I know that I have published list after list of the “Best Firms for Women Lawyers” over the years in my blogs and on my website. It seems like the right thing to do for someone who has been devoted to the retention and advancement of women lawyers for more than a decade.
But, honestly, I did it with some reluctance. I always was a little skeptical about how those lists were compiled, whether the research was based on an even playing field for all contenders, and the nature of the relationships between the ranking entities and the firms ranked highest on their lists.
Now a new batch of those lists (from Law 360, Working Mother, and more) has been released, and it turns out that I am not the only one with these kinds of questions and concerns. One of the most savvy law reporters around has doubts similar to my own and has looked critically at the lists and the law firms that appear there.
In her article, “‘Best’ Law Firms for Women? Really?,” Vivia Chen of The Careerist and ALM calls the lists “confusing, if not misleading. And sad.”
Here are some of her concerns for you to keep in mind as you read and rely on those lists:
- Having a high percentage of women lawyers in a law firm is different than having a high percentage of women equity partners or shareholders;
- Effort is not the same as results, and firms that have flexible work arrangements, generous parental leave policies and business development training (while all laudable efforts) should not be given equal weight with firms that “walk the walk” and have impressive percentages of women as partners, demonstrating real equality for women within their ranks; and
- Sugar coating and “misrepresenting” the data will not get us where we want to go in terms of true equity for women lawyers.
We all are trained as fact finders for three long years in law school and in our practices, and we must look behind representations to discover the facts and who really deserves credit and who does not. We need to expect that of ourselves.
For more on the “lists” and progress in gender diversity at law firms, see “Who’s The Best? (Leading Law Firms for Women)” in the current issue of the ABA Journal.