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Bucking a nationwide trend among law firms of subpar female representation at the partner level, Law360's inaugural class of Ceiling Smashers have shown a commitment to gender equality.
This year's Ceiling Smashers are the 25 U.S.-based law firms out of nearly 400 surveyed that have the highest percentage of female partners. These firms run counter to a sobering statistic from Law360's Glass Ceiling Report: 2014, which found that while women make up 43 percent of the nonpartner ranks at U.S. law firms, they comprise just 21 percent of partnerships.
"It is a professionwide problem," Holland & Hart LLP Chair Elizabeth Sharrer said of the paucity of women in top positions. At Holland and Hart, roughly 26 percent of partners are female, and the firm has primarily equity partners, unlike many law firms surveyed by Law360.
"It's never been good enough and it will continue to not be good enough," Sharrer said. "We won't be satisfied until the head count numbers reflect the [gender] demographics. And the only way it will keep improving is to keep people talking about it."
While no U.S. firm has 50 percent or more women at the partner level, the inaugural class of Ceiling Smashers all fall well above the average. Women make up at least 29 percent of the partnership at all the Ceiling Smashers, and at the top 10 firms, at least one-third of partners are women.
The firms in the inaugural class of Ceiling Smashers are smaller on average than traditional national and global firms. Only six firms in the top 25 have more than 400 U.S. attorneys, and none of them are in the top 10. Littler Mendelson PC, a San Francisco-based firm that specializes in employment law, has the best female partner percentage among firms ranked in the top 100 of the Law360 400 rankings released in March.
Two firms stand out for their exemplary inclusion of women at the partner level: Adelson Testan Brundo Novell & Jimenez and Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy LLP. Adelson Testan focuses on defense of workers’ compensation claims and related matters, while Fragomen is a corporate immigration boutique that also works on employment and labor issues. Women make up more than 47 percent of the partnership at both firms.
Two other Ceiling Smashers, Jackson Lewis PC and Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart PC, also specialize in employment law. On average, employment law firms have a higher percentage of female partners, which labor lawyers attributed in part to employment attorneys seeking to create an equal-opportunity workplace for their clients on a daily basis.
Congratulations to all the 2014 Ceiling Smashers.
Methodology: Law360 surveyed U.S. law firms in early 2014 and received responses from roughly 380 firms with male and female attorney head count information. Only U.S.-based law firms were surveyed, and only head count numbers for U.S.-based attorneys were included in the results. For the purposes of this ranking, "partner" includes both equity and nonequity partners for firms that use a multitier partnership structure.
Head count numbers are as of Dec. 31, 2013. Only firms with more than 50 domestic attorneys — roughly 98 percent of respondents — were considered for the Ceiling Smasher designation. Firms appearing in the Law360 400 that did not submit attorney head count data were not considered.
This article has been republished in full and is courtesy of Law360.
The above image does not depict any of those represented in the article.
We have about 21% female partners in our firm (counting both equity and nonequity). I'm not sure what the breakdown is between male/female equity partners. We also have about 50/50 split between male and female associates. I suppose the firm starts with an even balance, but has not yet figured out how to keep women on track for partnership.
Really a great post.
Wondering who those top law firms are not ahead on this.
I think this post is fascinating. However, it seems to ignore smaller to midsize firms where there are potentially more women partners and situations where there are 50% or more women partners. The smallest firm on this list has 67 attorneys. My firm has one female named partner, two male named partners and another female partner who is not a named partner.