Alison Moore, left, and Ellen Van Meir, right, of Thompson Coe. Courtesy photos

Female attorneys are highly valued at Dallas firm Thompson, Coe, Cousins & Irons, where women comprised 43 percent of its lawyer ranks in 2016.

Thompson Coe is ranked 12th among 261 U.S. firms on The National Law Journal’s Women’s Scorecard for its relatively high percentage of women lawyers. The rankings were determined from survey responses from 261 of the nation’s largest law firms in the NLJ 500 head count report. Each firm’s ranking is determined by adding the percentage of female attorneys and percentage of female partners. Thompson Coe’s score is a 73.1, with 43 percent women lawyers, and 30.1 percent women partners.

The 186-lawyer Thompson Coe is ranked far higher than other large Texas firms included in the Women’s Scorecard. The next Texas firm on the list is Dallas’ Strasburger & Price, with 33.3 percent women lawyers and 31.0 percent women partners, capturing the 31st spot in the ranking.

Ellen Van Meir, a Thompson Coe partner in Dallas who is on the firm’s management committee, said the firm doesn’t have any statistical goal for women lawyers, but “we just want to hire the best talent we can.”

In addition to the high percentage of female partners, more than half of the firm’s associates in 2016 were women.

The firm’s success at hiring and retaining women lawyers helps it build on that track record, said Alison Moore, a partner in Dallas who is the firm’s general counsel. “Seeing successful and powerful women lawyers at a firm is a strong signal to recruiting that there is opportunity here,” she said.

Moore said the firm’s very high ranking on the Women’s Scorecard wasn’t surprising, but it confirms what she already knew—that Thompson Coe is a “really an easy place to work, an inspiring place to work.”

Thompson Coe has been steadily hiking its percentage of women lawyers. Just two years ago, women comprised 37 percent of the firm’s lawyers, according to Texas Lawyer’s 2015 Women in the Law Survey. At that time, Jack Cleaveland, who was then chairman of the firm’s management committee, said it wouldn’t be long before the firm reaches numerical parity between women and men, especially considering more than half of the firm’s associates are women.

For all 261 firms that provided gender information to the NLJ 500, women comprised 35.1 percent of all attorneys in 2016. They also made up 21.8 percent of partners, according to the Women’s Scorecard.

A dozen large Texas firms were included in the Women’s Scorecard rankings. The percentage of women lawyers at Texas firms, not including Thompson Coe, ranges from 33.8 percent to 28.5 percent­­—not a large spread. The Texas firms at the lower end of the ranking of the 261 firms are there because of a relatively low percentage of women partners.

Houston-based Vinson & Elkins has the lowest Texas spot on the Women’s Scorecard, ranking 249 out of 261 firms. In 2016, 28.5 percent of the firm’s lawyers were women, but only 12.6 percent of partners were women.

“It’s not where we want to be. We are doing a number of things to focus on it,” said V&E chairman Mark Kelly. He said the percentage dropped in 2016 due to the retirement of partners Carol Dinkins of Houston and Kathleen Little of Washington, D.C., and the fact that only one of the firm’s 18 lateral partner hires in 2016 is a woman.

“The lateral pool, when you look at it, you don’t see as many women as men, which makes it hard in a growth mode,” said Houston partner Trina Chandler, who is on the firm’s management committee and chairs the Women’s Initiative.

Kelly said the firm is taking steps to improve the percentage of women partners, such as ensuring a large number of women are in the associate pipeline. He said the summer associate class this year is more than 50 percent women, compared with 42 percent last year. Also, Kelly notes, a number of “strong women” are in the senior associate ranks nearing partnership, and the firm has set up initiatives to help retain women, including a mentoring program that pairs women partners with members of the management committee, and a mentoring program for new parents.

“We are lower than we want to be. The real question is how do you address that in the long term,” Kelly said.