As Big Law grapples with underrepresentation of women in law firm leadership positions, Drinker Biddle & Reath is celebrating a new milestone: Its two main leadership bodies are now made up of at least 50 percent women.
As of Feb. 1, the firm’s managing partners committee, which is akin to a board of directors, has elected seven new members, four of whom are women. The firm’s executive management team is also 50 percent female, with two women and two men.
The firm has a simple method of selecting firm leaders. Eligible partners make their interest known, and the firm conducts a simple democratic vote.
But in order to get a more diverse slate of candidates, Drinker Biddle’s women’s leadership committee got involved. The committee reached out to eligible women lawyers and asked whether they were interested in running. If they were, the committee spread word about their candidacy.
“It’s just making sure that, No. 1, the women make sure they put their hands up if they would like to be considered, and [No. 2], people know” those women are eligible, said Lynne Anderson, co-chairwoman of the women’s leadership committee.
Anderson noted that the committee’s aim was not to pressure a vote on particular candidates, but to make known that they were interested in leadership.
“Sometimes you find out that people you would expect to serve aren’t that interested in it and people who would like to serve feel uncomfortable going around and saying it,” firm chairman Andrew Kassner said. “The women’s leadership committee provides a vehicle where women in the firm can talk and say, ‘I’m interested in this,’ and it gets around.”
Drinker Biddle’s seven new managing partners are Bonnie Barnett, Mary Devlin Capizzi, Edward Gramigna, Sandra Grannum, Lisa Presser, F. Douglas Raymond and John Smith. They join Daniel Collins, John D’Andrea, Joshua Deringer, Cheryl Orr and Kimberly Rubel, as well as Kassner, who serves on the committee as part of his role as chairman and CEO.
The firm’s executive management team consists of Kassner, Chief Operating Officer Jane Koehl, and partners Judith Reich and William Connolly.
Anderson said the 37-member women’s leadership committee has aimed to improve the pipeline for women lawyers at all levels, in part by tracking demographic statistics. Women made up 20 percent of the equity partnership in 2015, she said, and now make up 22 percent. And 43 percent of new partners since 2014 have been women, she said.
“The women attorneys who are associates really need to see women leaders in the firm,” Anderson said. ”Breaking the barriers in terms of statistics is great, but it’s really significant in terms of the fabric of the firm.”
The women’s leadership committee was established more than a decade ago. But about five years ago, Anderson said, women partners reworked the committee to put a greater focus on data-driven goals and new initiatives.
In addition to promoting women leaders, she said, the committee has worked on updating firm policies on alternate work arrangements and paid parental leave. It also works with the firm’s diversity committee on programs such as a recently implemented implicit bias training. The women’s leadership committee has a dedicated budget, Anderson said, and it counts a few male lawyers as members, including Kassner.
“It takes a village, and for women to succeed you need the mentorship, sponsorship and support of male colleagues,” Anderson said. “What we’ve tried to do is not talk at the men, but have a conversation with the men.”