NEW YORK – An inaugural study of law firms conducted by McKinsey & Company and championed by Thomson Reuters finds that law firms are taking important steps to increase gender equality; however, more needs to be done to balance gender representation at post-associate levels. There is room to improve on measures including attrition and promotions and also employee perceptions and experiences as they relate to an inclusive environment. The study was conducted as part of the broader McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.Org Women in the Workplace 2017 research.
Thomson Reuters championed the inaugural law firm deep dive by facilitating access to law firms and their diversity leaders. Twenty-three firms, primarily representing the Am Law 100 category, participated in the Pipeline and the Policies & Programs surveys, while over 2,500 lawyers completed an employee survey designed to explore their experiences regarding gender, opportunity, career and work-life issues. The survey was conducted during the second quarter of 2017.
The study has revealed a pipeline that begins with near parity across associate levels. Findings show that women in law firms receive first-time promotions 11 percent less often than men, which exceeds first-promotion rates across the entire Women in the Workplace sample. Following on, however, female lawyers are 29 percent less likely to be promoted to the first level of partnership than men. At the equity-partner level in law firms, women are 43 percent more likely to leave than men based on a one-year data sample, a gap that is much higher than in other industries.
“At Thomson Reuters, a commitment to diversity and inclusion is at the top of our agenda, and we know that is also true for our customers in the legal industry,” said Charlotte Rushton, managing director of U.S. Large and Midsize Law Firms for Thomson Reuters and executive co-sponsor of its Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law initiative. “We were honored to do our part by leading law firm recruitment for this study, and we admire all the participating firms that have contributed to this important new analysis that we hope will move the industry closer to its collective diversity goals,” she said.
“Our inaugural legal study reveals that while law firms clearly take gender diversity seriously and have made strong efforts to increase it, challenges remain and new approaches will be required to arrive at the desired outcomes,” said Marc Brodherson, partner at McKinsey & Company. “A better understanding of female lawyers’ actual experiences within the law firm environment will provide leaders with the critical insights needed to accelerate the pace of change,” he added.
Additional key findings include:
- Women of color account for 16 percent of attorneys at the entry level but experience the steepest decline in representation as lawyers’ careers advance, accounting for 3 percent of equity partners and 4 percent of managing partners.
- The strength and depth of client relationships is perceived by female attorneys as the number-two factor in the partner-election decision (second only to profitability), and they believe they have less opportunity to network with clients than men do.
- While women are more likely than men to say their supervising attorney or partner has helped their career, more men than women believe they receive adequate coaching in their firms.
- While all law firms call gender diversity a very important or a top priority, only 36 percent of women believe that gender diversity is a priority for their firm, compared with 62 percent of men.
The Women in the Workplace law firm study summarizes many more key findings, including helpful infographics. The paper is available here: https://www.mckinsey.com/Global-Themes/Gender-Equality/Women-in-law-firms
Women in the Workplace 2017 is a comprehensive study of the state of women in corporate America. This research is part of a long-term partnership between LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company to give organizations the information they need to promote women’s leadership and foster gender equality.
To download the 2017 Women in the Workplace report, please visit www.womenintheworkplace.com.
Thomson Reuters is the world’s leading source of news and information for professional markets. Our customers rely on us to deliver the intelligence, technology and expertise they need to find trusted answers. The business has operated in more than 100 countries for more than 100 years. For more information, visit www.thomsonreuters.com.
McKinsey & Company