New Survey Rates Big Law Policies to Build Gender Equality

Oct. 31, 2018, 9:28 PM

Gender inequities in Big Law have been well documented, but a new survey aims to move the conversation about equality forward by examining which firms are taking key steps to close persistent gender gaps.

Instead of just measuring the number of women firms have in their partnership or leadership ranks, the inaugural “Inclusion Blueprint” survey released this week assigned scores to firms according to their workplace policies.

Top scoring firms were Brooks Kushman and Sheppard Mullin.

The survey was conducted by Diversity Lab, an incubator for diversity and inclusion in the law, and ChIPs, a nonprofit organization focused on advancing and connecting women in technology, law, and policy.

Diversity Lab CEO Caren Ulrich Stacy, who designed the survey, which was mostly issued to AmLaw 200 firms, said its purpose is to interrupt structures and unconscious biases that keep women out of leadership positions.

For example, the survey asked firms whether they track partners’ non-billable office work to make sure it’s equitably distributed across genders.

It also asked firms whether they’ve conducted a pay equity analysis in the past five years, and whether they’ve taken steps to fix any gender pay gaps they found.

“These are the types of activities that will level the playing field and eventually move the needle on the representation of women in law,” said Noreen Krall, ChIPs co-founder and chief litigation counsel for Apple.

Though directed at law firms as a whole, the survey placed a particular emphasis on IP practice groups. Law firms were asked if their IP groups monitor origination credit and specific work experiences, like taking depositions or drafting licenses, to make sure they’re assigned equitably.

The survey was sent to 59 law firms, 35 of which provided answers to Diversity Lab and ChIPs.

“This survey was perfectly crafted to push the envelope,” said Sangeeta Gandhi Shah, shareholder and chief diversity officer at Brooks Kushman. “At our firm, the survey prompted dialogue at the highest levels of management about the change that is needed and underscored areas for improvement.”

After Brooks Kushman and Sheppard Mullin, Baker Botts, Dechert, Goodwin Procter, Morrison & Foerster, Perkins Coie, Reed Smith, Taft Stettinius & Hollister, and White & Case rounded out the Top 10 scorers.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com

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