Are you a legal professional? Visit our professional site

How Your Firm Can Be Certified as a Leader in Supporting Women

Article Placeholder Image
By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on June 30, 2015 10:59 AM

Maybe you've heard the news: Even though women are entering the legal field at unprecedented rates, women are still paid less than their male counterparts. Also, women are largely absent from high-level positions in firms.

Some clear progress is being made, however. The Women in Law Empowerment Forum (WILEF) has awarded 44 law firms with its 2015 Gold Standard Certification for their work supporting the progress and empowerment of women in the legal profession. Could your firm join them?

WILEF Certification

When WILEF certifies a firm for "empowering women to the highest levels," it truly demands empowerment. Policies regarding equal pay, recruitment, and support services for women lawyers are great, but WILEF seeks to make sure that firms put their money where their mouth is -- looking at the leadership roles achieved by women equity partners.

To receive WILEF certification, a firm must meet four of WILEF's six criteria. Under these criteria, women must account for at least:

  • 20 percent of equity partners or 33 percent of the last year's new equity partners
  • 10 percent of firm chairs and managing partners
  • 10 percent of the most highly paid partners
  • 20 percent of the firm's governance committee and compensation committee
  • 25 percent of practice group leaders or department heads

Sadly, if you have a great, women-led small or boutique firm, you might not be eligible. WILEF definitely has its eye on Big Law. Only firms with 300 or more lawyers can get certified.

Will Certification Help?

Certification programs have also had positive effects in other industries. For example, the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Certification program is widely praised for expanding the amount of environmental-friendly construction and retrofit projects. The Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index has similarly encouraged many large employers to adopt LGBT-friendly policies and practices.

WILEF's certification can certainly make firms looking to attract more promising new grads and lateral female rainmakers. It may also be helpful in attracting new, equality-minded clients. But, even the certification program shows that progress is needed amongst leading firms. Only six of the 44 certified firms meet every criteria and just a third have a significant amount of women as practice leaders or department heads, according to Inside Counsel.

Related Resources: