January 2013 Bar Bulletin
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January 2013 Bar Bulletin

Women Lawyers Can Surmount Power Barriers

By Jamila Johnson and Theresa Wang


In U.S. law firms, women make up 45 percent of associates and comprise 70 percent of part-time lawyers. In law schools, 50 percent of students are women. But less than 5 percent of law firms have female managing partners and women make up less than 15 percent of equity partners in firms. And only 6 percent of partners with a book of business exceeding $500,000 are women.

These were the discouraging demographics presented by Patricia Gillette, a rainmaker at Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, at a recent gathering of the American Bar Association's "Women in Law Leadership Academy." The message: It's time that women make greater strides at defining themselves as rainmakers and not just "client service" partners.

But what steps can you or your firm take to change the landscape? The following tips come from various speakers at the Academy

Promote Your Wins within the Firm

"Don't mistake modesty for stupidity," Judge Angela Bradstreet said in front of a crowd of hundreds of women.

Bradstreet, a Superior Court judge in San Francisco, was one of many who gathered in a hotel ballroom in San Francisco last month. Bradstreet created the No Glass Ceiling Initiative that has been endorsed by more than 90 law firms and corporate legal departments. She recommended being clear about your accomplishments.

When you win a motion, say so. Leave out the part about being scared or making minor mistakes during the hearing. You won. Let people know. If your client gives you good feedback, make sure others know. This may make attorneys in the office more comfortable with you having direct contact with their clients.

Self-promotion won't solve all the obstacles, but it's a good place to start.

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