We frequently discuss the various issues that women face in Biglaw. Whether it’s a lack of salary parity, a lack of leadership roles, a lack of understanding that sometimes women have babies, or a lack of opportunities for promotion to partner, women just can’t seem to get the respect that they deserve.
And maybe that’s just because, like it or not, much of Biglaw is still a good ol’ boys’ club. After all, it’s not too often you hear men complaining about the fact that they’ve been passed over for partner year after year after year, or that they aren’t paid on par with their female colleagues.
One major firm’s satellite office seems to be a case study on this subject….
Namely, the Miami office of White & Case. It seems like a really fun place to work, as long as you have a penis.
Longtime readers will recall the tale of “Miami White,” the White & Case securities associate who was accused of participating in an adulterous sex scandal with another man’s wife. After issuing a rather blasé statement on the matter, the firm stood by and effectively allowed its name to get dragged through the mud for this male associate.
But when a woman dared to do something that may tarnish the firm’s good name, the powers that be had something a little more substantive to say. What could have happened to make the firm change course?
It seems that Linda Leali, a female associate who had been with the firm for 12 years, was never promoted to partner. She probably shouldn’t have expected that, though, because despite her representation of top clients, the firm’s Miami office has only promoted ONE woman to partnership in all of its 25 years of existence. And even though the office is smaller than W&C’s New York mother ship, it’s not that small; it currently has more than 90 lawyers.
Like any woman scorned, Leali took to the presses to state her case. From the Daily Business Review:
When Leali was not promoted to partner this year, she decided it was time to hang out her own shingle. She recently joined forces with a friend to form Alderman & Leali in Miami Shores. …
“I’m leaving for a better opportunity,” Leali said. “While the firm’s women initiative has always been supportive, over the years I have had to look outside the firm in the local community for some role models and mentors. Those mentors and role models led me to conclude that my best chance for both professional and personal success was to venture out with my new law partner.”
Not only was Leali passed over for promotion, but she couldn’t even find female mentors or role models within the firm to consult with about these issues. Sad. This time, though, White & Case decided to stand up and defend itself — because hey, they need to be able to keep their female employees around to toil for long hours without promotions for years and years to come. Here’s the firm’s statement, issued to the DBR:
Chris Hansen, White & Case’s Miami managing partner, did not respond to requests for comment. A firm spokesman in New York issued a statement saying the firm is “committed to the success of our women lawyers around the world and their advancement into positions of Firm leadership. As a global law firm, our new partner class is assessed on a global basis; 18 percent of our new partners for 2013 are women. While we still have more to accomplish, we have made progress since we established our Global Women’s Initiative in 2009.”
Woo, 18 percent! Yeah yeah yeah, we know, women aren’t supposed to be good at doing math, but that means 82 percent of the firm’s 2013 partnership class are men. Women at White & Case are supposed to be happy about 18 percent? Are prospective female associates are supposed to cheer? Come on, that’s insulting.
But apparently that’s just a consequence of having boobs in Biglaw these days. Because even if you’re lucky enough to make partner, you’re still going to be surrounded by lots of dicks, literally and figuratively.
Law Firm Diversity: Women still seeking parity [Daily Business Review]
BigLaw firm’s Miami office has promoted just one woman to partner in 25 years [ABA Journal]