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The number of female partners in the state decreased slightly last year, making Hartford, Conn., one of the lower-ranked states across the country in terms of women in management in the field of law. As women across the country continue to change the face of law by becoming the majority in law school population ratios, many local attorneys say they are surprised to learn that Hartford ranked eighth lowest in the nation for promoting women to the level of partner. According to statistics gathered on women and minorities by the National Association of Law Placement for 2000, Hartford dropped from having 14.77 percent total female partners in 1999 to 14.05 percent last year. A NALP report conducted last month detailing the reasons for lateral moves by attorneys found that women were more likely than other groups to choose work environment as a primary factor influencing their job decision. “I am surprised to find out that we are [near] the bottom,” Paula Lacey Herman, a partner at Day, Berry & Howard, said of Hartford’s ranking. “I am not sure what the cause is. But across the country there is a startling difference in attrition rates among women, minorities and Caucasian males.” Some sources say the road for women in law is not yet as smooth as it should be, and that more females are needed in areas mainly dominated by men, like criminal law or in managing partner positions. “We’ve seen a little progress, but not substantial progress,” Ruth Pulda, a partner at Hartford’s Livingston, Adler, Pulda & Meiklejohn, said. “You may see a change in numbers, but you don’t see a change in attitudes.” Pulda questioned how authoritative a voice have been given to women when they do reach partnership status, including access to powerful clients and their role on more important projects in the firms. “If you really want to see women progress in your law firms, then make it possible for them to succeed,” Pulda said. “Don’t pay them less, don’t make their leaves [of absence] count against them and don’t have quasi-partnership roles.” Penny Mason, a trial lawyer with Tyler, Cooper & Alcorn, said she found her firm extremely supportive of women trying to make partner and that good old-fashioned hard work was a way to get noticed. “It’s not easy to make partner, whether you are male or female,” Mason said. “I don’t think my being a woman had anything to do with my partnership status. And I wouldn’t want it to be. I want it to be based on my merits as a [lawyer].” Herman, along with Tricia Haught, Victoria Chavey, Diane Fitzgerald, Lyn Walker and Kathleen Monnes, are partners who successfully manage their families and their clients, with the help of their employer, Day, Berry & Howard. They deem DBH to be “on the cutting edge” in treating women and men equally. “This firm is out ahead of the pack,” Chavey said of DBH. “We all recognize that the clients come first,” said Monnes, who occasionally works at home. “But once you take care of that … the firm is flexible. It is allowing me to continue. If I didn’t have that, … there is no way I would have survived.” The firm’s initiatives to attract and retain women include offering employee benefits for full-time staff, such as paid paternity leave for new male parents, a paid short-term disability leave for birth mothers and partial reimbursement of adoption-related expenses. In addition, the firm provides information and referral services for employees who need child care while they work. The firm has also been receptive to a new program called Women Working Together, which is chaired by Haught, to foster a networking channel for female attorneys in the firm and for other women in the community. Susan Miller, a partner with Skelley & Rottner in West Hartford, said she would like to see more female trial lawyers in the state, calling the lack of women in such roles “an interesting phenomenon.” Miller, a civil trial litigator, joked, however, that she has noticed a subtle change in courtroom attitudes when it comes to the sexes. “I haven’t been ignored in a long time,” Miller said, alluding to men often getting asked their opinions or spoken to first. “The judges in Connecticut are very aware … . They treat everybody fairly.” Auden Grogins, a well-known criminal attorney in Fairfield County with Grogins & Grogins, said she doesn’t see many other women handling Part A and B felony cases in the courts. “You see women in family and real estate law and personal injury, but not a lot of them in the high end of criminal work,” Grogins said about bigger cases such as those involving murder charges. Up until last June, Cindy Robinson, a civil plaintiffs’ litigator and partner with Bridgeport’s Tremont & Sheldon, had been the only female in the six-person firm since 1987, when she joined the group. Robinson said she believed certain types of trial work lacked women because raising children and performing intensive trial work is a difficult juggle. “Although we’ve come a long way, women are still the primary caregivers if they want to have children,” Robinson said. “It’s always a struggle. You can’t tell the judge or the court you can’t make it or that you have to leave at two o’clock because you have to pick up the kids from the bus stop.”

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