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  The Women in Law Empowerment Forum on June 14 released the initial list of law firms qualifying for its new Gold Standard Certification — a designation for firms that have integrated women in top leadership positions and compensated them well. The organization invited more than 300 firms with 100 or more attorneys to apply for the certification by June 1, and 32 met the criteria. The certification process went beyond simply looking at the percentage of women employed at law firms. It focused on whether they are significantly represented in positions of power and among the top-earning attorneys. To be certified, firms had to meet at least three of the six criteria: • Women account for at least 20% of equity partners. • Women represent at least 10% of firm chairs and office managing partners. • Women make up at least 20% of the firm’s primary governance committee. • Woman represent 20% or more of the firm’s compensation committee. • Women make up at least 25% of practice group leaders or department heads. • Women represent at least 10% of the top half of the most highly compensated partners.  
Firms with Gold Standard Certification
• Covington & Burling • Davis Wright Tremaine • Faegre & Benson • Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner • Ford & Harrison • Fowler White Boggs • Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson • Frost Brown Todd • Fulbright & Jaworski • Gibbons • Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher • Hanson Bridgett • Holland & Hart • Holland & Knight • Jackson Kelly • Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton • Littler Mendelson • Manatt, Phelps & Phillips • McCarter & English • Morrison & Foerster • Perkins Coie • Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman • Quarles & Brady • Reed Smith • Sherman & Howard • Shook, Hardy & Bacon • Sidley Austin • Simpson Thacher & Bartlett • Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom • Steptoe & Johnson PLLC (W. Va.) • Stoel Rives • Thompson Hine
The 32 firms that met those criteria are to be commended, said WILEF National Chairwoman Elizabeth Anne “Betiayn” Tursi, who runs a legal marketing firm. “I didn’t think these criteria were too hard to meet, but I wasn’t surprised that so few firms qualified,” Tursi said. “This tells me that there is still a lot of work to be done.” Tursi said she suspects that two-tiered partnerships at law firms are largely to blame for the relatively small number of firms that achieved the Gold Standard certification, since only women who are equity partners counted. Women make up a disproportionate amount of non-equity partners at many firms, she said. WILEF did not release details about which firms met which criteria, although Tursi said that three firms met all six. WILEF did provide a percentage breakdown of firms that met each standard. The highest percentage — 84% — met the standard that women constitute at least 10% of the top half of the highest paid partners. Additionally, 81% met the standard that women be 10% of firm chairs or office managing partners, while 75% met the standard that women make up at least 20% of the compensation committee. Another 72% met the standard that women constitute at least 20% of the firm’s executive committee. Only 42% of the certified firms had 20% or more women as equity partners, and even fewer — 37% — met the standard that women make up at least 25% of practice group leaders or department heads. The discrepancy between the relatively high percentage of certified firms that met the top-pay standard versus the relatively low percentage that met the total equity partner standard is “really glaring,” Tursi said. That gap indicates that firms are fairly compensating their very successful women partners who have books of business, but aren’t giving enough women the opportunity to be equity partners, she said. Few so-called “megafirms” met the standard. Only five of the largest 20 firms by attorney headcount made the cut. Similary, few “white shoe” firms made the list. Many of the firms on the list were on the smaller side, and based outside major legal markets, Tursi noted. Washington and New York were home to four of the firms on the list, with San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Denver and Newark each claiming two. WILEF will accept applications for certification on a rolling basis, and plans a luncheon in September to honor the qualifying firms. The certified firms will be issued a seal to indicate they meet WILEF’s standards. “At a time when women are losing ground at some firms, it is wonderful to recognize 32 law firms where women are prominently represented at the highest levels of leadership and compensation,” said Ida Abbott, a legal consultant and chairwoman of WILEF’s certification committee. “These firms prove that a commitment to the advancement of women can produce great results.”  Contact Karen Sloan at [email protected] .  

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