Top Law Firms Making Strides in Promoting Gender Equality but Challenges for Women in Big Law Remains

May 3, 2023

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Top Law Firms Making Strides in Promoting Gender Equality but Challenges for Women in Big Law Remains
The Leopard Solutions Women in Big Law Survey and Report Still Highlights Gender Challenges Persist While the Road to Partnership Needs Overhaul. 

New York, NY, May 03, 2023 – Leopard Solutions, a leading Legal Intelligence provider, released its latest Women in Big Law report pointing to improvements in gender focus initiatives at some top firms while others still struggle to make strides. As of 2022, only 17% of the managing and co-managing partners of the Top 200 law firms are women. 

A survey was conducted with women attorneys in Big Law in February 2023 to expose further the challenges they face. There were many positive comments, but there were also as many negative comments from women on their experiences in Big Law. The Top 200 or Big Law is not a monolith; they all vary from firm to firm, office to office, practice to practice, and partner to partner. The survey responses show widespread disparities in how they are treated and the opportunities they see before them. 

Leopard Solutions research found that while women are outpacing men in joining top law firms at entry-level, their progress in their careers. Many of those female associates do not make partner, many leave Big Law, and some grew disillusioned with the industry and left the practice of law entirely.  

The reasons cited in the survey by practicing women attorneys who still experience challenges working in Big Law included the lack of a clear partnership path, mentorship, and support for equal support towards men and women. Promotions to partner still need to catch up for women, even though they have made more progress than other underrepresented groups.  

Key insights from the report:  

– As of 2022, only 17% of the managing and co-managing partners of the Top 200 law firms are women.  

– 48% of respondents to the Women in Big Law survey saw themselves in the same firm on a partner track or had already made a partner.  

-While a sizable percentage (78%) responded that partners at their firm totally or mostly valued their work when asked if the firm assignment was fair, only 18% said that they totally agreed that it was appropriate. Only 26% totally agreed that the work at their firm was fairly allocated. 

The ratio for 2022 was 23 women to 77 men who returned to Big Law after leaving a top firm. 

The data and real-life stories mined from the survey conducted by Leopard Solutions combined with analysis extrapolated from the Leopard Solutions database provided insights to help top law firms foster a more inclusive and supportive environment for women lawyers to excel. The report presented findings on how firms can create more equitable workplace cultures to ensure the retention of women lawyers. Key takeaways include:  

-Promotion in fairness  

-Change hiring strategies  

-Hire more senior women laterals  

Laura Leopard, the founder and CEO of Leopard Solutions stated, “One of the key action items that we advocate top firms to address is to uncover unconscious bias. Equality will never be a reality unless leadership recognizes it is not currently equal. Men are promoted at a higher rate, male laterals are hired at a larger number, and males dominate the partner ranks in Big Law.”  

Firms that have implemented Diversity, Equality, and Inclusivity (DE&I) programs also found the need to expand and revise their programs to ensure relevance continually. “I enjoy teaching women how to promote other women. One exercise we do in the Women to Equity program is to ask each woman to share the three most exciting parts of her accountability partner’s business plan rather than her own. Celebrating each other’s work is far more satisfying than celebrating our own,” said Christy Tosh Crider, Chair of Healthcare Litigation, Chair of Women’s Initiative at Baker, Donelson, who has been running the Women to Equity program for six years as part of its Women’s Initiative.  

Besides solid mentorship programs, Leopard Solutions analysis also recommends firms revisit their hiring strategies to hire more senior women laterals to ensure more diverse representation on the partner track. “It is not just about promoting women; it is about promoting the entire law firm,” said Morgan Dufault, Director of Talent Acquisition and Professional Development at Herrick, Feinstein LLP.  

To learn more about what challenges women are still facing in Big Law, the ongoing systemic barriers within the legal profession, and how firms can foster a stronger gender equality workplace, go to: 

About Leopard Solutions:
Leopard Solutions is a leading legal market intelligence provider for professionals seeking to build an analytical understanding for better business and recruiting strategies within the legal industry. 

Our diverse data solutions are designed to fulfill a wide variety of intelligence needs, from job searches to recruitment to competitive intelligence in the legal industry serving law firms, legal service providers, recruiters, law schools, and corporations. Leopard’s data and technology are continuously updated to ensure market relevance and a competitive edge. Established in 2002, Leopard Solutions has grown into one of the most recognized and trusted legal market data providers in the United States. We are proud to be a diverse employer and a certified Women’s Business Enterprise.  

For more information, visit our website and follow us on LinkedIn.