By Peg Johnston • June 12, 2007•Other Career Issues
So there's an article in the NYlawyer.com yesterday about women and law firm recruiting. The article is titled: Generation XX . (I'm not sure what that's about. Hey, NYL, is that some sort of reference to pornography?) Anyway, you can find it here but it requires a registration.
The article reports that a high percentage of law firms are reporting that their summer classes have equal or higher numbers of women than men. To me this makes perfect sense because law school classes are close to equal. So why is this news?
"Just from talking to attorneys at other firms, we all have the distinct impression that women are disproportionately represented in the upper ranks of the classes in terms of their grades," says Lovita T. Tandy, a partner in the Altanta office of King & Spalding and chair of the firm's Diversity Committee.
Oh, so that's why -- girls are smarter than boys?
So, the question is then, what is wrong with the brains behind law firm hiring and retention. Law firms still tend to hire based on USNews rankings and grades at those schools. This tends to lead to a high percentage of women summers and junior associates. This tends to lead to more women partners than men. Wait... strike that... the last part of this little logic train isn't right. This tends to lead to less than 20% of partners being of the female gender. Hmmm. This doesn't follow. Let me re-think this.
Femaleness = good law school and good grades
Good law school + good grades = good lawyer
Good enough lawyer to make partner = Maleness (huh?)
Nope, still doesn't follow any argument structure that I'm aware of, or even the dreaded slippery slope.
I'm not arguing that women are smarter than men. I am also not arguing that grades are the best way to make hiring decisions. (I happen to think life experienes are a LOT more important) However, the article does, at least superficially, make those arguments.
The article goes on to point out that there is a lingering retention problem when it comes to female lawyers at big firms. Duh.
It also points to the powerful Cheat Sheet authored by Debbie Epstein Henry at Flex-Time Lawyers as something that is really having an impact on the legal recruiting and hiring market. (You can find the Cheat Sheet on this site.)
...retaining women is smart business, and young women lawyers are working the demographics to their advantage. She notes a guide called "The Cheat Sheet," released last year by Flex-Time Lawyers, a consulting firm that specializes in the retention and promotion of women lawyers.
The nine page list of questions about leadership, workplace flexibility and mentoring, among other issues, bills itself as a "must-have tool" for female law students entering the interview process for their first job at a firm.
Okay, so this article isn't earth shattering. But instead of highlightly the success of women in getting summer associate positions or merely scraping the surface of failing female attorney retention, I think it once-again exposes the complete and utter failure of law firms to recognize the faults in the business plan and workplace environment that literally drives away the best and the brightest to a point that is purely illogical.