April 01, 2021 Articles

Overcoming the Status Quo: Women Securities Litigators in the Courtroom and the Boardroom

As we continue to press for greater agency and equality, here are a few suggestions to help women securities litigators remain top of mind with clients.

By Susan S. Muck and Charlene (Chuck) Shimada

Securities litigators are often required to transition seamlessly from arguing billion-dollar cases in court to advocating before the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and from representing corporations during internal investigations to helping boards of directors solve corporate crises. Over the past several years, a dramatic surge in securities class actions has fueled an even greater demand for lawyers who can successfully defend these high-stakes matters. This trend is likely to accelerate under the Biden administration, based in part on an anticipated increase in regulatory investigations that often trigger securities class actions. Although securities litigation has historically been dominated by white men on both the plaintiff and defense sides, women continue to make strides in winning lead roles in these highly sought-after “bet your company” representations.

When we began practicing in the 1980s, we joined different San Francisco litigation powerhouses. Yet, at that time, our two firms combined had fewer than five women litigation partners. Not surprisingly, securities litigation suffered from the same lack of diversity; the field was dominated by white men, even as more women became general counsel or directors of litigation and more law firms claimed an abiding commitment to diversity. The disparity remained pronounced over the next three decades, notwithstanding the increased numbers of women partners at major law firms.

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