We use cookies on this site to enable your digital experience. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our cookie policy. close

What Does Gender Parity In The Legal Industry Look Like?


Law360 (May 28, 2018, 8:02 PM EDT) -- From associates to equity partners, the overall representation of women in law firms has barely budged over the years, suggesting the industry is still a long ways off from reaching gender parity.

But what does true parity look like? Is it just about having women occupy half of all jobs in the industry and take home half the profits? That depends on whom you ask.

As part of our annual Glass Ceiling Report, Law360 asked female attorneys in private practice as well as those in top in-house roles: When it comes to gender parity in the legal industry, what does success look like to you?

The answers were as vibrant and nuanced as the women themselves. While many said parity won’t be achieved until women share equal ownership of firms, some used a different barometer: When men are mistaken for the court reporter, one said. When this question is no longer necessary, said others.

We received dozens of responses from attorneys at various stages in their career, from associates with six years practicing law to veterans with 44 years in the business. They hail from all over the map — from Honolulu to Houston, Chicago to New York, London to Paris — and their practices run the gamut.

Scroll over their photos, and see for yourself what they had to say.


Avatar
When it doesn’t create a firm crisis and PR disaster to disclose attorney compensation.

Kerrie L. Campbell, founder and CEO, KCampbell-Law
Avatar
When men start listening to women lawyers instead of waiting for another man to repeat the same advice.

Maria Barton, general counsel, Purdue Pharma
Avatar
When women are the top law firm rainmakers because lawyers are valued for emotional intelligence and grit, not just rating high on the macho scale.

Louise K. Y. Ing, founding shareholder, Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing
Avatar
When we stop considering women-held leadership positions as unusual or extraordinary, but rather, ordinary, because it will be the social norm.

Pamela Thakur, managing attorney, Thakur Law Firm
Avatar
When women are so powerful – leaders in the profession, hired for the hardest cases, earning as much as men – that we no longer ask this question!

Jamie S. Gorelick, chair of the regulatory and government affairs practice, WilmerHale
Avatar
Success is when female leadership is so commonplace that it is no longer remarkable.

Anne B. Shaver, nonequity partner, Lieff Cabraser
Avatar
Women will arrive when there’s no need to count or add modifiers like “first,” “only,” “sole” or “lone” – because we will be visibly present in abundance.

Michele Coleman Mayes, vice president and general counsel, The New York Public Library
Avatar
Similar to diversity in general, success would be representation at the most senior leadership levels that reflects the communities our profession serves.

Julie Gruber, executive vice president and global general counsel, Gap
Avatar
Gender parity in law can only be achieved when we have gender parity in our society as a whole. Parity does not exist in a bubble.

Sara A. Begley, global chair of the women’s initiative network, Reed Smith
Avatar
Success will occur when there is recognition that a diversity of styles and perspectives brings value to clients and business in general.

Elizabeth P. Gray, co-chair of the securities enforcement practice, Willkie Farr
Avatar
When 50 percent of all equity partners are women and when 50 percent of all business is generated by women.

Marci Eisenstein, managing partner, Schiff Hardin
Avatar
When initiatives to ensure exposure to high-profile legal work and client relationships are no longer needed and the focus is on optimizing all talent regardless of gender.

Christine Cesare, department managing partner of litigation and corporate risk, Bryan Cave
Avatar
When a male attorney is confused for the court reporter.

Rose Leda Ehler, co-chair of the women’s initiative, Munger Tolles
Avatar
It doesn’t exist today, but if it did, success would be true “Equality” with a capital “E”— equal pay, equal work and equal rights, privileges and opportunities for all.

Paula W. Hinton, chair of the women’s leadership initiative, Winston & Strawn
Avatar
Women have the same access to opportunities for high-level work for marquee clients, and firms recognize all the lawyers responsible for serving and retaining clients.

Gina Carter, partner, Husch Blackwell
Avatar
Success looks like a room full of lawyers that resemble all facets of the general population — with plenty of women in charge.

Eldora L. Ellison, director, Sterne Kessler
Avatar
Law firms that prioritize the career development and retention of female attorneys, combined with clients that share the same philosophy.

Laura C. Monaco, associate, Epstein Becker
Avatar
When women control half the business, own half the equity, take home half of the profits and run half the law firms.

