April 08, 2013 Practice Points

Law Firms "Lean In" to Help Women Advance in Their Careers

By Suzanne L. Jones

Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In" campaign is gaining momentum within the legal community. In recent weeks, five Am Law 200 firms have joined more than 150 companies and organizations committed to the campaign that encourages women to openly discuss the challenges they face at home and at work. Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, jumpstarted the campaign with a 2010 speech at a TEDWomen conference addressing the lack of women leaders in business and politics. The campaign is based on the idea that women will advance in the workplace by talking with each other and their male counterparts.

In October of 2012, the National Association of Women Lawyers reported that although women and men enter law firms in equal numbers, on average, women account for just 15 percent of the equity partners within the nation’s 200 largest law firms. The American Lawyer also reported in January that few women are represented in firms at the management committee level.

The Am Law 200 firms that have committed to the "Lean In" campaign, including Fenwick & West; Sidely Austin; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe; Weil, Gotshal & Manges; and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, welcome the chance to join the conversation. According to Carter Phillips, cochair of Sidley Austin’s executive committee, one of the campaign’s draws is the opportunity to pool resources with non-legal industries. Meredith Moore, Weil’s global diversity director and social responsibility director, embraces the “renewed energy around this conversation.” Weil has even launched a new mentoring program pairing one male partner and one female partner with a small group of female associates. The ultimate goal of joining the campaign, as stated by Fenwick partner Ted Wang, is "to really get people involved."

Keywords: woman advocate, litigation,advancement, careers

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