By Amanda Gonzalez • September 29, 2011•Firms and the Private Sector
When I was in my first year of law school a female partner did me a huge favor. She didn’t hire me. As I sat interviewing in her office, my resume aglow with progressive she-power women’s organizations, this partner scowled at me. She interrupted my soliloquy on my passion for employment law to clarify one thing. “We crush the little guy here. You know that right?” Let’s just say the summer position would have been a bad fit.
But what do you do if you’re not lucky enough to have a no-nonsense interviewer? Or what if you have multiple offers for your next position? How do you know which firms are actually women friendly?
Sure, plenty of places will talk to you about equality and maternity leave option. But the firm I was interviewing at also claimed to do “some” plaintiff’s work. So how do you know what you’re actually getting it to. Which law firms will actually provide you with upward mobility and have a leadership track that is hospitable to women?
Obviously, it’s best to get on the inside. Learn all you can about the firm and talk to some (hopefully honest) people who have worked at that firm. If that’s not possible, do your research. And one place to start that research might be the Women In Law Empowerment Forum (WILEF). WILEF was founded by Elizabether Anne “Betiayn” Tursi, a former law firm chief marketing executive, and Peggy Cohen, Vice President and Managing Director at RR Donnelley. Last year, to determine whether law firms actually enabled women to become leaders, WILEF instituted a gold standard certification which examines how much leadership women have in a law firm. To be eligible for gold standard certification, a law firm must show that it is qualified in three or more of the following six criteria, women must represent at least:
- 20% of equity partners
- 10% of firm chairs and office managing partners
- 20% of the firm’s primary governance committee
- 20% or more of the firm’s compensation committee
- 25% of practice group leaders or department heads
- 10% of the top half of the most highly compensated partners
These criteria may not provide you with the whole picture. But they are a great start. They provide clarity for law students and graduates who are in the process of determining their next career move. The law firms on the 2011 are likely to encourage women equity partners as well as provide opportunities for women to learn the tools necessary to build their careers. We mentioned the list of firms when it was published back in June, but it’s worth a second look if you are currently participating in OCIs, are considering a change, or simply keeping yourself informed.