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.

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