It’s been a while since we last spoke of firms that are best suited for female lawyers, and it seems like every few months, a new “best of” list pops up to remind us that women usually get the short end of the stick if they’ve chosen a Biglaw career. You see, little lists like this don’t exist for men, because they don’t need to. No one is curious about which firms have the most men in leadership roles. No one is wondering about which firms have the greatest number of male equity partners. Biglaw lives to serve men, and in most cases, they are the ones claiming all of the power, the prestige, and most importantly, the money, while in most cases, women are left in the dust.
Sure, we love finding out which firms have been ranked as the most family friendly, and at which firms a woman might be able to land a top management role, but what we really want to know is which firms are capable of offering perks like these along with booming compensation.
Luckily, thanks to the Women in Law Empowerment Forum (WILEF), now we’ll be able to find out. Want to see which Biglaw firms are offering female attorneys the chance to perform on par with their male colleagues in terms of both power and pay? Let’s check out the list…
WILEF offers Biglaw firms with 200 or more lawyers practicing in the U.S. the chance to become Gold Standard certified, meaning that they must comply with four of six benchmarks meant to drive women lawyers to succeed in business development and leadership roles. Here are the criteria:
- Women account for at least 20% of equity partners or alternatively, 25% or more of the attorneys becoming equity partners during the past twelve months.
- Women represent at least 10% of firm chairs and office managing partners.
- Women make up at least 20% of the firm’s primary governance committee.
- Women represent 20% or more of the firm’s compensation committee.
- Women make up at least 25% of practice group leaders or department heads.
- Women represent at least 10% of the top half of the most highly compensated partners.
This year, 42 firms made the cut, which is shocking considering how eager Biglaw firms are to fall all over themselves to parade their women’s initiatives. Here are the recipients of Gold Standard certification:
Crowell & Moring
Davis Polk & Wardwell
Davis Wright Tremaine
Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner
Fredrikson & Byron
Frost Brown Todd
Fulbright & Jaworski
Haynes and Boone
Holland & Hart
Holland & Knight
Hughes Hubbard & Reed
Jenner & Block
Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton
Latham & Watkins
Leonard, Street and Deinard
Manatt Phelps & Phillips
McCarter & English
Morrison & Foerster
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman
Quarles & Brady
Shook, Hardy & Bacon
Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
Stinson Morrison Hecker
Sutherland Asbill & Brennan
Although WILEF doesn’t tell us how the firms stack up against one another in terms of the criteria needed for certification, we do know that only six firms met all six benchmarks for excellence. Those firms are: FordHarrison (certified three years in a row); Fredrikson & Byron (certified for the second year in a row in all six categories); Holland & Hart (certified three years in a row); Littler Mendelson (certified three years in a row); Reed Smith (certified three years in a row in all six categories); and Shook Hardy & Bacon (certified three years in a row in all six categories).
So, as of January 2013, which firms here had the highest percentage of female attorneys on their management committees? Those would be Cooley (25 percent); Fulbright & Jaworski (50 percent); Paul Hastings (26 percent); Reed Smith (38 percent); Shook Hardy & Bacon (36 percent); and Sutherland Asbill & Brennan (33 percent). Fulbright, Reed Smith, and Shook Hardy were previously described as “outliers” for their vast female representation in the top ranks of the firm.
And in case you’re wondering which firms also offer women the chance to attain a sense of work/life balance through family-friendly programming while they rake in their dough, they are as follows: Fulbright & Jaworski; Goodwin Procter; Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe; Perkins Coie; and Reed Smith.
In all, it seems like the biggest winner here is Reed Smith. With an appearance on all three of these lists — and having been certified in all six categories of WILEF Gold Standard excellence three years running — not only does the firm achieve top marks for offering its women attorneys top compensation, but it also offers women the chance to do so while working their way up the rungs of the leadership ladder and still maintaining an active role in their families. We commend you on a job well done.
Congratulations to all of the firms that made WILEF’s criteria for Gold Standard certification, and a big shout out to Reed Smith for rising to the top of the pack when it comes to women’s empowerment in Biglaw. We still have a long way to go, but these firms are making big strides in the right direction.