Arnold & Porter, Biglaw, Feminism, Gender, In-House Counsel, Rankings, Women's Issues

Four Law Firms Make List of Best Companies to Work For
(But Do Law Firms Still Discriminate When It Comes to Pay?)

Working Mother just released its annual list of the top 100 companies to work for. As we are (hopefully) coming out of the recession, it is possible that people might actually start caring again about family issues and work/life balance issues.

This year, four law firms made the list. Before we get to the “winners,” let’s take a look at the process required to be up for consideration. To be on the list, first you have to fill out an application with 600 questions.

What is the magazine looking for? Here’s the explanation from their methodology section:

Eight areas are scored: workforce profile; benefits; women’s issues and advancement; child care; flexible work; paid time off and leaves; company culture; and work-life programs. An essay regarding best practices to support working mothers is also evaluated…

Working Mother considers not only the programs, benefits and opportunities offered by companies but also recently settled, decided or still-pending gender discrimination lawsuits.

An essay, do you say? Well, so much for rigid objectivity in list making.

Still, the four law firm winners should be proud. Let’s highlight them from out of the other top 100 companies…

Because so many people seem to resist the obvious brilliance of U.S. News giving institutions a strict numerical rank, Working Mother gives us all of its top 100 companies in alphabetical order. Here are the four law firms:

Arnold & Porter
Covington & Burling

For our in-house lawyers, let’s also take a look at the big financial institutions that made the list of top 100 companies:

Bank of America
Credit Suisse
Deutsche Bank
Goldman Sachs
Morgan Stanley
The Principal Financial Group
Prudential Financial

Wow, Goldman, and Citi, and BoA, but no JPMorgan. Sorry, Jamie Dimon, but don’t worry — women still want you, men still want to be you.

Back to the law firms — there’s an interestingly wrinkle with one of the four chosen. Just last year, Working Mother released a list of the 50 best law firms to work for, and Arnold & Porter didn’t even make the list. What happened in the past year to catapult A&P into this year’s rankings? Working Mother doesn’t talk about it, but here’s A&P’s little blurb:

In 1997, this law firm opened a child-care center at its headquarters, making it one of the first in its industry to do so. Today, that facility serves 55 kids ages 3 months to 6 years, who stay anywhere from a few hours to a whole day. If they like, parents can also use the center for 15 free days of backup care each year. Mothers in other locations have priority access to a national day-care network that offers full-time and backup care. If women give birth or adopt, they can take 24 job-guaranteed weeks off, with 18 fully paid. (There’s also $5,000 to help cover adoption costs.) Attorneys becoming parents for the first time can join the New Parent Mentor program, which pairs them with colleagues who have more experience. Growing support for part-time and compressed schedules means moms can avoid burnout while raising kids.

Lines like “growing support for part-time and compressed schedules” are usually the ones some men (a.k.a. sexist assholes) seize upon when they make their nonsensical justifications for gender inequality in lawyer pay.

But today… today these fellas can shove their 1950s logic right back up the orifice they are so fond of speaking out of. Because today there is another report banging around the blogosphere which shows that family concerns are not the reason women lawyers make less than their male counterparts. The National Law Journal summarizes a study conducted by researchers at Temple and UT-Pan American:

The result is what Temple law professor Marina Angel considers the largest and most detailed research sample regarding gender and pay at large U.S. firms.

Angel had been analyzing similar data for Pennsylvania firms in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Bar Association, and thought that the subject was ripe for a national study.

“It has been sold for such a long time that women aren’t as productive as men,” she said. “We didn’t know how totally unjustified that was, and it isn’t getting any better.”

The researchers’ regression models indicated that firm productivity — measured by revenue per lawyer — remained largely the same at firms with a high percentage of women attorneys compared to firms with a lower percentage. This finding refuted the often-proffered idea that women earn less because they work fewer hours or are not rainmakers, Angel said.

“Even if women do not devote as much time to their careers due to caretaking duties, there is no evidence of it adversely impacting their revenue generating ability,” the researchers wrote. “By discrediting the idea that women are paid less because they are not as productive as men, discrimination is left as an explanation.”

There is no evidence of caretaking duties adversely impacting the revenue-generating ability of women.

How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”

Which brings us back to the fundamental weakness of lists like the one Working Mother has put together. It’s all well and good to look at the number of women hired, flex-time, and child care options. But the thing the vast majority of working women (mothers, potential mothers, “all the single ladies,” whatever) want to know is whether or not they will be paid fairly by their employer. That’s the ballgame. The firm could resurrect Jane Austen and make her do a private reading for the ladies at the firm on Friday nights, but if the firm doesn’t practice fundamental equality when it comes time to cut the check, then none of it matters.

So, again, congratulations to the four law firms recognized by Working Mother magazine. Here’s hoping you remember your commitment to gender equality when it comes to your bottom line.

2010 Working Mother 100 Best Companies [Working Mother]
Gender Pay Gap at Law Firms Not Performance-Based, Say Researchers [National Law Journal]

Earlier: No Shame On These Biglaw Firms XX: Working Mother’s 50 Best Law Firms for Women

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