The hot list for female lawyers just landed on my desk. I’m talking about the one issued by Women in Law Empowerment Forum (WILEF) which spotlights firms where women are making inroads in partnership, money and leadership. In other words, the hard stuff.
So how are women doing according to this barometer? They are holding steady. Depending on your viewpoint, that’s either a huge relief or a letdown. This year, 45 firms qualified for WILEF’s Gold Standard Certification. (Last year, there were 42 firms.)
To merit this honor, firms with at least 200 lawyers in the U.S. had to satisfy at least four of the six criteria involving women in key positions:
- Twenty percent of U.S. equity partners or 33 1/3 percent of the nonlateral attorneys becoming equity partners in the past 12 months.
- Ten percent of firm chairs and managing partners.
- Twenty percent of the firm’s primary governance committee.
- Twenty percent of the firm’s compensation committee.
- Twenty five percent of the firm’s practice group leaders or department heads.
- Ten percent of the top half of the firm’s most highly compensated partners.
Fulfilling four of those criteria shouldn’t be so hard by now, but major firms are still struggling—particularly when it comes to making women equity partners. Even among the 45 winning firms, only 55 percent met the criterion of having at least 20 percent equity partners. (It should be noted that WILEF’s definition of “equity” is less stringent than the one used by The American Lawyer. TAL requires that equiity partners receive no more than half of their compensation on a fixed income basis, whereas WILEF has no stated requirement about fixed income.)
This year, there were two notable first-timers on the list: Cahill Gordon & Reindel and Steptoe & Johnson (the Washington, D.C.-based one, not the one in the Midwest.). There were also some big name droputs from last year (Goodwin Procter; Jenner & Block; and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett).
The good news is that seven of the 2014 WILEF certified firms met all six criteria (in 2011, only three firms did so). Not so encouraging, though, is that only 15 firms this year met five of the criteria, whereas 24 did so last year.
So back to my original question: Is this latest WILEF list a bummer or not? Frankly, I’m a bit disappointed that the number of qualifying firms is so static.
But Elizabeth Tursi, the founder and chair of WILEF, says she’s pleasantly surprised: “Given the current landscape of the legal profession—lateralization of law firms, mergers, mandatory retirements, deequitizations, etc., I thought that perhaps women might not fare as well this year, but happily that just doesn’t seem to be the case. Women in law firms are clearly moving into positions of power and are achieving compensation parity. This bodes well for the future!”
Well, I guess someone has to be optimistic.
In any case, here are the 45 firms on WILEF Gold Standard list:
Cahill Gordon & Reindel
Covington & Burling
Davis Polk & Wardwell
Davis Wright Tremaine
Epstein Becker & Green
Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner
Ford & Harrison
Fredrikson & Byron
Frost Brown Todd
Haynes & Boone
Holland & Hart
Holland & Knight
Hughes Hubbard & Reed
Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton
Latham & Watkins
Manatt, Phelps & Phillips
McCarter & English
McKenna Long & Aldridge
Morrison & Foerster
Norton Rose Fulbright
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman
Quarles & Brady
Shook, Hardy & Bacon
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
Steptoe & Johnson
Sutherland Asbill & Brennan
Next post: A look at some of the winning firms.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: https://twitter.com/lawcareerist