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The National Association of Women Lawyers is urging law firms to compensate senior attorneys for promoting diversity, monitor how credit for business development is meted out and teach senior male attorneys to be less fearful of mentoring women, in a new report aimed at advancing women’s legal careers. The group hopes the report will increase the percentage of women in top legal positions beyond the 15 percent mark, where the needle has been stuck for years despite women and men graduating from law school in nearly equal numbers. The report focuses on creating transparency so junior lawyers know how to climb the leadership ladder, financially rewarding senior attorneys who mentor a diverse group of lawyers and holding people accountable for women being treated fairly and given opportunities. It also calls on firms to measure and track how they’re progressing in the promotion of women. While some of the recommendations are not new, the authors say that they offer ways pre-existing tools can be more effective and suggest that firms need to use more of the tools than they have in the past. The report gives firm leaders a blueprint to effect change, said Holly English, NAWL’s president. “The single most important thing is that leaders at the top of law firms endorse these practices,” said English, of Post, Polak, Goodsell, MacNeill & Strauchler in Roseland, N.J. Among the fresher tips is incentivizing senior partners to assign high-profile matters to women, pass along important clients to them in succession situations and share credit with them for successes. To the extent that senior attorneys take such actions, they should be recognized for it in annual evaluations and rewarded with additional compensation, the report said. The report emphasizes that business development is key to women advancing in firms. Pushing equal opportunities for pitching, networking and marketing clients as well as broad attribution of credit for successes is critical to helping women get the work, pay and recognition that will advance their careers, the report said. The report suggested setting up an “oversight committee” to resolve disputes regarding proper attribution of credit. With respect to mentoring and training junior female attorneys, the report urged senior male colleagues to participate because there are more of them than senior female colleagues. Part of the firm’s task is to train senior male attorneys on how to feel comfortable working with women and not fear that such relationships will be seen as improper. To keep women from leaving firms, the report encouraged creating programs that allow more flexible work schedules and installing a coordinator to see that the commitments to the individual and the firm are both honored.

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