Susan Smith Blakely

Important Information for Women Lawyers on Female-Friendly and Family-Friendly Law Firms

Drum roll, please.  The lists are out!

Yale Law School has once again published its lists, and the results are reported in a recent article in The American Lawyer.  This is the 10th year that the law school has published a family-friendly list, but this year, in an attempt at gender neutrality and elimination of gender stereotypes, Yale Law has published two separate lists:  The traditional family-friendly list and a separate female-friendly list.

The two lists make sense to me, and I am happy to see the research and reporting take this new direction.  Not all women lawyers will have families, and some women lawyers will concentrate solely on professional pursuits with less concern for work-life balance.  There is no right or wrong in those decisions, and separating the lists makes it easier for readers to line up their professional aspirations with the research.

According to the article, in preparing the reports, Yale Law Women surveyed nearly 50 firms in Big Law and looked closely at the policies of those firms related to family leave and gender equality.  The responses from the firms were then compared with surveys of both male and female Yale Law graduates working at those firms.  As an example of the criteria used to determine the degree of gender equity in firms, Yale Law Women looked at hiring statistics, representation of women in leadership and promotions, and the firm's commitment to training and mentorship of both female and male lawyers.

Congratulations to Morgan Lewis and Orrick for appearing on both the family-friendly and the female-friendly lists.

Other statistics reported show that only three of the firms surveyed (Littler Mendelsohn, Ropes & Gray and Wilmer Cutler) had at least 25 percent women equity partners and only five firms surveyed (Hunton & Williams, Morrison & Foerster, Perkins Coie, Reed Smith and Squire Patton Boggs) have at least 35 percent female representation on the firm's executive committee.

Another interesting statistic showed that only 32 percent of male lawyers in the surveyed firms took some amount of caregiver leave.  As noted in the article, if only women lawyers are taking caregiver leave, that alone may evidence an issue of gender inequality.

These lists and others like them should not control your interest in working at a firm, but they can be used as a factor in determining that interest and your suitability for joining a particular workforce.   The lists and the criteria used by surveyors also can help to identify the issues you should be looking at in making critical career choices.

Not interested in Big Law?  Even if you are not headed in that direction, these lists can give you a good idea of the progress being made on issues that should be of interest to you.  So, check it out!

Susan Smith Blakely is the Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC and an award-winning, nationally-recognized author, speaker and consultant on issues related to young women lawyers, young women law students and young women interested in careers in the law.  She is author of Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2009), and Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today's Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012), which addresses the work-life struggle for women lawyers and includes twelve profiles of women who have successfully transitioned from one practice setting to another.  Her new book, Best Friends at the Bar:  Top-Down Leadership for Women Lawyers, will focus on the responsibilities of law firm leaders and will be released by Wolters Kluwer Law & Business in 2015.

 Ms. Blakely frequently speaks at colleges and universities, law schools, law firms and law organizations, and she has been featured in media including Corporate Counsel Magazine, the LA Daily Journal, National Jurist, Washington Examiner Newspaper, Forbes Woman, Women Lawyers Journal (NAWL),, DC Spotlight,, Daily Muse, Lawyer and Statesman, and Huffington Post Business.  Ms. Blakely also is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at conferences on women's issues in business and the law profession, and she has been a featured speaker at the US Department of Justice, Civil Division.  She is the recipient of the Ms. JD 2015 "Sharing Her Passion Award" for her work on behalf of women in the law, and she is the recipient of a Lawyer Monthly Women in Law Award 2016.

 Ms. Blakely graduated from the University of Wisconsin with distinction and from Georgetown University Law Center where she was a teaching fellow. She is a member of the CoachSource global network of leadership coaches and a career coach for the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy.   For more information, please visit

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