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Racial and Ethnic Minorities and the LawThe newsletter of the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Racial and Ethnic Minorities and the Law

June 2008, vol. 2, no. 1

Chicago Bar Association’s Call to Action: Progress on Women in Leadership in the Legal Profession

The Chicago Bar Association’s Alliance for Women put out a Call to Action on women in leadership positions in the legal professions in 2004. The Call to Action has five specific goals, all of which are measured as of December 31, 2007:

1. To increase the percentage of women partners by three points from 2004 levels;

2. To have women represented on the power committees in law firms in the same proportion as they are represented in the partnership;

3. To increase the number of women practice group leaders;

4. To ensure that flexible hours policies and their use are an equitable and viable option; and

5. To improve materially any disparity in the rates in which men and women are retained, promoted and laterally recruited.

Ten law firms took a leadership role with the Call to Action efforts by signing onto its goals before the effort was formally announced: Baker & McKenzie LLP; DLA Piper, Rudnick, Gray, Cary LLP; Jenner & Block LLP; Katten, Muchin Rosenman LLP; Kirkland & Ellis LLP; McGuireWoods LLP; McDermott, Will & Emery LLP; Schiff, Hardin LLP; Sidley, Austin, Rowe & Wood LLP; and Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal LLP. There are 50 signatories to the Call to Action, law firms with Chicago offices and Chicago area corporate legal departments. A complete list of signatories can be found at <http://www.chicagobar.org>.

In 2004, at the initiation of the Call to Action, the average percent of women partners in Chicago law firms was 18.12 percent (National Association for Law Placement). The 2004 Chicago Lawyer’s Diversity Survey showed only 10 law firms that were at or above this average for Chicago. The 2007 average percent of women partners in Chicago law firms was 19.31 percent (National Association for Law Placement). According to the 2007 Chicago Lawyer’s Diversity Survey, not only has the Chicago average increased, but the number of Chicago firms meeting or exceeding that average has increased to 31. Moreover, among the 32 Chicago law firm offices with more than 100 lawyers in 2007, seven report more than 25 percent of their partners are women. Three of the firms exceed 28 percent women partners: Ungaretti & Harris (28.6 percent), McDermott, Will & Emery (28.5 percent) and Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal (28.4 percent).

The Call to Action signatories are currently in the process of completing a survey regarding its five goals as of December 31, 2007. These results will be compared to the baseline for all signatories as of January 1, 2004. Since the inception of the Call to Action, a team of women professionals from Deloitte, led by Claudia Wolf, has done the data analysis on the five goals on an annual basis, assisting the signatories in monitoring their progress on the Call to Action goals and will provide each signatory with its results. Best performers on each Call to Action goal will be announced. Even with definite results for the Call to Action still to come, one thing is sure—there has been progress on the front of women in leadership in Chicago law firms.

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Jane DiRenzo Pigott practiced law for more than two decades before founding R3 Group LLC. She is currently Managing Director of R3 Group, which specializes in leadership and change in connection with diversity. She can be reached at jdpigott@r3group.net. The Call to Action was conceived and announced when Jane and E. Lynn Grayson were Co-Chairs of the Chicago Bar Association’s Alliance for Women. Both Lynn and Jane continue to lead the Alliance efforts to monitor and report on the Call to Action goals.


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