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AmLaw200 firms losing talent due to few female leaders

Underrepresentation of women managing partners in the AmLaw200 resulting in a long-term loss of female legal talent

29 October 2012

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

Women have not made significant progress either economically or in reaching leadership roles in the AmLaw200 over the past seven years, a market survey has found.

It found that, in spite of law firms’ expressed support for gender equality, only four per cent of the AmLaw200 have a woman as their firmwide managing partner. 

In another six per cent of firms, there are multiple firmwide managing partners, of which at least one is a woman.

Women still typically hold only 20 per cent of the positions on the firm’s highest governance committee.

The seventh annual survey by the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) on the retention and promotion of women in US law firms found that women constitute a smaller percentage of staff and partners each step up the legal career ladder.

The report notes that female flight from big-firm practice starts early and accelerates over time; the only countervailing trend is in the lower-status staff attorney role, where women are an increasing majority.

The survey findings suggest that the low numbers of women in senior leadership positions correlates with the low levels of women in firm partnerships.

“If a firm’s culture and policies are not developed with the input of all appropriate constituencies, they are unlikely to reflect the values and goals of all of its lawyers, and thus it is only to be expected that those whose views went unheard (whether women, minorities, or other marginalized groups) ‘vote with their feet’ and leave the law firm in search of a more responsive, supportive professional environment,” the report says.

“The scarcity of visible, senior, successful women in large law firms sends a powerful message to other women, either those coming up the ranks within firms or those who are making a decision whether to attend law school or to apply for an associate position in BigLaw. The message – whether or not intended by those in power – is clear and simple: ‘You do not belong here’.”

The 2012 NAWL survey received responses from 107 of the AmLaw200 firms.

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