Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Wilmer Hale's Success with Part-Time Lawyers

Wilmer Hale announced its new partners for 2011 last week. The big news: 8 of the 11 new partners are female; that’s 73%, and they’re all equity partners at Wilmer Hale. The firm will certainly feature prominently in PAR’s roundup of gender composition of new partners when we compile the data in the spring.

What’s their secret to retaining so many women in their pipeline so that they can elevate so many to equity partnership? In an interview with ALM’s Vivia Chen, co-managing partner Bill Perlstein said there was no decision to increase the number of women partners. He stated that the firm starts with a large number of candidates and the partnership selection committee does a careful review. When Vivia pressed Bill to give a reason, he said that the firm has a good part-time policy, and has 13 part-time partners: ten women and three men. He said one of the new partners is part-time and added, “Part-time partners have worked well here.” Another example of the firm’s flexibility: one of the newly elevated full-time partners stated that she usually works one day a week from home, and that the firm’s attitude toward flexibility made it easy for her to stay. She stated, “I don’t feel I’m fighting the system here.”

Wilmer Hale’s partnership elevations provide further proof that flexibility and reduced hours schedules work at both the associate and partnership levels. As we discussed in our report, Reduced Hours, Full Success: Part-Time Partners in U.S. Law Firms, a lot of firms are doing it right when it comes to retaining top talent by offering flexibility. While we still have a long way to go, with so few women equity partners nationwide, Wilmer Hale’s announcement this week shows that if firms offer the right policies and culture, their retention efforts pay off and the number of their female partners increases.

Monday, November 08, 2010


Walmart Implements Diversity & Flexibility Connection Best Practices

Walmart’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel Jeff Gearhart recently updated the company’s outside counsel guidelines to reflect the best practice recommendations of the PAR Diversity & Flexibility Connection. The Diversity & Flexibility Connection is an ongoing discussion between prominent general counsels and law firm chairs on the retention of diverse attorneys through the inclusion of an effective work/life program. Walmart has taken a leadership position by including the following in their outside counsel guidelines:

1. Nonstigmatized flexible work: all external firms are to implement flex-time policies, or obtain a waiver, by February 1, 2011 to promote retention, prevent loss of institutional knowledge, and create a more balanced and inclusive work environment.
2. Referring work to reduced hours attorneys: firms will be including at least one partner working a flex-time schedule as a candidate for Walmart relationship partner.
3. Origination credit: firms will annually certify that that the Walmart relationship partners have received origination credit. This guideline is also a best practice recommendation of the PAR/MCCA study on partner compensation.

The Diversity & Flexibility Connection was designed to facilitate a conversation about how in-house and outside counsel could work together more effectively to support balanced hours programs, with the ultimate goal of making the legal profession more inclusive.

As the biggest company in the world, Walmart’s guidelines will likely lead to positive changes in many law firms. With the inclusion of work/life initiatives in firms’ diversity programs, more women will be able to take advantage of nonstigmatized flexible work as a viable career option.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


Utah Women Lawyers Push Change

The new report from the Women Lawyers of Utah is gaining a lot of attention (here, here, here, and here). Indeed, many of the findings are headline-worthy, including that only 23% of the lawyers in Utah are female, only 11% of partners are female, 23% of women lawyers feel they have been treated unfairly, and 10% say they have been sexually harassed.

One fact that isn’t making headlines is the energy Utah is showing for improving the profession to eliminate the barriers women lawyers face. As Cynthia Calvert has noted, the survey was supported by the Utah State Bar and leading Utah law firms, and it had a more than 50% response rate despite the length of the survey. (Disclosure: PAR was involved in the initiative.) In addition, the symposia that were held to discuss the survey findings drew large audiences, including leaders of the bar. With such widespread support, change certainly seems possible.

The path toward change was illuminated by the numerous and excellent best practices in the report. In fact, the report should be read by everyone, regardless of geographic location, just for the best practices if nothing else. They are practical, detailed and usable; there can be no hand wringing about not being able to do anything about the situation.

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