Gaveling the Glass Ceiling: The Importance of Learning the Business of Law

Topics: Client Relations, Diversity, Law Firm Profitability, Law Firms, Talent Development, Thomson Reuters, Women’s Leadership Blog Posts


As the May issue of “Gaveling the Glass Ceiling” goes to press, we have just launched a program that we hope will help maximize the impact of women’s advancement in the legal industry.

We recently created 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 with the purpose of establishing relationships and building their book of business. We also hope that mentoring and sponsorship opportunities will also come out of this.

At the recent launch event, we gathered about 15 women in our Times Square offices to learn about industry trends in the business of law and meet fellow participants in the cohort.

Susan Taylor Martin, President of the Legal business at Thomson Reuters, started us off by discussing the state of women at law firms, noting only 18% of women have advanced to the partner rank, and just 10% of women have earned the managing partner rank.

In another valuable presentation, Valerie Radwaner, Deputy Chair & Partner at Paul Weiss and an advisory board member of the Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law (TWLL) initiative, shared the outcomes and commitments made by participants from the 11 TWLL Roundtable and Dinner events in 2016.

Deirdre Stanley, General Counsel and Chief Legal Officer at Thomson Reuters, also spoke about why this pilot cohort was critical in the legal industry now, emphasizing the importance of ensuring that women partners understand the industry trends impacting the business of law.

After that, a trio of industry experts discussed legal market trends, including the realities of sluggish demand of legal services and the economics of decreasing realization rates — and, of course, how this all impacts revenue. Other trends, such as the implications of legal technology investment by law firms, and the increase in non-lawyer hires by firms in areas such as data science, marketing and pricing specialist roles, were debated as well.

As the panelists advised, it is vital for lawyers to learn the business of law in addition to the practice of law; they also suggested getting “to know those in the firm who are staffing and pricing matters and are the gate-keepers of technology and innovation.”

Indeed, one woman law firm partner said the discussion on the economics of law firm services was new to her — but now she has a base of knowledge she can build on! We hope many of those women in attendance, and those within the legal industry as a whole, take this valuable advice and strive to learn how their firms and legal departments operate as businesses.

Before I sign off, I wanted give you a final reminder for the 2017 Women’s Transformative Leadership Forum, sponsored by the Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute and Lexpert. The day-long event will be held June 22 in Toronto, and is entitled, “Empowerment by Improving Participation and Representation.” Hope to see you there!