Panel Urges Big Reforms to Boost Law Firm Diversity

By Nell Gluckman, The Am Law Daily

Bringing more women and people of color into law firm partnerships and leadership positions will require systemic changes to the law firm business model, panelists at a discussion at Mayer Brown Manhattan offices agreed Thursday.

The proportions of women and diverse attorneys in positions of power in the legal industry have barely budged in 10 years, despite law firms' pledge to change that stagnation, the speakers said.

"Women have been about 50 percent of law school classes for 25 years now," said Arin Reeves, founder of the research and consulting firm Nextions. "We're not quite cracking the 20 percent partner mark."

Reeves said that many law firms had made relatively easy changes, such as giving new mothers extra benefits and training people to recognize implicit bias, but the legal industry is "at a point where the next level of change is going to require structural changes."

Lisa Ferri, who leads Mayer Brown's IP practice in New York, agreed that all the diversity training and other coaching that firms have offered over the past decade haven't really altered the demographic makeup of law firm partnerships.

"The rules that we have were created by men—by white men," Ferri said. "Women and diverse attorneys are being asked to function and thrive in this system that wasn't created for them."

She said that law firms' measures of success—high billable hours for asso¬ciates and origination credits for partners—don't necessarily reflect women's strengths.

A study released last week by Major, Lindsey & Africa and ALM Intelligence found that average compensation for male law partners is 44 percent higher than women partners' pay. According to the report, origination is the key culprit, with male partners reporting average origination of $2.59 million, compared with a $1.73 million average for female partners.

Read more of this article at The Am Law Daily.


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