2011 Signals Bad News for Female Attorneys' Partnership Pros

by Vault Law Editors | June 09, 2011

It’s hardly shocking news that fewer women are among law firm partnership ranks than men. But the American Lawyer is reporting that partnership prospects for women dropped even more in 2011. Based on new research from the Project for Attorney Retention (“PAR”),

[I]t appears that the spread is growing -- new male partners outnumbered new female partners more than 2-to-1 this year, PAR reports. Even more discouraging is the fact that the number of promotions of women has fallen year over year. The promotion rate of women at the 123 large law firms surveyed fell 2 percentage points this year, from 34 percent to 32 percent.

As PAR’s executive director Manar Morales points out, this two percent drop—while it may seem minor—is actually quite significant given the already-low number of female partners. In fact numerous firms—such as Davis Polk, Hunton & Williams, Lowenstein Sandler and Sheppard Mullin—didn’t welcome any female attorneys to their partnerships in 2011. Further the American Lawyer notes that “Milbank and Lowenstein have not promoted a single woman associate in the past three years, according to PAR's previous reports; Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft and Kaye Scholer promoted no women in two out of the past three years.”

But the news isn’t all bad. Twenty of the 123 law firms participating in PAR’s survey introduced equal numbers of male and female partners in 2011. Four firms stood out, all with over 50 percent of their 2011 partnership classes being women: Beveridge & Diamond, Baker Daniels, Thompson Hine, and WilmerHale.

But for female attorneys, it’s difficult to ignore the larger negative trend. A decreased percentage of new female partners may equate to fewer relatable role models for women moving up the ranks. This trend doesn’t completely leave women attorneys without support—as Catalyst pointed out at a recent conference, male mentors and sponsors are critical to women’s success. But with fewer examples of female success, women may grow discouraged and view the partnership as an impossible goal. This trend may also result in fewer mentorship opportunities between senior female attorneys and junior male attorneys— in workplace equality.

American Lawyer source

Read More:
5 Lessons on Mentoring & Sponsorship
Female Lawyers: Career Track or Inevitable Mommies & Should It Matter?
Law Firm Diversity: Views from Female Insiders

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Filed Under: Law


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