The Glass Ceiling is Finally Cracking: Meet the Firm with the Most Women Partners

Meet the Firm with the Most Women Partners

Biglaw firms Women are known to be notoriously male-dominated, but according to an article in the National Law Journal, none has broken through the gender ceiling quite like Heller & Heller. The five partners are all women, which puts them in the unique position of being the firm with the most women partners. The article also noted that the firm’s diversity isn’t just limited to gender; there are people of color and members of the LGBTQ community as well.

The top law firms in America

In 2018, 2.5% of law firms had female equity partners, up from 1.5% in 2007. When it comes to law firms of size (more than 250 lawyers), the number is higher: 11% have at least one-woman partner. And among these large firms, women accounted for 15 percent of equity partners who were promoted to that position between 2017 and 2020 – an increase from 7 percent in the preceding three-year period.

Even so, only two out of 145 law firms managed by white men boasted more than 20 female equity partners as of 2017 (7%).

Percentage of female partners and associates

More than 17% of associates and 18% of partners are women. This percentage has increased substantially over time, as women only comprised 5% of partners in 1982 and just 6% of associates in 1982. Furthermore, this particular firm’s annual turnover rate for lawyers is extremely low at 1%. What does this mean?

Well, it means that female attorneys at this law firm are satisfied, retain their employment, and feel supported. The work culture there fosters personal growth which results in long-term retention rates. Given these statistics, it should come as no surprise that they were voted one of the Best Places to Work by The National Law Journal for 11 consecutive years (2004-2014).

What sets this firm apart

This firm in particular has a very advanced, diverse maternity leave policy that provides all parents of both genders an equal amount of paid time off. For example, parents with children under six months old can take twelve weeks, and those caring for children between six and one year old can take eight weeks.

Furthermore, the firm encourages flexible work hours and provides two fully-paid on-ramping periods to ease returning to full workloads after maternity or parental leave. This Biglaw firm also sponsors conferences, debates, and other professional development events specifically geared towards women lawyers who work at this firm to help them further their professional careers.

A look at the firm’s structure and culture

What makes this firm stand out? They focus on women. The firm’s founder, Pam Karlan, wanted to close the gender wage gap and sought to do so by emphasizing hiring and promoting more women.

It wasn’t until 2002 that she received her first female law school graduate, after which she increased her recruiting efforts. Through such actions, they reached their goal of 25% female representation as partners in 10 years.

How they ensure diversity isn’t just lip service

Caroline Denton, who was a co-founder of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, said, I can think of no other measure of excellence by which this firm has achieved its position than the high percentage of women who are partners. We are very proud that our partnership has women in roughly a third or more of all the senior positions. It’s not just lip service either –

Sullivan & Cromwell provides mentorship programs for those interested in furthering their careers and partnering. For example, Margot Menzies’ Mentoring Program assigns law firms to a mentor and offers opportunities to participate in various seminars on how to navigate one’s way up. Furthermore, they have set quotas to make sure women get equal pay and share decisions on matters such as promotions and creating new client relationships.

What makes them different from other firms?

Ultimately, we would like to have 50% of all partners be women. Of course, we are happy about our progress so far, but that’s a lot of ground to cover in less than five years and there is a long way to go.

A little about the firm

Founded in 1962 by Roger C. Witten, Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP (KLNF) has been recognized as one of America’s premier law firms for more than half a century. In addition to our work in mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance and securities, investment funds, private equity funds, and venture capital funds transactions; other core areas of our practice include complex litigation.

Plans and goals

In 2020, 20% of law firm partners were women. In 2022, 42% of law firms have 30% or more women partners. Following that trajectory, there’s no question what the firm with the most female partners will be in 2024. It’s up to us to seize this opportunity and make sure we are ready when it finally arrives.

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