When Parisa Karaahmet joined Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy in 2000, she left behind a career in government, in part because she saw little room for advancement. “It was a great starting experience,” said Karaahmet, who worked for four years as a lawyer for the agency formerly known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service, “but I never felt I could fulfill my ambitions there.”

At Fragomen, she said, “I was told from Day 1 there was nothing I couldn’t achieve, and partnership was possible for anyone.”

That was certainly the case for the New York-based Karaahmet, who made partner in 2007 and is one of 22 female equity partners at Fragomen Del Rey. Data collected by The National Law Journal from NLJ 250 firms show that Fragomen had the highest percentage of women in its equity partnership. Though no law firm on the list cracked the 50 percent mark, Fragomen Del Rey came closest at 42 percent. The firm has 306 lawyers; 200 are women and 106 are men.

Name partner and executive committee member Austin Fragomen said he expects the number of women equity partners at the firm to grow: “I think over a period of time, we’ll have a balance of partners.”

Fragomen said the firm’s robust proportion of female equity partners is the result of simply hiring and promoting the best candidates. Fragomen Del Rey — which focuses on immigration law and related matters — does not rely on internal quotas or programs designed to advance women, and some say that’s a good thing.

“If we had targets, I think it would be somewhat contrived,” said Gwendolyn Robosson, who opened the firm’s New Jersey office in 1988 after working in New York and Connecticut. “It’s just not necessary.”

Established in 1951 under the name Elmer Fried P.C., Fragomen Del Rey didn’t appoint its first female partner, New York-based Noreen Quirk, until 1984. Since then, however, the women partner ranks have grown sharply. By the time the firm created an executive committee in 2003, a third of its partners were women.

Women also hold prominent leadership positions at Fragomen Del Rey. The executive committee has included women since its inception, and both the firm’s current chief financial officer and chief human resources officer are women. Women established 10 of the firm’s 39 offices and currently manage 13 of them. They also manage three of the six practice groups in the New York headquarters office.

Fragomen Del Rey scores high in other diversity-related categories as well, placing third among the more than 200 firms surveyed for this year’s edition of NLJ affiliate The American Lawyer‘s annual Diversity Scorecard.

For Karaahmet, that diversity is part of what makes the firm so attractive to her — and potentially appealing to the lawyers she helps recruit.

“I try to tell people when I interview them, there’s a tall ladder to climb,” she said. “But it’s climbable.”

Celia Llopis-Jepsen reports for The American Lawyer.


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