Webinar Recap: Strategies to Level Setting the Playing Field with Your Male Counterparts 

The webinar, the second of the three-part Leopard Solutions Women’s History Month webinar series, “Level Setting the Playing Field with Your Male Counterparts at Law Firms,” hosted by Laura Leopard, dove right in with a candid and constructive discussion with Merle Vaughn, Managing Partner, Major Lindsey & Africa, on effectively leveling challenges with male counterparts in the legal industry.  

Vaughn, with extensive experience in legal recruitment advising law firms, shared valuable insights and perspectives on the current state of gender parity, the challenges women face in climbing the ranks, and strategies for success.  

Women's History Month Webinar Series Session 2

Current State of Gender Parity in Law Firms and Legal Departments  

Vaughn noted that although women constitute over 50% of law school graduates and incoming associates, only 28% ascend to partnership roles, with a mere 23% reaching equity partnership status. The disparity between men and women in law firms and legal departments remains despite significant progress; gender parity remains elusive. Leopard Solutions data also shows that far fewer senior women are being brought on laterally. While more women enter law schools and join firms, the journey to partnership and equity is arduous.  

There are persistent barriers that prevent women from reaching the upper echelons of law firms; women tend to drop out mid-career, often transitioning to in-house positions. The lack of senior women being hired laterally exacerbates the issue. Two main challenges identified were the migration of women to in-house roles and the evaluation of portable business for lateral partners.  

Portable Business and Niche Practices  

A key way to elevate one’s competitive edge is to build portable books of business that firm leaders look for. Female lateral attorneys looking for career growth opportunities consider pursuing niche practices with the growing demand for expertise in AI, privacy, and intellectual property. While labor and employment practices remain relevant, it faces commoditization, impacting billing rates and career progression. One should consider how they can create their own niche areas of expertise to make themselves a more sought-after talent. 

Gender Bias in Decision Making  

The discussion turned to gender bias in candidate selection. Vaughn acknowledged the subtle biases that influence decision-making, such as questioning a female candidate’s business development potential compared to male counterparts. Additionally, the composition of interview panels may signal inclusivity or exclusion, impacting candidate perceptions.  

Self-Advocacy and Negotiation – “Toot Your Own Horn”  

Women’s uphill challenges in achieving parity with their male counterparts persist in law firms.   One of the strategies for addressing gender biases is to continue to advocate for oneself and build supportive networks to promote gender equality in the legal profession.  

Women need to advocate for themselves and negotiate effectively. Having confidence and not being afraid to self-promote is instrumental in bringing attention to one’s achievements. To level the playing field, women should make more concerted efforts to highlight their contributions and seek credit for their work. Another strategy discussed was for women to build supportive networks and seek mentorship to navigate career challenges successfully.  

“Stay Positive. Speak Up for Yourself. Find Joy.”  

The webinar closed with a reminder to women attorneys with a reminder to stay true to oneself and always find joy in what they do. 

Leopard Solutions Women’s History Month webinar series aims to provide a platform for critical dialogue and actionable insights to empower women in their legal careers and drive meaningful change within the industry. Please join us for the last session in this series: Strategies for Business Development in Law Firms.  

For recordings of this and previous sessions, watch the replay now.    

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