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What Women Attorneys Can Learn from the 50 Best Law Firms for Women Report


What Women Attorneys Can Learn from the 50 Best Law Firms for Women Report

The 50 Best Law Firms for Women, 2014 report created by Working Mother and Flex-Time Lawyers is out. In essence, like most other reports there is a list of law firms considered best for women, and that is a good resource for any woman attorney deciding to make a lateral move, or join the profession for the first time. However, what we liked better is the analysis of the work lives of working women attorneys, and the six rules the report suggests women attorneys should sometimes break in order to succeed. The report might have well been titled "Six Rules to Break for Women Attorneys and a List of 50 Best Law Firms for Women."

To begin with, the big statistics in the report observe that 19% of equity partners at the best law firms are women, 24% of executive committee members at the best law firms are women, 15 weeks is the average fully paid maternity leave at best law firms, 84% offer sick-child care and 10% of lawyers at the best law firms work reduced hours.

So, with that being a glimpse of what has been considered as a best law firm, the report mentions the methodology in choosing the firms included more than 300 questions about workforce representation; time off and leaves; child care; flexibility; leadership, compensation and advancement of women and development and retention of women.

There's little space here to mention the 50 law firms, and almost all the big names are there, but if you are interested in learning the names and how those law firms fare against the parameters mentioned above, you can see the full report here.

Regrettably, or fortunately - depending upon how you look at it - the report lists the 50 best law firms alphabetically and does not rank them against parameters. So, if you are looking for which is the best, you'll have no simple answer, but if, as a woman attorney, you want to know how to be the best, the report offers six rules. Something, that got us excited with the way they are presented.

The six rules for women attorneys as given in the report and why rules need to be broken

Okay, before even going into those six rules, here's what the report quoted in big fonts right at the beginning, "Don't waste time navigating the unwritten "rules" of your profession. When it comes to getting ahead, powerful lawyer moms say the best way to succeed is to forge your own path." We fully agree, but still the rules that the report mentions elegantly include the following:
  • Stick to the schedule: This is an unwritten rule for working moms in the profession, but adapting the family schedule around big career moves is perfectly fine.
  • Avoid career detours: This is another unwritten rule in the profession, but according to the report if you are passionate about something that is a little bit different from your profession, engaging in that activity can be very energizing, and help to make you more effective in your professional life.
  • Act like a guy: This is another unwritten rule of the profession for women lawyers. However the report says that someone may not be macho and it is fine to break the unwritten rule to develop an approach that fits your personality and working style.
  • Wait your turn: This is an unwritten rule followed by women lawyers that actually inhibits their progress. It's fanciful to let your career happen to you. Look for ways to distinguish yourself and go out of your way.
  • Always be networking: This is an unwritten rule close to the hearts of women lawyers. Usually this leads to a lot of wasted effort and time. Rather than networking always, it is better to come up with a strategy for making connections that match your schedule and long-term strategies. Always networking without strategy and with strangers has poor or no returns and is very time-consuming.
  • Be perfect: Everything says as a woman lawyer you need to be perfect and scrupulously avoid every mistake. Breaking this rule is required if you are spending more time on typos rather than thinking strategically how your work is going to help fulfilling the objectives of the document. Trying to be all things to all people is actually more destructive rather than constructive for your career.

Let's finish this article with another quote from the report, that made by Deborah Epstein Henry, founder and president of Flex-Time Lawyers LLC, the people who partnered with Working Mother to create the report: "Achieving a critical mass of women in top law firm roles will require that women take strategic risks and also that firms reconsider how compensation is assessed, promotion decisions are made, business development credit is awarded, clients are billed and leadership positions are filled."

We agree.

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