Many law firms of size have initiatives designed to help women lawyers build their careers. Unfortunately, too often the outcomes are no more than elaborate announcements and a few meetings that soon fizzle out. However, Gibbons P.C., a 250-lawyer firm headquartered in Newark, New Jersey, has rung the bell with its rigorous and innovative approach.
Founded in 1997, the Gibbons’ Women’s Initiative is a highly successful forum for promoting the role of women lawyers and women in business in a number of ways, both inside the firm and in the business community. It uses a far-reaching set of programs and benefits that encourage women professionals to not only remain in the workplace throughout various stages of their lives, but to strike a healthy work-life balance while growing and advancing professionally. It is also a tremendous collaborative effort between the firm and the women’s business community. The scope of those involved in the program has grown to more than 60 Gibbons’ women active in the program with more than 2,000 invited participants.
Unlike other firms’ initiatives, where there is little to show, the Gibbons’ Women’s Initiative has resulted in both a large increase in the number of women involved at all levels of the firm’s governance and leadership as well as widespread recognition of the firm’s commitment to women in the marketplace. Among other honors, the firm received the prestigious national 2009 Catalyst Award— one of only three law firms to be honored. In 2007, Gibbons received the Working Mother magazine award for “Best Law Firms for Women,” and in 2008, the Society for Human Resources Management ranked Gibbons among the “25 Best Medium-Sized Companies to Work for in America.”
The firm’s initiative provides a platform for Gibbons’ women attorneys to participate with each other, clients, firm management and high-level women in business and academia in quality educational, social, consulting and mentoring programs that improve knowledge; foster support systems; provide business development opportunities; and advise on family-friendly workplace policies. Law firms with less vigorous women’s initiatives can clearly benefit from this firm’s example.
s the workforce continues to evolve toward parity in terms of men and women, it will become increasingly important for there to be innovative approaches to women professionals’ unique needs and concerns. Gibbons’ comprehensive approach is ample proof of what can be accomplished.