Top Firms for Women for Equity and Power

Top Firms for Women for Equity and Power

It’s no secret that I’m cynical about those “best firms for women” lists. Too many of them are focused on squishy things, like the availability of part-time work or on-site day care.

Businesswoman showing thumb up and holding briefcase. Isolated on white background

Businesswoman showing thumb up and holding briefcase. Isolated on white background

But I do think Women in Law Empowerment Forum‘s annual Gold Standard Certification list is different. For starters, it measures what I think is truly meaningful: How women are faring on the partnership and power front.

WILEF’s list just came out—and this is my quick take: The outlook for women looks brighter. Seriously. Yes, I can scarcely believe it myself.

To qualify for the WILEF’s honor this year, firms with at least 300 lawyers in the U.S. (last year, the cut off was 200 lawyers) had to meet at least four of the following six criteria in which women comprise at least:

  • 20 percent of equity partners or a third of the non-lateral attorneys elevated to equity partner in last 12 months.
  • 10 percent of firm chairs and managing partners.
  • 20 percent of the firm’s primary governance committee.
  • 20 percent of the firm’s compensation committee.
  • 25 percent of the firm’s practice group leaders or department heads.
  • 10 percent of the top half of the firm’s most highly compensated partners.

So what’s the good news in this year’s WILEF results? Two developments jumped out at me about the winning firms:

  • Women made up 37 percent of lawyers promoted to equity partnership in the U.S. in the last 12 months.
  • Women represented 27 percent of members on governance committees and 25 percent of members on compensation committees.

I’m surprised at those figures—and so apparently is WILEF. The uptick in the percentage of female partners “is a greater percentage than expected,” says WILEF certification chair Libby McGarry, a former partner at Simpson Thatcher & Bartlett. “This bodes well for the percentage of women equity partners overall in the near future.” (You’ll recall that my colleague Julie Triedman reported recently that overall, The Am Law 200 has been stuck at 16.8 percent female equity partners, a figure that hasn’t changed in a decade.) McGarry also adds that it’s significant that women now represent a quarter of those on compensation committees, because having “a meaningful number of women on firm compensation committees is correlated to women’s compensation levels.”

The disappointing news, according to McGarry, is that the percentage of women heading practice groups and departments dropped to 36 percent, down from 44 percent last year.

It’s too bad that not every indicator is on the rise. But I think it’s more exciting that women are doing well on the equity partnership and management/compensation committee front. (Do we really care who’s the practice head?)

In any case, here are the 44 firms in WILEF’s winners circle (firms iin bold met all six criteria):

  • Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz
  • Ballard Spahr
  • Bryan Cave
  • Cooley
  • Davis Polk & Wardwell
  • Davis Wright Tremaine
  • Dentons US
  • DLA Piper (US)
  • Dorsey & Whitney
  • Faegre Baker Daniels
  • Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner
  • Haynes and Boone
  • Hogan Lovells
  • Holland & Hart
  • Hughes Hubbard & Reed
  • Jackson Lewis
  • K&L Gates
  • Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton
  • Latham & Watkins
  • Lathrop & Gage
  • Littler Mendelson
  • Manatt, Phelps & Phillips
  • McCarter & English
  • McKenna Long & Aldridge
  • Morgan, Lewis & Bockius
  • Norton Rose Fulbright
  • Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe
  • Paul Hastings
  • Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison
  • Perkins Coie
  • Polsinelli
  • Quarles & Brady
  • Reed Smith
  • Schiff Hardin
  • Shearman & Sterling
  • Shook, Hardy & Bacon
  • Sidley Austin
  • Simpson Thacher & Bartlett
  • Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
  • Steptoe & Johnson
  • Stinson Leonard Street
  • Stoel Rives
  • Sutherland Asbill & Brennan
  • Thompson Coburn

Those eight firms that met all six criteria deserve a special shout out. That said, you’ll notice that none of them are New York based firms or firms with the highest profits per partner. Which means that it’s going to take a lot longer for women to break into the Big Boys League. I’ll be watching. But I’m not holding my breath.

Source: The Careerist

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