Monday, April 19, 2010


Women Lawyers Advance in New Partner Classes

34% of New Partners are Female, Compared to 28% in 2009

The economy may be looking up, at least for the women lawyers in the 2010 new partner classes. According to a survey released today by the Project for Attorney Retention (PAR), law firms made significant advances in retaining and promoting their women lawyers: 23 firms made new partner classes that were 50% or more female, and 34% of the new partners are female, compared to 28% of the new partners in 2009.

Not all of the news was good, however: 14 firms had all-male classes.

The Best: Sullivan and Cromwell (100% female); Munger Tolles (100%); Weil, Gotshal (100%); Mayer Brown (75%); Seyfarth Shaw (75%); Bingham McCutcheon (71%); Proskauer Rose (67%); WilmerHale (63%); Beveridge & Diamond (60%); Winston & Strawn (60%); Jackson Lewis (56%); Latham & Watkins (55%); Greenberg Traurig (54%); Akin Gump (50%); DLA Piper (50%); Duane Morris (50%); Epstein Becker & Green (50%); Fenwick & West (50%); King & Spalding (50%); Parker Poe (50%); Shook Hardy (50%); Sidley Austin (50%); and Zuckerman Spaeder (50%).

Honorable mentions: Littler Mendelson (46%); Baker & Daniels (44%); Dorsey & Whitney (44%); Thompson Hine (43%); Dickstein Shapiro (40%); Hogan & Hartson (40%); Kirkland & Ellis (40%); Paul Weiss (40%); and Schiff Hardin (40%).

The Worst: None of the following firms made a female partner this year (note: all made at least two U.S. partners): Boies Schiller; Cleary Gottlieb; Crowell & Moring; Kilpatrick Stockton; Lowenstein Sandler; Luce Forward; Milbank; Pepper Hamilton; Quinn Emanuel; Shearman & Sterling; Squire Sanders; Steptoe & Johnson; Wachtell; and Wiley Rein.

Not much better: Foley & Lardner (8%); Locke Lord (13%); Patton Boggs (13%); Nixon Peabody (14%); Fish & Richardson (17%); Fulbright & Jaworski (17%); McGuire Woods (17%); Skadden (17%); and Husch Blackwell (19%).

The complete chart is available on PAR's web site.

“The increase in the number of women promoted to partner is heartening,” said Cynthia Thomas Calvert, PAR’s Director of Research. “But two factors indicate that celebration would be premature: first, the overall number of women partners in law firms remains low, at approximately 19%, and second, this survey made no distinction between equity and nonequity partnership, and other studies have shown that an even lower percentage of equity partners are female.”

Firms were chosen for this survey based on inclusion in prior years’ surveys, firm size, reputation and availability of information. Fifteen new firms were added to those surveyed last year, for a total of 118 firms. The percentage of females in the overall 2010 class was calculated without the new firms to allow an accurate comparison with the percentage of females in the overall 2009 class. As in prior years, information is included only for the firms’ U.S. offices. Many of the firms noted as being “the best” or “honorable mentions” are members of the Project for Attorney Retention: Beveridge & Diamond; Fenwick & West; Munger Tolles; Shook Hardy; Dickstein Shapiro; DLA Piper; Hogan & Hartson; Jackson Lewis; Latham & Watkins; Mayer Brown; Schiff Hardin; and Sidley Austin. This reflects those firms’ commitment to advancing women lawyers rather than favoritism on our part.

Two observations: for most of the firms with the highest percentage of new female partners, this year is not an aberration but part of a pattern of promoting a significant proportion of women, as shown in the chart. The converse is not necessarily true. For many of the firms labeled “the worst,” this year does appear to be an aberration. Crowell & Moring, Luce Forward, Cleary Gottlieb, Kilpatrick Stockton, Quinn Emanuel, and Wiley Rein have been notably more successful in the past.

Finally, a look back to 2009 is in order. Firms elect their new partners at different times of the year, and several firms’ new partner classes for 2009 were announced after our survey results were published. Had that not been so, we would have noted the following: Coblentz would have earned a “Best” rating because all three of its new partners were female; Debevoise would also have been labeled “Best” because its only new partner was female; Covington and Burling’s new class was 44% female; Skadden’s was 40% female; Davis Polk would have been among “The Worst” because none of its three new partners were female; and Ballard Spahr (14% female) and Drinker Biddle (17%) would have been labeled “not much better.”

PAR wishes to thank Jessie Kornberg, Executive Director and Vice-President of Ms. JD, and Linda Bray Chanow, Executive Director of the Center for Women in Law, for their assistance with this survey.

See the chart here.


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