Top 100 Firms Welcome More Female Partners

According to recent studies, female attorneys are being welcomed as partners of law firms in increasing numbers—though there is still lots of room to grow. Studies by the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), an organization that facilitates legal career counseling and planning, and the Project for Attorney Retention (PAR), an organization that works to promote the advancement of women in the legal profession, show similar trends.

Studies released in late 2008 by NALP indicate that the ratio of female to male associates is nearly equal, while the ratio of female to male partners is still extremely low. The studies show that 45% of associates at US law firms are female; however, about 19% of partners are women. Five years ago similar data was collected, and each percentage was lower. In 2003, 43% of associates were women, and only 17% of partners were women. Some states, like Ohio, however, show vastly different ratios—there, 67% of associates and 27% of partners are women.

PAR released studies this and last year on the on the Top 100 firms that shows data that looks slightly more optimistic. Last year, half of the new partners at 12 large firms were women. This year, in 23 of the top 100 firms, 40% of partners at are females. In essence, the number of firms with significant numbers of new female partners has doubled. These firms ranked highest for having the largest percentage of female partners admitted: Cravath (67%), Dickstein Shapiro (67%), Wiley Rein (60%), Andrews Kurth (57%), and Bryan Cave (56%).

Even the statistics released by PAR, however, are offset by disappointing data. This year, 14 of the top 100 firms failed to admit female partners, including Cadwalader, Cleary Gottlieb, Dechert, Foley Hoag, Kaye Scholer, Lowenstein Sandler, Milbank, Schulte Roth, Steptoe, Stroock, Venable, Wachtell, White & Case, and Wilkie Farr. Last year, only one failed to admit a single female partner—Parker Poe.

In addition to firms that admitted no female partners, 12 of the top 100 admitted female partners at very low rates, including the following: Pillsbury Winthrop (9%), Latham & Watkins (10%), O’Melveny (11%), Howrey (13%), Finnegan Henderson (13%), Morrison & Foerster (13%), Winston & Strawn (13%), Locke Lord (14%), Nixon Peabody (14%), DLA Piper (15%), Ropes (17%) and Akin Gump (17%).