Cristina Carvalho, Managing Partner of Arent Fox, recently spoke with the Legal Executive Institute about what excites her about the Advisory Board of Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law (TWLL) initiative and why it’s important to stay focused and remain committed to the advancement of women in law.
Legal Executive Institute: What most excites you about this initiative?
Cristina Carvalho: What excites me most is the opportunity to talk with leaders at other firms about the steps they are taking to diversify their attorney ranks and support the development of women into leadership roles.
One of my main goals as managing partner is to promote an inclusive environment where diverse talents can succeed. Joining TWLL‘s Advisory Board is part of that commitment. At Arent Fox we have a number of diversity initiatives, including AFWomen, which advocates for the growth of women lawyers by promoting professional development and fostering business connections to help our lawyers build a strong foundation for leadership roles within the firm and in the community.
Legal Executive Institute: How do you see your organization benefiting from meeting with law firms and corporations around the topic of women’s leadership in the law?
Cristina Carvalho: Having served on Arent Fox’s Executive Committee for several years and now as Managing Partner, I know firsthand that while firm management cannot control every outcome, we can control and influence some.
Many firms have the right programs to develop and retain talent, but management needs to be very hands-on to ensure the participation of diverse talent. I’m looking forward to hearing what other firms are doing to create programs and opportunities for their talented women lawyers. By opening and maintaining these conversations, we keep women’s leadership and other diversity considerations as a top priority and that hopefully raises the overall standards within our industry. I want to be part of that dialogue to ensure Arent Fox stays at the forefront of this issue.
Legal Executive Institute: Why is it important to stay focused and remain committed to the advancement of women in law?
Cristina Carvalho: If we don’t continue to make this a priority, our industry will continue to lack diversity at the partnership level. I firmly believe that cultivating a diverse bench of leaders is critical to Arent Fox’s future success and that firm management must continue to engage women in initiatives that have high visibility within the firm so they become top of mind for elected positions of leadership.
There are three main ingredients to supporting the growth of a young lawyer that are within management’s control: Opportunity, mentorship, and visibility. Women in law firms should be given the same opportunities for training, developing business, staffing significant matters, and taking over business from retiring partners; and they should be mentored by rainmakers and have the support and marketing resources to build their personal brands inside and outside the firm.