Arnold & Porter, Biglaw, Cozen O'Connor, Gender, Rankings, Women's Issues

Leading Lady Lawyers: Ranking the Am Law 100 By Women in Leadership Roles

Here at Above the Law, we’ve been writing about the “Biglaw boys’ club” for quite some time. According to the latest report compiled by the National Association of Women Lawyers, when it comes to firm life in the fast lane, women continue to have difficulty ascending to the ranks of firm leadership. In fact, that study concluded that in the Am Law 200, women hold only 20 percent of the positions on firm governance committees. What’s worse is that only four percent of Am Law 200 firms have a firmwide managing partner who’s a woman. So much for girl power.

But when it comes to Am Law 100 firms, the American Lawyer recently conducted a similar study, and the results were less than awe-inspiring — in their discussion of the results, the editorial staff go so far as to refer to it as “the law of small numbers.” Lovely. Apparently the glass ceiling is still strong in Biglaw.

So what does the leadership hierarchy look like for women in the Am Law 100? Let’s find out….

Ninety-three of the firms that make up the Am Law 100 responded to questions about women in leadership roles, and the results speak volumes about women’s overall stature in their firms. Here’s more from Am Law:

As our in-depth interactive chart shows, it was a tale of ones and twos among many of the chief governing committees. Almost 80 percent of the 92 firms with a chief governing committee reported a committee with two or fewer women; 42 percent reported a committee with only woman partner.

Well, that’s depressing. The Am Law chart is available here. If you’d like the quick and dirty facts, here are the top ten Am Law 100 firms in terms of the percentage of women on their management committees:

1. Fulbright & Jaworski (50% women)
2. Reed Smith (38% women)
3. Shook Hardy & Bacon (36% women)
4. Arnold & Porter (33% women)
5. Cozen O’Connor (33% women)
6. Schulte Roth & Zabel (33% women)
7. Sutherland Asbill & Brennan (33% women)
8. Paul Hastings (26% women)
9. Cooley (25% women)
10. Covington & Burling (25% women)

Am Law calls Fulbright, Reed Smith, and Shook Hardy “outliers” because their female partners represented more than a third to half of the firms’ executive committees. As for the rest, here’s how one female partner put it: “There is still a moat around the top management, and that keeps the power to a small group of men.”

Meanwhile, that small group of men keeps offering up logic that reminds us of the transparency argument against law schools: we know we can do better, but everyone else is doing it this way. That small group of men was also chock full of explanations, the most-cited being that there aren’t enough women partners (perhaps they mean equity partners — last we checked, women made up just 15 percent of partners of that variety), and that there aren’t enough women rainmakers (likely because those men are hogging all the work, at least according to this Greenberg Traurig suit). Notice the “blame the woman” trend here?

Sure, some women leave the law or transfer to flexible hours to attend to family matters, but that doesn’t mean that the women who remain are any less competent than their male peers. Give them a chance to shine.

Women in Leadership: A Complicated Census [American Lawyer]
Women Leaders of The Am Law 100: The Law of Small Numbers [American Lawyer]

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