ORLANDO, Fla. — How best law firms can retain the most talented women in the legal profession came into sharp focus at a recent Roundtable Luncheon, hosted by Thomson Reuters’ Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law (TWLL) initiative, on September 27 in Orlando, Fla.
With recent Roundtable get-togethers in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles and Hong Kong, TWLL is fostering an ongoing dialog among female executives in both corporate legal departments and law firms to discuss their perspectives on women advancing in the legal industry and the challenges they face moving forward.
In Orlando, eight senior women from large law firms attended the roundtable lunch, discussing such key themes as business development and retention of top female talent.
Indeed, business development was an initial focus of the conversation, where the attendees discussed challenges in knowing how to develop new business and how best to approach potential clients for business.
The conversation soon turned to the very critical topic of how law firms can best keep women in the practice of law — a definite area of concern among the attendees. The women leaders discussed how the drop-off of women attorneys is dramatic after roughly 10 years of practice. In fact, the profession seems to squeeze women out of practicing, at a very critical juncture in their careers — when women are trying to balance being a parent with a legal career.
The traditional partnership track can seem unattainable to the woman who wants to both work and have a family, many attendees agreed, adding that one bright spot was that in the workplace today, younger male attorneys seem to “get it” — possibly heightened by their own sense of parental duties — and are more supportive of women in the law than their older, male counterparts.
The profession seems to squeeze women out of practicing, at a very critical juncture in their careers — when women are trying to balance being a parent with a legal career.
The group also discussed recommendations for eliminating these challenges. One suggestion was to empower younger women with business development skills and encourage them to pitch business. Women should ask to be part of the decision-making process. The group also explored creating an attractive alternative partner track — one without the stigma that woman attorneys can’t make partner. The women also discussed getting in-house counsel to hire women attorneys, and making changes at the recruitment level to show women attorneys that the firm is invested in them and their careers.
The women leaders were asked to develop a recommendation to the executive leadership teams in their organizations to address these structural barriers. The women will meet again to discuss progress on implementing their recommendations.