To Promote Advancement, Let Women Lawyers Know Early About Partnership Expectations

Topics: Corporate Legal, Diversity, Law Firms, Talent Development, Women’s Leadership Blog Posts

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NEW YORK — On June 15, the Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law (TWLL) hosted its second roundtable dinner event in New York City.

The roundtable dinner is part of the ongoing dialogue TWLL is fostering among female executives in both corporation legal departments and law firms to discuss their perspectives on women advancing in the legal industry and the challenges they face moving forward.

Similar to the last event, there were four women from in-house legal departments at multinational corporations and four senior women from large law firms.

Although similar to the group from the first roundtable, the conversation was decidedly different. Two key themes of the evening emerged:

  • Discussion about professional development for women and transparency relevant to career pathways.
    1. On the law firm side, this was comprised of providing guidance to young female associates concerning what is required to make partner, as well as increasing objectivity in performance evaluations.
    2. On the corporate legal department side, this meant carving out potential pathways for advancement across legal and compliance teams supporting different businesses.
  • Discussion about how law firms could offer an incentive program to male partners to participate in non-billable activities that would promote women’s advancement and other diversity and inclusion initiatives. (One participant described an incentive program at one firm that offered a firm-sponsored European vacation to motivated young lawyers to more actively participate in business development opportunities.)

The group also discussed methodology for women to assist their peers. On the topic of mentorship, for example, many women cited their advancement and success was due in part to mentors who were willing to give them candid and constructive feedback. Although the feedback was sometimes hard to digest, it proved instrumental in refining their behavior and leading to more success.

Holding Leaders Accountable

Holding practice leaders and executive managers more accountable to the advancement of women also was a topic of discussion. To drive such accountability, one recent innovative program called the GOOD Guys toolkit and a comprehensive piece of research entitled Retaining and Advancing Women in National Law Firms (coming from Stanford Law) gained a lot of interest from the group.

At the close of the roundtable dinner event, each participant was asked to name one new tool, initiative or idea she had learned about that evening which she was willing to take back to their individual organizations for potential implementation. Several that were committed to included:

  • Recognize men and bring them to the table on women’s advancement discussions using the GOOD Guys toolkit.
  • Elicit more sponsorship for new women partners.
  • Provide more training for male partners on how they can enhance their firm experience by guiding women through the partnership process and clearly defining expectations.
  • Create a program to provide transparency around the path to partnership and guide associates on what they should be doing now to advance to the partner level.
  • Advocate for women partners in law firms in business dealings and drive more business to female partners.
  • Increase women’s roles in promoting business development to new female partners and pushing women beyond their comfort zone and self-perceived limitations.
  • Create a sponsorship program and carve out career pathway options for corporate legal department lawyers across several business units.

Four more roundtable dinners are planned over the coming months in Chicago, Washington DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Lively dialogs and new opportunities for driving women’s advancement are sure to be discussed. Stay tuned…