served as the firm’s first female executive partner several years ago.
Overall, however, the firm has a lower percentage of women in leadership roles than some of the other Pennsylvania Am Law 100 firms. Of the 14 partners on the firm’s executive committee, two, or 14 percent, are women. Women make up 25 percent of the firm’s four-member compensation group. Of the 25 practice group leaders at Pepper Hamilton, four, or 16 percent, are women. There is one woman among the firm’s 12 office leaders.
Cozen O’Connor ranked toward the top of the Am Law 100 list when it came to women on its management committee. Of the 18 partners on the firm’s management committee, six, or 33 percent, are women. Twenty percent of the firm’s 10-member compensation group are women. Of the 12 practice group leaders, two, or 17 percent, are women. And of the 18 office leaders, four, or 22 percent, are women. Cozen O’Connor also recently named Sandra Bloch as its new general counsel.
At Duane Morris, the executive committee and compensation group are one in the same. Of the five partners on those committees, one is a woman. The firm also has a 46-member partners board, of which 10, or 22 percent, are women. Of the 38 practice group leaders at Duane Morris, seven, or 18 percent, are women. The practice leader positions include nine main practice areas along with subpractices. Men lead all of the main practice groups. Women comprise 17 percent of the firm’s 23 office leaders.
There are 12 partners on Dechert’s policy committee and two, or 17 percent, are women. That group also serves as the firm’s compensation committee. Of the 26 practice group leaders, two, or 8 percent, are women. And of the 26 office leaders, three, or 12 percent, are women.
At Drinker Biddle & Reath, two of the 13 partners in the firm’s managing partners group are women, accounting for 15 percent of that group. The separate 12-member compensation group includes four women, or 33 percent. Of the 17 practice leaders, five, or 29 percent, are women. Of the 11 office leaders, two, or 18 percent, are women.
Blank Rome has an executive committee and a partners board. Of the 15 partners on the executive committee, two, or 13 percent, are women. There are six women on the 37-member partner board. Of the 21-person compensation group, three, or 14 percent, are women. Female lawyers account for 28 percent of the 36 practice group leaders, of which 10 are women. One woman is among the nine office leaders at Blank Rome.
At K&L Gates, the firm’s 60-partner management committee also doubles as its compensation group. There are eight women on the committee, meaning 16 percent of the governing and compensation groups are women. K&L Gates also has an eight-member executive committee that is pulled from the 60-member management committee. Of those eight members, one is a woman. With 19 of the firm’s 76 practice group leaders being women, female lawyers lead a quarter of the firm’s practices. Of the 33 office leaders at K&L Gates, four, or 12 percent, are women.
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius has a five-partner management committee as well as a 19-member advisory board. There are no women on the firm’s management committee. Of the 19-member advisory board, four, or 21 percent, are women. Of the seven people in the firm’s compensation group, one, or 14 percent, is a woman. Of the 12 practice group leaders, four, or 33 percent, are women, and of the 15 office leaders, five, or 20 percent, are women.
“Clearly law firms are not where we would like to be or should be when you look at the demographics of law school graduates and incoming associates,” Morgan Lewis Chairman Francis Milone told The American Lawyer.