Virtually every firm claims that it is committed to helping women succeed. And they all seem to offer an array of women's programs — affinity groups, business-development training and work/life balance initiatives.
Firms talk a good line, but how many can demonstrate that they are promoting a strong percentage of women into the equity-partner ranks?
We probed that question by compiling partnership data as part of The National Law Journal's NLJ 250 survey, which ranks the largest firms in the United States by headcount. Data collected from 221 firms show that women represent 15.1 percent of equity partners. Among all partners — equity and nonequity — the figure is 18.8 percent.
That's progress since 2003, when NLJ affiliate The American Lawyer compiled similar data, though the pace of change has been slow and tenuous. The overall percentage of women in equity and nonequity partner positions then was 16 percent. As for equity partners, the National Association of Women Lawyers said in a 2011 report that women have been "fixed" at 15 percent of the equity slots for the past 20 years.
At just five firms surveyed, women make up more than 25 percent of equity partners. These firms are Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy (42 percent female equity partners); Jackson Kelly (28.4 percent); Ice Miller (26.9 percent); Best Best & Krieger (26.7 percent); and Ford & Harrison (26.1 percent).
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