Representation of Women in Law Firms On the Rise

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For a long time, women have been under-valued and under-utilized in the workplace, especially in law firms, and even more especially in the higher ranks of those law firms. However, while this lack of representation isn’t going to correct itself overnight, it seems that the legal job market is slowly making its way toward gender equality.

The hope that representation for women in law firms is slowly improving comes on the heels of the Women In Law Empowerment Forum’s 2015 Gold Standard Certification. Founded in 2007 by Peggy Cohen and Betiayn Tursi, the Women In Law Empowerment Forum (or WILEF) is an organization devoted to supporting women with legal jobs. Their Gold Standard Certification is an annual list of law firms with more than 300 practicing attorneys based in the U.S., that meet a certain threshold of female representation in their top ranks. To achieve certification, a law firm must satisfy at least four of the following six requirements:

  • At least 20% of the firms equity partners are women (or at least 33% of the attorneys promoted to equity partners in the past year are women).
  • At least 10% of firm chairs and office managing partners are women.
  • At least 20% of the firm’s primary governance committee are women.
  • At least 20% of the firm’s compensation committee are women.
  • At least 25% of practice group leaders or department heads are women.
  • At least 10% of the top half of the firm’s highest-paid partners are women.

This year, the list honors 44 law firms certified by WILEF, with eight of those firms meeting all six of the Gold Standard criteria. While this year’s list is one firm shorter than last years, the number of firms that satisfied all of WILEF’s requirements went up by one. Although the organization does not release data on individual firms, they do provide a few numbers regarding the list as a whole: the average percentage of female attorneys on the firms’ collective governance committees was 27%; the average percentage of women on compensation committees was 25%; and, of all the attorneys promoted to equity partners in the past twelve months, 37% were female.

Still, there is room for improvement. On average, only one in five equity partners at the certified firms are women. While things may be improving, the legal job market still has a long way to go before women are truly represented equally.


Click here to see which 44 law firms met WILEF’S Gold Standard.


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