Gaveling the Glass Ceiling: Getting the Message Out!

Topics: Corporate Legal, Diversity, Law Firms, Talent Development, Thomson Reuters, Women’s Leadership Blog Posts


As this issue of Gaveling the Glass Ceiling is going to press, we’re inspired to observe that the Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law (TWLL) initiative and its work with some of our partners is gaining an even broader audience.

The June issue of the American Bar Association’s (ABA’s) Law Practice Today journal inquired about the impact to-date of the Women in the Workplace 2017 study conducted by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.Org. For its part, Thomson Reuters had urged law firms to participate in the study, which resulted in the publication of a related paper, Women In Law Firms.

As part of our participation, TWLL kicked off the launch of the study results last October by hosting an event that included many of the study participants, as well as other corporate in-house attorneys and law firm leaders. We also drew attention to the results by publishing them both on our blog page and in the Spring, 2018 issues of the Thomson Reuters Forum magazine.

As I reflect on this recent coverage, I am gratified to see such recognition for the work that our partners and our members have done to advance the careers of women in the legal industry.

For example, I was asked about the feedback we have received from law firms and women in law firms related to the study. I was pleased to share that one slice of feedback we have received across the board reflected how important it is to generate this type of solid data around diversity and inclusion in the legal industry. Clearly, moving toward real change for women in the industry is greatly aided by having the numbers and the statistics that back up not only how dramatically change is needed, but can demonstrate which methods of change may be working the best.

As I acknowledged before and again in the interview, the study showed that law firms are undertaking worthwhile steps to increase gender equality, but that more still needs to be done.

To that end, some of the more positive trends we’ve been seeing around lowering the barriers to advancement for women in the legal industry include increased transparency in how matter-assignments are conducted, more flexibility in the workflow for many lawyers (both men and women) and ensuring that women lawyers — especially those at the start of their careers — have ample opportunity to interact directly with high-profile clients.

But overall, what is perhaps most important is that law firm leadership has recognized in a very big way the importance of having a diverse workforce — not as window-dressing to say, “See what we’re doing”, but rather as a necessary component to retain the best talent and ensure better financial performance for the firm as a whole.

In other words, many law firms are seeing how necessary it is to have their diversity and inclusion efforts not as a side-project by several women attorneys, but instead to be truly baked into the firm’s DNA and upheld continually by firm leadership. These diversity and inclusion efforts need to be made an integral part of what the firm is and how it presents itself to clients.

I am confident that this message will continue to get out and be increasingly adopted and accepted by many more people and organizations throughout the legal industry. TWLL will continue to beat the drum for the change we need to make sure all individuals who enter the legal profession have the same level of opportunities to follow their career wherever they want it to lead.