Linda L. Addison, immediate past managing partner, Norton Rose Fulbright
Avatar
When little girls say they want to be a “managing partner,” “general counsel” or “attorney general” when they grow up.

Clarissa Cerda, general counsel, Pindrop Security
Avatar
Women would not be “dinged” in terms of pay, assignments or opportunities if they have children and choose to take parental leave.

Debra S. Katz, partner, Katz Marshall
Avatar
A woman will no longer find herself underrepresented in a courtroom, boardroom or conference room, and she will have an equally heard voice.

Karen Campbell, vice chair of the general liability practice, Lewis Brisbois
Avatar
Success means having a sufficient number of women who exert significant power and leadership throughout the organization.

Deborah S. Froling, partner, Kutak Rock
Avatar
The implication finally dies that gender inequality is the result of women’s work or dedication being less than men’s or women not wanting the job.

Nonnie L. Shivers, equity shareholder, Ogletree Deakins
Avatar
Women constituting 50 percent of GCs and their relationship partners in law firms, which presupposes a major disruption of the current law firm model for the better.

Helen Browne, group general counsel, AXA
Avatar
Freedom from the energetic deficit created for women by having to continually assess, disrupt or outmaneuver the implicit/explicit bias we face in the industry.

Nicole Crum, partner, Sullivan & Worcester
Avatar
A world where this question is irrelevant, with gender balance across all levels, no gender pay gap, and above anything else, no unconscious biases limiting anyone.

Maria Varsellona, chief legal officer, Nokia
Avatar
Success will be when women lead firms with authentic female voices and make decisions in “the room where it happens.” (from the musical “Hamilton”)

Wendi S. Lazar, equity partner, Outten & Golden
Avatar
Gender parity success is inextricably linked to increasing overall diversity in our profession. We also need to address equal pay, paid leave and sexual harassment.

Elizabeth Kristen, director of the gender equity and LGBT rights program, Legal Aid at Work
Avatar
Bright women attorneys will be able to confidently follow a path that is respected and barrier-free to firm leadership, practice management or innovative niches.

Kelly Strange Crawford, co-chair, Riker Danzig
Avatar
When the “titans” of the bar are filled with diverse attorneys who have dismantled the structural barriers faced by women and minorities in their firms.

Xinying Valerian, principal, Valerian Law
Avatar
When I’m no longer the only one or one of a few who look like me — leading, supporting and strategizing.

Wanji Walcott, senior vice president and general counsel, PayPal
Avatar
Women equity partners eventually mirroring the near 50 percent number of women in law school, and more women taking the lead on a case or transaction.

Jennifer Ryback, attorney, McGuire Craddock
Avatar
Success means gender parity in equity partnerships and leadership positions, which will help eliminate the gender pay gap and stem attrition of senior women attorneys.

Roberta D. Liebenberg, partner, Fine Kaplan
Avatar
When great female lawyers are viewed simply as great lawyers.

Karineh Khachatourian, managing partner of the Silicon Valley office, Duane Morris
Avatar
When it looks perfectly normal for there to be more women than men at counsel table, including a woman sitting in the first chair.

Juanita Brooks, principal, Fish & Richardson
Avatar
Having women leaders at law firms and in-house is a critical first step, but we won’t get to complete gender parity until there is parity on the business leadership side as well.

Kristin Sverchek, general counsel, Lyft
Avatar
Success looks like the vast majority of women lawyers, at all career stages, viewing their treatment as no different than that of similarly situated men.

Susan Murley, co-managing partner, WilmerHale
Avatar
Success will occur when we no longer need to use the word “gender” in the same sentence as “parity,” “equality,” “pay” or “discrimination.”

Nicole Nehama Auerbach, founding partner, Valorem Law Group/ElevateNext Law
Avatar
Law firms no longer need to have women “initiatives” — women are represented in equal numbers, at both the first-year associate and equity partner levels.

Holly B. Lance, associate, Smith Gambrell
Avatar
When women are represented at the highest levels of firms, companies, government agencies and the judiciary in numbers equal to men, we will have parity.

Jennifer Shoaf Richardson, associate, Jackson Lewis
Avatar
We’ll have reached the parity “mountaintop” once gender takes a back seat to what really matters in our business – legal know-how and results.

Mona Z. Hanna, managing partner of the Orange County office, Michelman & Robinson


For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

View comments