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Congratulations to Donna Petkanics on her promotion to Palo Alto, Calif.-based Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati’s managing director of operations. Petkanics’ step up the ladder strengthens the ranks of women leading San Francisco Bay Area law firms. The most notable, of course, is Mary Cranston, chairwoman of San Francisco’s Pillsbury Madison & Sutro. There are also women managing partners at several mid-size firms, such as Angela Bradstreet, managing partner at S.F.’s Carroll, Burdick & McDonough, and Kathy Banke, MP at Crosby, Heafey, Roach & May in Oakland. And women head the offices of several of the big firms, including Therese Mrozek, managing partner of Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison’s Palo Alto office, and Margaret Kavalaris, who heads Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich’s Palo Alto office. But as the top leader at a big Bay Area firm, Cranston stands alone. The fact is there aren’t enough women in law firm management, and the handful that are helping manage firms aren’t always in the driver’s seat. Pillsbury, where women hold the top two positions — Marina Park is firm managing partner — is clearly the exception when it comes to female law firm leadership. More the norm are firms like Cooley Godward, where the firm’s management committee counts one woman among its 10 members. Nowhere is the dearth of women leaders in the legal profession more glaring than in the list of 100 most influential attorneys released last week by The National Law Journal. Only 10 women — including Cranston — made the list. It’s not that there aren’t plenty of women attorneys. According to a National Law Journal survey, about 30 percent of lawyers at large firms nationwide in 1998 were women. But the same study found that women accounted for only 16 percent of the partners at those firms. Let’s look at the flip side of those numbers: Men account for 70 percent of the lawyers and 84 percent of the partners. Those numbers don’t seem equitable to me. There could be several reasons for the gap in female law firm leadership. Some of the women lawyers in older generations who could be stepping into firm management at this point in their careers chose the public interest law path instead. Other potential female firm leaders may have opted out of the profession for more careers in-house. And Drucilla Ramey, the Bar Association of San Francisco’s executive director, has this theory: “Women who become lawyers tend to not be as interested in cold cash as the men.” But the fact is, lawyering is the white-male playground. While women can play the game, they usually don’t get to be team captain. Even Petkanics, who has an important job leading the day-to-day operations at Wilson Sonsini, isn’t making the important calls on compensation and strategy. Not that she doesn’t apparently have those skills — she lead the legal team last summer on spinning Agilent Technologies out of Hewlett Packard and taking it public. I don’t mean to detract from Petkanics’ accomplishment — she and women like Mary Cranston are breaking through the glass ceiling and helping to clear the way for women behind them. But applause would be premature. Women lawyers have got a long way to go before their presence in management appropriately represents their numbers in the rank and file.

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