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August 14, 2007

Comments

Former Assoc Firm on List

I now have confirmation that these surveys mean nothing. For every Stepford associate that the firm finds to give a positive review, you will find someone who is afraid to tell you the awful truth. I am even afraid and I have left the firm! When I told my NY partner that I needed to leave work 3 days a week at 5pm for childcare, but then resume work from home so that I could make my hours, she basically told me that what I was doing was wrong. When I complained about this to HR, they stopped giving me work and I was forced to leave. So much for progress.

Deborah Epstein Henry

Eight years ago, as a commercial litigator, I founded Flex-Time Lawyers LLC, a consulting firm advising lawyers and employers on work/life balance and the retention and promotion of women. In 2006, I met with Working Mother to propose conducting a national survey on work/life and women's issues and to create a list of the Best Law Firms for Women. My motivation was simple: use competition as an instrument of change. As I brainstormed with Working Mother, many concerns came to mind: celebrating firms too soon; encouraging bragging rights; creating complacency; and minimizing the struggles of women lawyers. These are the same concerns raised by some blog posts. I believe these concerns are outweighed by the long term benefits of running a survey that will help overcome obstacles for women lawyers. These benefits include: using competition as an instrument of change; creating a benchmarking standard; sharing information to open the dialogue for women and facilitate policy changes; empowering women law students to become another pressure point for change; and raising the visibility of work/life and women's issues.

I have watched as the numbers of women partners at law firms, the numbers of women leaders at law firms, the numbers of women rainmakers, the numbers of women working flexibly and the numbers of women advancing while working flexibly, have remained exceedingly low and stagnant. It is long overdue to create a baseline for law firms not only to let them know where they stand today but, more importantly, to help them improve their future standing. Many firms are poised to start devoting significant attention and resources to improve their retention and promotion of women. However, they do not even know their strengths and weaknesses or where to start. Firms that elected to participate in our free survey of about 500 questions received a scorecard giving them a snapshot of how they compared to the other applicants. Firms have also been invited to purchase an extensive benchmarking report to begin answering their own questions to reverse the gender gap. The profession as a whole will benefit from the survey through an article I will author later this year reporting on the data and trends we identified in law firms relating to programs, policies, usage rates and representation of women. The ultimate objective of the Best Law Firms for Women list is to invigorate a dialogue, measure where we are, arm firms and lawyers with information to change, create a competition and compulsion among firms, and continue to raise the bar of what makes a best law firm for women. For an article that explains the survey methodology and provides a more thorough discussion of why the Best Law Firms for Women initiative is so important, please see http://www.flextimelawyers.com/best/why.pdf and for more information about the initiative, please see http://www.flextimelawyers.com/best.asp.

Deborah Epstein Henry, Esq.
Founder & President
Flex-Time Lawyers LLC
dehenry@flextimelawyers.com
www.flextimelawyers.com

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