NEW YORK — At the end of 2016, the advisory board for the Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law (TWLL) initiative wanted to make a bold commitment and do something new to maximize the impact of women’s advancement in the legal industry. At that meeting, the winning idea was to create a pilot cohort designed to enable nine female partners at AmLaw 50 law firms to gain access to powerful general counsels at a few multinational organizations and establish relationships for building their book of business while also spurring mentoring and sponsorship opportunities.
At the launch event, about 15 women gathered at the new Thomson Reuters Customer Center at 3 Times Square to learn about industry trends in the business of law and meet fellow participants in the cohort.
The afternoon started off with Susan Taylor Martin, President of the Legal business at Thomson Reuters, discussing the state of women at law firms where only 18% of women have advanced to the partner rank, and just 10% of women have earned the managing partner rank.
Next, Valerie Radwaner, Deputy Chair & Partner at Paul Weiss and fellow advisory board member of TWLL, shared the outcomes and commitments from 11 live TWLL conversations in 2016.
Then, Deirdre Stanley, General Counsel and Chief Legal Officer at Thomson Reuters, spoke about why she, in particular, was deeply committed to this cohort pilot. Stanley emphasized the importance of ensuring that women partners understand the industry trends impacting the business of law and the critical focus on the need to build deep connections among female partners at law firms and among general counsels.
After that, the cohort heard from a trio of industry experts — Kim Desmarais, an Account Executive at Thomson Reuters’ Peer Monitor; David Curle, Director of Market Intelligence for Thomson Reuters; and David Altuna, SVP at Citi Private Bank. The three discussed trends including the realities of sluggish demand of legal services and the economics of decreasing realization rates, along with the resulting revenue impact. Additionally, the group explained that the drivers of these trends included the growth of alternatives legal service providers in the market and corporate legal departments’ own belt-tightening.
The conversation then migrated to the implications of legal technology and how law firms investment in technology has grown by 4% each year over the last decade. Moreover, the increase in non-lawyer hires by law firms in areas such as data science, marketing and pricing specialist roles has improved efficiency and profitability, even while demand for law firm services has continued to decrease.
The panelists then discussed how these trends are impacting specific practice areas. In particular, how litigation practice areas had been hit the hardest, while transactional practice areas remained more resilient. One participant pointed out that the regulatory litigation area had particularly been robust because of the huge complexity and growth of the regulatory environments, particularly among financial institutions.
When the panelists were asked to give one piece of advice to cohort participants, they all advised learning the business of law in addition to the practice of law. More specifically, they suggested getting “to know those in the firm who are staffing and pricing matters and are the gate-keepers of technology and innovation.”
When asked about what cohort participants learned and found most valuable from the afternoon, one woman law firm partner said the discussion on the economics of law firm services and various impacts on specific practice areas was new to her. On the connection front, another partner indicated that she was most excited about the opportunity to have a new network of female partner peers to mastermind with.