Let me just put it out there: I feel deeply ambivalent about those “best law firms for women” lists—particularly those that purport to be good places for mommies (more on that later).

While I’m a strong believer in holding firms and companies accountable about their track records on women and diversity, I’m skeptical these list are doing the job. I often feel firms are pulling the wool over our eyes with fuzzy stats and fancy-sounding women initiatives that are more style than substance. Sometimes, when I read about these “wonderful” firms, I feel a bit dirty—like I’ve been sucked into their P.R. machinery.

So that’s my introduction to this year’s much-touted “50 Best Law Firms for Women” by Working Mother magazine and Flex-Time Lawyers. (Firms are listed at end.)

Yes, some have commendable records on women and deserve a shout out (among them are Reed Smith, Wilmer, Holland & Hart). Others on that list, however, are questionable—particularly those with poor stats on female equity partners.

Working Mother glosses over that fundamental issue, touting that “almost a fifth of the equity partners at these law firms are women.” But if you read the individual firm profiles, more than a dozen firms have female equity partner rates below 17 percent, which Working Mother cites as the national average. And that’s not even counting firms such as Baker & McKenzie, DLA Piper and Orrick, which, according to The American Lawyer’s data bank, have female equity rates that are below 15 percent. (Working Mother says the firm data is self-reported, and does not define “equity.”)

Which brings us to the issue I really want to address: The mommy factor in what constitutes a “good” firm for women. The subtext behind Working Mother is that what women want and need in the workplace are measures that address their roles as mothers, because being a mom is primary. Accordingly, there’s a lot of attention paid to availability of part-time work, off-site work, childcare facilities, maternal/paternal leaves and the like.

Nothing wrong with any of that. In fact, I wholly support all those measures for everyone—men and women.

That said, should firms that fail to promote women to equity partnership in meaningful numbers be lauded? Isn’t there something slightly narrow and paternalistic (or is it maternalistic?) in weighing mommy-friendly measures so heavily?

Goodness, you’d think all women are just looking for a mommy firm.

Here are the 50 firms on Working Mother’s list:

Baker & McKenzie

Chapman and Cutler


Crowell & Moring

Davis Wright Tremaine

Debevoise & Plimpton

DLA Piper

Dorsey & Whitney

Drinker Biddle & Reath

Duane Morris

Faegre Baker Daniels

Farella Braun + Martel

Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner

Foley & Lardner

Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz

Fredrikson & Byron


Godfrey & Kahn

Goodwin Procter

Hanson Bridgett

Hogan Lovells US

Holland & Hart

Hunton & Williams

Ice Miller

Jenner & Block

Katten Muchin Rosenman

Kirkland & Ellis

Latham & Watkins

Lindquist & Vennum

Littler Mendelson

Lowenstein Sandler

Manatt, Phelps & Phillips

McDermott Will & Emery


Morrison & Foerster

Munger, Tolles & Olson

Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg

Norton Rose Fulbright

O’Melveny & Myers

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe

Perkins Coie

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman

Quarles & Brady

Reed Smith

Schiff Hardin

Seyfarth Shaw

Shook, Hardy & Bacon

Sidley Austin

Thompson & Knight

Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr

E-mail: vchen@alm.com Twitter: https://twitter.com/lawcareerist