Women in Law Firms


Women in Law Firms

In 2017, McKinsey & Company, management consultants, produced a paper entitled “Women in Law Firms.” (mck.co/3bwBeC0) To say that it is nutrient rich in regards to the present role of women in law firms and the factors that play into their advancement is an understatement.

This is a solid piece of work and represents the situation in both Canada and the USA as the three authors, Marc Brodherson (New York), Laura McGee (Toronto), and Mariana Pires dos Reis (Silicon Valley) represent diverse locations.

Some of their conclusions:

  • [F]emale lawyers (and many of their male colleagues) fear that participating in flexible-work programs will damage their careers.
  • Women of colour account for only 10% of senior associates, 3% of equity partners, and 4% of managing partners.
  • For every 100 women
    promoted to partner, 141
    men are promoted.
  • While all law firms call gender diversity a very important or
    a top priority, only 36% of women believe that gender diversity is a priority for
    their firm, compared with
    62% of men.
  • The difficulty of balancing work and family is the number-one reason that women do not want to make partner (61% of women), followed by inadequate benefits for the personal costs (54%).
  • Women are considerably less likely than men to think that promotions and assignments at their firm are based on fair and objective criteria.
  • More than half of women (58%) and almost half of men (48%) credit their supervising attorney or partner with advising them on advancing their careers.
  • Only 5% of women and 9%
    of men see leaders regularly held accountable for progress on equality.
  • Until firms find ways to make diversity a firmwide issue, not a “women’s issue” — and
    an issue that galvanizes the partnership and demands accountability for progress — they will likely struggle to translate programs and policies into results.

In an article in Forbes entitled, “The Ultimate Paradox: Law Firms’ Persistent Gender (Im) Balances,” (bit.ly/bt1020-pt5) Christina Blacklaws, President of the Law Society of England and Wales, is quoted on the lack of progress on gender equality in law firms, saying: “The bottom line is the situation isn’t likely to change until the governance model changes and moves toward a more corporate model.”

While law firms should embrace gender equality as the “right thing to do,” a bit of economic persuasion works as well. In January 2019, around 170 General Counsels (“GCs”) and Chief Legal Officers, based largely in the US, published a letter calling for law firms to focus on diversity, or risk losing their companies’ legal spend; a further letter was signed by 65 GCs of major companies in the UK and Europe in March. (tmsnrt.rs/3lTiHVb)