Law360 released its second annual report of the 100 best United States law firm for women in April 2016. It based its ranking criterion on the firm’s female attorney representation at the partner and nonpartner levels, and its total number of female attorneys.
Also in 2016, Law360’s Glass Ceiling report found that women made up 34% of all U.S. attorneys and only 22% of partners in the U.S. Law firms surveyed by Law360. These numbers are on track with NALP’s numbers, which found that women make up 33% and 22% of partners and associates in U.S. law firms.
The ranking factors employed by Law360 are, at best, narrowly focused. Factors include: “the percentage of partners, both equity and nonequity, who are women; the percentage of associate-level attorneys who are women; and the divide between those.” (Bell, 2016) Law360 concludes that those firms that made its 100 best list indicate that those “firm leaders are finding some new ways to open doors and increase diversity.” (Bell, 2016)
These factors solely relied on the women’s numerical representation at firms. This method of evaluation is problematic because it privileges numbers over experiences. We don’t know from this report how much power women possess when they become partners, equity or not. We do know, however, that women largely are not equity partners compared to men. If women are not equity partners, how much social capital do women partners acquire and utilize?
For whom are doors opening? Law360’s own report shows that the doors to partnership for women might be cracked, but they definitely are not open. Moreover, reports of partnership ranks for women of color show that white male partners might be gazing upon them through the peephole, but again, these firm leaders certainly have not found new ways to open doors.
How does the 100 best list indicate that firm leaders are finding new ways to increase diversity? The best list provides no examples of these new methods. Further, how does Law360 define diversity? Diversity does not increase or improve if white women and femmes are the only people for whom firm leaders are opening doors.
Having the most women partners and associates does not necessarily mean that the workplace is best for women and femmes. Having the most women in partnership does not mean that those partners make the same income as their gender counterparts.
Improving diversity and inclusion requires us to interrogate how we define and evaluate diversity and inclusion. It also requires that we not congratulate when congratulations are not yet due.
What do you think of the 100 Best Firms for Female Attorneys, or lists like it? Leave a comment and let us know.
Bell, Jacqueline. “The 100 Best Law Firms for Female Attorneys.” April 17, 2016.
Bell, Jacqueline. “The Glass Ceiling Report.” April 17, 2016.
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