50 Best Law Firms for Women

By Owens, Jennifer; Riss, Suzanne | Working Mother, August/September 2008 | Go to article overview

50 Best Law Firms for Women


Owens, Jennifer, Riss, Suzanne, Working Mother


FOR LAWYERS RAISING FAMILIES, the choices remain stark: Work nonstop to rack up billable hours or step off the partnership track to be home in time for dinner. No wonder 42% of women lawyers leave the profession at some point in their careers, according to the Center for Work-Life Policy. This year's 50 Best Law Firms for Women-a joint initiative from Working Mother and Flex-Time Lawyers-are reworking the equation to offer a more balanced solution. By allowing flexible work arrangements, these trailblazers are announcing that it's time to make the legal profession work for women. Equally important, they're committed to helping more women make it to partner by hosting networking groups for female lawyers (98 percent), mentoring senior female associates (68 percent) and offering management training to teach women the skills they need to advance (62 percent). We salute these progressive employers for their leadership. When it comes to helping talented women succeed, these firms are learning what it takes.

27% OF ANDREWS KURTH'S business-development budget targets female lawyers.

Andrews Kurth

U.S. lawyer? 406

Female associates 50%

Female counsel 29%

Female nonequity partners N/A

Female equity partners 16%

Female lawyers promoted to nonequity partner, 2003-07 N/A

Female lawyers promoted to equity partner, 2003-07 20%

Lawyers working reduced hours 4%

Weeks paid maternity leave 12

HOUR POWER After two years, lawyers can opt to work reduced hours while staying on the partnership track. To date, two reduced-hours lawyersboth women-have been made equity partner under this four-year-old policy.

LEADERSHIP Firm chairman Howard Ayers, who leads a Houston Bar Association project on gender fairness, walks the talk at his firm: A woman heads the 43-member compensation committee, which includes eight women in all. Additionally, four women sit on the i8-member executive committee. Also impressive: Five women elevated to equity partner were among the firm's top 10% in terms of compensation for the years 2005 to 2007.

BEST PRACTICES A networking group and staff keep lawyers with nontraditional schedules in touch.

CARE PACKAGE Emergency backup child care at home is subsidized, and there's help finding eldercare resources.

TAKE LEAVE New mothers can ease back to work gradually with an automatic reduced-hours schedule for up to one year. All lawyers can negotiate unpaid sabbaticals while keeping their benefits during their time away from the firm.

Arent Fox

U.S. lawyers 335

Female associates 51%

Female counsel 10%

Female nonequity partners 37%

Female equity partners 19%

Female lawyers promoted to nonequity partner, 2003-07 39%

Female lawyers promoted to equity partner, 2003-07 33%

Lawyers working reduced hours 4%

Weeks paid maternity leave 12

FLEX IT Attorneys can set their own schedules. The firm will outfit a home office for flextimers and telecommuters.

CARE PACKAGE The firm sponsors a nearby child-care center.

HOUR POWER Associates and counsel working reduced hours at this firm have been eligible for promotion to equity and nonequity partner for more than 20 years, and between 2003 and 2007, one female lawyer working reduced hours got a bump up to nonequity partner.

WHAT'S NEW An advisory board helps the Women's Initiative Steering Committee address ways to improve the firm's ability to retain and advance women. Additionally, an on-staff professional career coach-and former lawyer-advises employees on work/ life issues, with a focus on women.

MENTORING MUSCLE The firm's mentoring program makes sure younger female lawyers are included in client pitches.

LEADERSHIP Eleven women hold top posts among the 49 lawyers steering practice groups. Also, a woman sits on the firm's six-member compensation committee. …

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