More Women Partners at Pa. Firms, but Overall Ranks Stagnant

, The Legal Intelligencer

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In 2003, nine of the 89 firms for which data was available reported having no female partners in Pennsylvania.

As was the case last year, labor and employment boutiques topped the list of Pennsylvania firms with the highest percentage of women attorneys. Littler Mendelson has 47 lawyers in Pennsylvania, including 10 female partners, 15 female associates and one female of counsel, meaning women comprise 55.3 percent of the firm's attorney ranks.

Rubin Fortunato came in next with women making up 52.4 percent of its Pennsylvania attorney ranks. The firm has 12 female partners, eight female associates and two female of counsel in the state.

Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott partner Roberta Jacobs-Meadway, one of the co-chairs of the Pennsylvania Bar Association's Women in the Profession Committee, said that when she graduated law school in 1975, half of her classmates were women. The same held true for the two classes before her.

"One would expect, simply from the numbers, that at this point, when my classmates and the classes directly ahead of us are in our sixties, that we would be seeing a significantly higher percentage of women partners than 9.9 or 10 percent," Jacobs-Meadway said.

She said women are reaching a certain point and dropping out of the larger law firms and either going in-house, to academia or to government positions or are leaving the law altogether. It's an easier proposition these days, given technology, for attorneys to start their own firms, Jacobs-Meadway said, and many women are doing just that. So while the overall numbers are stagnant, those women who do stay, she said, appear to be making partner at a slightly increased rate. Though Jacobs-Meadway was far from satisfied with the partner numbers.

"Obviously all of the larger firms need to do a better job in terms of diversity up and down the line because while the statistics for women generally are not where they ought to be, the statistics for women of color are even worse," she said. "There are historical reasons for it, but there are no good reasons anymore for this."

Jacobs-Meadway said the profession hasn't made nearly as much progress as she would have expected when she first moved into the junior partnership ranks. She said, however, that the jump from 7.7 percent to 10 percent could be worse.

"And frankly, considering the current state of the legal market, it could have been a whole lot worse," Jacobs-Meadway said, referring to the effect of layoffs on women attorneys during the recession.

In looking at the PaLaw numbers from 2007, before many Pennsylvania firms began making attorney cuts, women have actually grown their partnership ranks over the course of the recession. Women attorneys made up 29 percent of all lawyers practicing in the Pennsylvania offices of the 100 largest law firms in 2007 and equaled 8.7 percent of the partnership ranks.

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