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Women and minority lawyers aren’t taking over Texas’ most-profitable firms by any stretch, but female attorneys are holding their ground, and minority lawyers slightly increased their numbers in 2002. Women lawyers comprise 28 percent of the lawyers and 15 percent of the partners at 19 of the 21 Texas-based firms that were on this year’s Texas Lawyer 25, a ranking of the highest-grossing firms in the state in 2001. The percentages are virtually unchanged from a year ago, when Texas Lawyerreported on the impact of women at the most profitable firms in the state, and from two years ago. A year ago the statistics were 29 percent and 15 percent. Minority lawyers at those 19 firms, meanwhile, make up 9 percent of the total lawyer count, but only 3 percent of the partnership ranks. In 2001, minorities made up a little less — 8 percent of the population of lawyers at those firms, but 4 percent of the partners. With those statistics, the gender and racial makeup of the large firms have changed little in a year, despite the fact that more women and minorities are graduating from Texas law schools. According to the State Bar of Texas, 28 percent of students enrolled in law schools during the past school year were minorities, and 48 percent were women. The flat growth of women and minorities in large firms isn’t surprising to Susan Hays, president of Texas Women Lawyers. She sees it as a cultural phenomenon. “Men are much more socialized [to] want to achieve and get titles and make money that they will put up with a lot more from firms,” says Hays, an associate with Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld in Dallas who moved to a part-time work schedule after she was elected chairwoman of the Dallas County Democratic Party in March. Hays says that even though more women are graduating from law school, and many of them join large firms, many women still choose to leave the large firms before they make partner because they don’t want to work the long hours needed to meet billing targets. That slows down the overall increase in women at the large firms, she suggests. “I see the lack of women partners as more of a function of the economic model big law firms operate on,” she says. “I see a lot of my peers dropping out of the big firms as they get close to partnership year because they don’t want to put up with it.” She sees that factor affecting the increase in minority lawyers at large firms as well but says that the task of recruiting minority lawyers is complicated by the intense competition for top minority students. Misty Ventura, chairwoman of the Women in the Law Section of the State Bar of Texas, says it’s difficult to draw conclusions from statistics comparing one year to the next. But Ventura, an associate with Hughes & Luce in Dallas, says that, based on anecdotal evidence, she doesn’t believe women are leaving firms in larger numbers than men. “To the extent that we have folks leaving through attrition or life changes, it’s equal numbers of men and women,” she says. No single firm broke from the pack this year by adding large numbers of women lawyers. At four firms — Akin Gump, Bracewell & Patterson, Strasburger & Price and Vinson & Elkins — 31 percent of the lawyers are women. Women comprise 30 percent of the lawyers at another three large firms. Clearly, it will take years before women get close to evening up the split between men and women lawyers; it will take not only the addition of new women lawyers, but the retirement or departure of the male lawyers who traditionally make up large firms. But Hays says women won’t make up half of large firms until the economic system in place at those firms changes — a system that requires lawyers to bill 2,000 to 2,200 hours or more. “For that to happen, the white men have to revolt,” she says, adding that she believes younger male associates eventually may push for change to that economic model because they may be more willing to demand a life outside the office. “What has stalled out women making ground in law firms isn’t a political and social unwillingness to promote women. [It's] an unfortunate coincidence of big law demanding too much of human beings to work for them,” she says. Paula Weems Hinton, chairwoman of the Texas Supreme Court’s Task Force on Gender Fairness, agrees that attrition is dampening efforts to improve women and minority statistics at firms. She says firms need to find ways to accommodate the needs of young lawyers from Generation X and Generation Y, who seem more likely to change careers before they become partner. “It’s people, male and female, who don’t want to continue working in that manner. So what do we do to adjust that? Well, we adopt flex-time policies. We adopt liberal leave policies, alternative lifestyle choices,” says Hinton, a partner in Vinson & Elkins in Houston. “It’s a lot different than it was 20 years ago. You couldn’t mention your children 20 years ago.” Women make up at least 20 percent of the lawyers at all the firms on the chart except the relatively small Susman Godfrey, where 17 percent, 11 of 65 lawyers, are women. Thompson & Knight has the highest percentage of women partners, 20 percent, among the 19 large firms. SLOW PROGRESS According to statistics provided by the 19 firms, no firm has more than 12 percent minority lawyers. Four of them come in at that level — Locke Liddell & Sapp, Haynes and Boone, Winstead and Brown McCarroll. The percentages go down to 1 percent at Fort Worth’s Kelly, Hart & Hallman. At Akin, Gump, the largest Texas-based firm, 9 percent of its partners are ethnic minorities. Haynes and Boone and Winstead aren’t far behind, with minorities making up 8 percent of their partner (or shareholder) ranks. Winstead shareholder Lisa Winston Sorrell, a member of the firm’s diversity committee, says Winstead’s long-running effort to improve its diversity is starting to show results. She says many of the efforts involve recruiting, and later, mentoring for lawyers already at the firm so they will choose to stay at the firm. She says it’s a process that builds upon itself as associates decided to join Winstead, or to remain at the firm, because they see women and minorities as shareholders and in positions of power at the firm. One firm, the 100-lawyer litigation-only firm Beirne, Maynard & Parsons of Houston, has no minority partners. Partner Martin Beirne says it’s a function of the size of the firm and the relative youth of many of its lawyers. “We have several young minority lawyers who are very fine lawyers who are working themselves up to the partnership ranks,” Beirne says. “We’ll get there slowly yet surely.” For the past three years, the Austin Black Lawyers Association and the Hispanic Bar Association of Austin have been grading the Austin firms on their minority statistics. This year’s study indicates that 10.6 percent of the lawyers working at large firms in Austin are minorities, an improvement from the year before, when it was 9.8 percent. Interestingly, Haynes and Boone received a “D-” grade on the 2002 report card for the number of minority lawyers in its Austin office. But overall, the firm’s minority numbers are much better, and the firm received the 2002 Thomas Sager Award, which is given to firms demonstrating commitment to improving the hiring, retention and promotion of minority and women lawyers. According to statistics from the State Bar of Texas, 28 percent of the 69,200 members of the State Bar are women, and 12.5 percent of them are minorities. A comparison of those statistics with the numbers of lawyers at the large firms indicates Texas’ highest-grossing firms, with 28 percent female lawyers on average, are doing a good job of employing women lawyers, but are showing less success at attracting minority lawyers, with ethnic minorities comprising only 9 percent of the lawyer populations at those firms on average. Related charts: Minority Lawyers at Large Texas Firms Women Lawyers at Large Texas Firms

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