May 28, 2014 Practice Points

Women Lawyers Combat Institutional Bias with Rainmaking

By Suzanne L. Jones

In a recent Bizwomen.com article titled “Female ‘Rainmakers’ Are Boosting the Bottom Line at Law Firms,” Gina Hall noted how women lawyers are increasingly networking amongst themselves and drumming up outside clients in response to internal firm bias which results in white male senior partners transferring their clients to white male junior partners. In a study by Forrest Briscoe of Penn State’s Smeal College of Business, Briscoe attributed this pattern to “institutional bias” and not to a “conscious decision based on discrimination.” Briscoe believes it is a “matter of people’s ‘comfort zones,’ where we tend to gravitate toward people who are more like us or who remind us of our younger selves.” Accordingly, when women are confronted with this internal “institutional bias,” they turn to networking outside of the firm, building impressive client lists.

While the study recognizes that “rainmaking” is risky because it is non-billable, the study also concludes that law firms could benefit by encouraging this networking and by hiring more women skilled at landing clients.  According to the study, “[s]upporting diverse junior partners by enhancing their rainmaking abilities may yield a double payoff in terms of the firm’s overall revenue, as well as diversity goals.”

 

Keywords: woman advocate, litigation, rainmaking, clients, institutional bias, networking

Suzanne L. Jones works at Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP in Minneapolis, Minnesota


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