Amid the recent spate of reporting about how women in law firms are undercompensated as compared to men, I think it does a disservice to the profession to not state what I know to be true. As the Global Chair of the Women in Law Empowerment Forum (WILEF), I consider myself the ultimate insider as to how women are faring as they enter the practice of law and continue to grow. And here’s the good news: Many of the women in Big Law are compensated at levels equal to or higher than their male counterparts. And what’s more, there are countless women who are completely satisfied with their lives as attorneys in Big Law.
Yes, there are challenges. At WILEF we like to call it achieving “work life integration,” a term I first heard used by Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix in describing the environment of his company. WILEF’s focus has always been on business development and leadership—the two major components of law firm life that account for the success ratio. Our mission is to teach women to navigate the Big Law experience to become successful. In all the feedback we receive, we know we are accomplishing this. It doesn’t take a village, but rather a world of understanding to nurture and develop the women who pass through the doors of Big Law.
Last month WILEF celebrated its Tenth Anniversary. I view these past 10 years as a milestone in helping women in Big Law attain their career and personal goals. A testament to this achievement is the level of attention that has been accorded our Gold Standard Certification initiative. In case you are not familiar with it, law firms apply for Certification by meeting certain criteria. Since its inception many firms have achieved the Gold Standard multiple times. And more good news—firms that have not achieved the Gold Standard are working toward it. There is a consciousness-raising about the promotion, retention and compensation of women in Big Law, and law leaders—most of them men—recognize the importance of helping their women get to the top of the food chain.
At WILEF’s annual meeting, attended by close to 60 women (and one man), I spent some of my time looking around the room. The joy I felt at seeing this very successful group interacting with each other reinforced for me that all the “noise” about women in Big Law being unhappy, overworked and undercompensated is just not a true depiction. WILEF not only focuses on women partners. We have a robust Young Lawyers Committee. Frankly, I have never experienced such enthusiasm for the profession. The Committee members and all of their colleagues who attend our events are totally engaged in their professional lives. If these women are the future of the profession, we are indeed lucky.
I’ve spent a good number of years focusing on women in Big Law. I love what I do because I truly believe that I am in the midst of greatness. I resent all the bad karma. Let it cease and desist.