September 2016 Bar Bulletin
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September 2016 Bar Bulletin

K&L Gates Opening Doors for Women

By Catherine Collins


Where Sheryl Sandberg urges women professionals to “lean in,” K&L Gates makes it happen for the women attorneys in its offices.

Janice Hartman is K&L Gates’ global development partner and chair of the firm’s Women in the Profession (WIP) Committee. The WIP Committee works across nearly 2,000 attorneys and 46 offices, including a presence on the firm’s Management Committee, with a particular focus on professional development, leader preparation, and visibility for firm leaders and role models.

In honor of this commitment, K&L Gates was recently named to Yale Law Women’s prestigious list of the Top 10 Family Friendly Firms of 2016. The survey monitors trends in the legal industry, and considers law firm policies relating to part-time and flex-time options, parental leave and family accommodations, gender equity, billing requirements, and professional development.

“Our recognition by Yale Law Women is a testament to the environment we strive to create at our firm,” Hartman said.

The Seattle office of K&L Gates brings the firm-wide strategy to a local level and has its own WIP committee focused on professional and leadership development while creating a supportive community. Led by partner Sarah Bowman, the group works “to ensure, as the Seattle office grows, that our office remains best-in-class for family-
friendly practices and continues to be a place where women lawyers are able to contribute their best to the firm and to our clients.”

In addition to the Yale Law Women recognition, last year K&L Gates was named the Outstanding Firm for Furthering Women’s Advancement (Recruitment, Retention and Promotion) in the Chambers Women in Law Awards, USA 2015. The award recognizes firms and corporations that provide a work environment in which female lawyers can thrive.

Crafting flexible policies has been one key to success with women lawyer recruitment, retention and promotion. The firm’s robust Balanced Hours program offers support to lawyers, both male and female, with caregiving responsibilities, and is customized to meet the unique needs of the lawyer, the firm and clients, often involving reduced hours or remote working schedules.

The firm has shown that a balanced hours schedule can be part of a viable route to partnership. Numerous lawyers have been promoted to partner while on a balanced hours schedule and can continue working on a balanced hours schedule into partnership.

In fact, the Seattle office’s current administrative partner, Pallavi Wahi, was on leave shortly after the birth of her son when she was selected to lead the approximately 175-attorney Seattle office. “It was a lot to take on at that time, but I had confidence that the firm would support me as the mother of a young child, as they have done, and I was honored by the opportunity,” said Wahi.

As firms adopt more family-
friendly practices, both Bowman and Wahi recognize the importance of personalized attention. Partner Kristy Harlan remembers: “When my daughter faced a serious health crisis, the firm had my back. They worked with my situation to provide the flexibility I needed to continue serving my clients while focusing on my family’s needs.”

Wahi notes that, along with thoughtful, inclusive policies, “we keep our focus on investing in the best talent. That means relentless, individualized attention. It is daily work, but very rewarding to be recognized by organizations like Yale Law Women and Chambers USA for our efforts”.

The annual Yale Law Women survey monitors trends in the legal industry, and considers law firm policies relating to part-time and flex-time options, parental leave and family accommodations, gender equity, billing requirements, and professional development. The survey analyzed publicly available information from the National Association of Law Placement for nearly 70 law firms and weighed that data based on the results of a concurrent survey of Yale Law School alumni currently working at Vault Law 100 firms.

A student-driven organization at Yale Law School, Yale Law Women works to advance the status of women at Yale Law and in the legal profession at-large, providing programming, resources and mentorship opportunities to bolster women’s pursuit of their professional and personal goals.

Catherine Collins is the business development manager at K&L Gates in Seattle.

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