TWLL Advisory Board Can Facilitate the Advancement of Women in Legal, Says Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner’s Therese Pritchard

Topics: Diversity, Law Firms, Thomson Reuters, Women's Leadership Advisory Committee Profiles

Therese Pritchard, the Co-Chair of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, recently spoke with the Legal Executive Institute about why she joined the Advisory Board of Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law (TWLL) and how she is eager to help the Board facilitate the advancement of women in the legal community.

Legal Executive Institute: Why did you become a TWLL Advisory Board committee member?

Therese Pritchard: I have seen first-hand where we still need to do some work in advancing women’s leadership within the legal community. As a practicing lawyer for more than 30 years and as co-chair of a global law firm, I think there is still an implicit bias, an assumption, or a concern, that women won’t work as hard on matters because they have so many other commitments.

As a result, women often don’t have the same opportunities to work on the bigger deals or bigger litigation. Sometimes it is out of a sense of consideration. A partner may say, “Gee, I am not going to put her on this litigation that will require her to be out of town when she has small kids.” So, it is not that people are consciously deciding that they don’t want to work with a woman; it is that they are making assumptions that end up inhibiting the woman’s advancement within the law firm. Their assumption is that her choice would be to decline the opportunity to work on the big litigation. As a result, she doesn’t advance as quickly or easily as her male counterparts.

I am eager to tackle this problem and others, and work with this distinguished group of women to find solutions that can facilitate the advancement of women in the legal community.

Legal Executive Institute: What most excites you about this initiative?

Therese Pritchard: The goals of this initiative are very much in line with the goals my co-chair Lisa Mayhew and I have for Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner and for the profession: to identify barriers that hinder women’s advancement, implement solutions to remove those, and further develop networks for women lawyers.

I am excited to work with other women leaders in the law to hear about initiatives that work at their firms, share with them what is working at our firm, and find new pathways to advance the number of women in leadership positions. Promoting and embracing diversity is a core value at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, and we will continue to make a significant investment in this area.

We have training programs about implicit bias so no one makes assumptions about anyone else’s levels of commitment, effort, and talent. Really, it is about making sure that we don’t make assumptions that deny women, or others, the opportunities they might want to pursue. Everybody has to make their own decisions about how they want to balance their lives. And it is also up to women to speak up and let others know that they want to be on those big matters and are willing to do what it takes. Women are raising their voices across many industries today, not just in the law. I am excited to be a part of the momentum for change.

Legal Executive Institute: Why is it important to stay focused and remain committed to the advancement of women in the law?

Therese Pritchard: We have accomplished a great deal when it comes to the advancement of women in the law, but we are not done. The environment is improving all of the time, which is great. However, we need to look forward and stay focused on eliminating remaining biases.

In 1999, when I joined our firm, there was one woman on the Executive Committee, there were no women on the senior management team, and there were few if any women practice group leaders or office managing partners. This was the case for most law firms at the time.

Now, our newly merged firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner is led by two women and we have many women in leadership positions at the firm-wide, office, and practice level. The playing field is definitely leveling out, and firms are now selecting leaders from a more diverse talent pool. The TWLL Advisory Board is well positioned to amplify the discussion and help implement change.