Large law firms evolved to serve major corporations by offering them “lawyers who were white males comfortable with the business elite, with wives at home to free up work time . . . .” After decades of advancing these same lawyers, the result has been a widespread belief that the ideal big firm lawyer is one who is committed to professional life at all hours of the day and night, and whose personal life is either nonexistent or handled by someone else. Women at large law firms have been expected to act accordingly. That is, to act like men. It hasn’t worked.
In November 2019, the American Bar Association released the results of its latest survey of over 1,200 senior attorneys at NLJ 500 law firms as to why women have been “fleeing law firms and the legal profession in droves.” Specifically, why women consistently make up between 45% and 50% of entering law firm associates but account for only 21% of equity partners. The ABA concluded that experienced women leave private practice because of “the stress and time needed to ‘do it all.’ ” The report then makes a number of recommendations for firms to increase the retention of women, including encouraging women to take advantage of part-time and flex-time policies and concierge services for child care and errands. But these solutions are also unlikely to work.