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Woman Not Gaining Ground In Big Law Firms

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Report of the Eighth Annual NAWL National Survey on Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms


CHICAGO – In its eighth year, the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL®) and The NAWL Foundation's® annual Survey on Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms reveals not much has changed in its findings of compensation, leadership roles, rainmaking, and equity partnership at the nation's largest 200 firms. The data this year revealed the same trend as in previous years: the greatest percentage of women (64 percent) occupy the lowest positions in firms (staff attorneys) and the highest positions in firms (equity partners) are occupied by the lowest percentage of women (17 percent). In comparison, the 2012 survey reported 15 percent equity partners were women and 70 percent staff attorneys were women.

"This year's results reinforce that women in private practice continue to face barriers to reaching the highest positions in their firms – as equity partners and members of governance committees," said Stephanie Scharf, report author, Past President of The NAWL Foundation, and Partner at Scharf Banks Marmor LLC. "It is troubling that women make up the large majority of staff attorneys – those lawyers in the lowest echelon of law firms – at the same time they make up a static minority (on average 17%) of equity partners in BigLaw."

Highlights of the survey include:

  • There continues to be a disproportionately low number of women who advance into the highest ranks of large firms – in spite of a decades-old pipeline of women law school graduates. Since the mid-1980's, more than 40 percent of law school graduates have been women, but the typical firm reported less than 20 percent of its equity partners are women.
  • Lateral hiring at the level of equity partner favors men. While approximately 66 percent of all new male equity partners are recruited laterally, about one-half of new female equity partners are recruited laterally.
  • The large majority of firms will not report data about compensation of their men and women lawyers. This year, 33 firms declined to participate in the survey although they previously participated in the survey as recently as last year.
  • The gender composition of law firm governing and compensation committees impacts the extent of the gender pay gap within a firm. For the 31 firms with two or more women on these committees, women equity partners earn 95 percent of their male counterparts. In contrast, for the 17 firms without this level of gender representation, women equity partners earn only 85 percent.
  • Women continue to lag behind men with respect to credit for rainmaking and client revenue. Among the nation's 100 largest law firms, women are credited for roughly 80 percent of the client billings credited to men. Among the second hundred firms, women are credited with 89 percent.
  • Firms view women's perceived lack of business development and high rate of attrition as the two primary reasons why the number of women equity partners has not been increasing. Lack of business development was identified as the greatest obstacle by 44 percent of firms. Attrition was an obstacle identified by 31 percent of firms.
  • Minority women lawyers are not being advanced consistent with the available pipeline and are advanced less often than male minority lawyers. In the 100 largest law firms, female minorities occupy 2 percent of equity partnerships compared to 6 percent male minorities. In the second hundred firms, women minorities occupy 2 percent compared to 4 percent male minorities.
  • Formal succession planning has not been a means of identifying and grooming women leaders. An overwhelming 95 percent of firms have not identified their next managing partner and 70 percent of firms do not have a formal succession planning process for practice group leaders.

"The survey has become the gold standard of surveys on retention and promotion of women in the legal profession. The survey captures the progress, or lack thereof, of women lawyers forging long-term careers and attaining leadership roles in large law firms, including the obstacles they face along the way. In addition, it provides important benchmarking statistics for firms to use in measuring their own progress," said NAWL President Deborah S. Froling, Partner at Arent Fox LLP in Washington, DC.

NAWL Foundation Board member and report co-author, Roberta Liebenberg, Partner at Fine, Kaplan and Black and Chair of the American Bar Association Commission on Women, described the survey's results as: "basically showing very little progress, after years of very little progress. Unfortunately, the current statistics are not significantly different from what they were when the first NAWL Survey was released in 2006."

Liebenberg adds: "The paradigm will not change unless and until the country's largest firms make a real commitment to implement more equitable policies and practices for compensation, client origination credit and advancement to equity partnership and leadership positions. It is clear from our research over the years that when individual women lawyers advance and succeed, so too do their law firms and clients."

Christine A. Amalfe, President of the NAWL Foundation and Director at Gibbons P.C. in Newark, NJ, described the survey as "the only national study of the nation's 200 largest law firms, which annually tracks the progress of women lawyers at all levels of private practice, including the most senior positions, and collects data on firms as a whole rather than from a subset of individual lawyers."

"Every year, dedicated women lawyers who serve on our Survey Committee donate hundreds of hours to this important project. Because of their insight and commitment, the NAWL Survey on the Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms continues to exist. We cannot thank them enough for their work," added Amalfe.

The full NAWL Survey Report can be accessed by visiting: or Since 1899, the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL®) has been committed to fostering diversity and advancing women in the legal profession. NAWL is the only national women's bar association with individual and organizational members nationwide, including law firms, law firm attorneys, corporations, in-house counsel, government attorneys, law schools, and law school professors. Please visit

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For further information contact:

Christine Amalfe
NAWL Foundation Board, President and Co-Author
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Deborah S. Froling
NAWL, President
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Stephanie A. Scharf
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Roberta Liebenberg
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Female Powerbrokers Q&A: Gibbons' Christine Amalfe

Law360, New York (February 03, 2014, 1:59 PM ET) -- Christine Amalfe chairs the employment and labor law department at Gibbons PC and serves on the firm’s executive committee and as its human resources general counsel. She defends single-plaintiff, multiplaintiff and class claims under state and federal employment laws, as well as state and federal whistleblower claims. She defends actions before FINRA, the NFA, and the AAA. She also represents defendants in actions alleging trade secret misappropriation, breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress, breach of fiduciary duty, violation of restrictive covenants, negligent supervision, fraud, and negligent misrepresentation. Additionally, Amalfe conducts training for clients. She serves on the New Jersey Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Expedited Civil Actions.

She is dedicated to women’s professional advancement. She co-founded the Catalyst Award-winning Gibbons women’s initiative. She holds the New Jersey State Bar Association’s at-large trustee position reserved for a woman (having previously been trustee for its Women in the Profession Section and on its Task Force on Work-Life Balance). She is president of the National Association of Women Lawyers Foundation and a member of New Jersey Women Lawyers Association and New Jersey Council on Gender Parity.

Read more: Female Powerbrokers Q&A: Gibbons' Christine Amalfe

Nancy Laben, VP of the NAWL Foundation, Named Vice President and General Counsel

Nancy Laben Joins Booz Allen Hamilton as Executive Vice President and General Counsel

McLean, Virginia – Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. has named Nancy Laben as Executive Vice President and General Counsel, effective September 30, 2013. She succeeds Robert S. Osborne who is retiring from the firm. Laben joins Booz Allen from the Fortune 500 engineering, design, and architecture company AECOM Technologies, where she was General Counsel.

Laben will lead the firm's Law Department which spans numerous functions including corporate governance, government contract law, employment law, securities law, and investigations. She will be a member of Booz Allen's Executive Management Committee, and will be based at the firm's McLean, VA headquarters.

At AECOM Technologies, Laben was responsible for all legal support and led a team of 55 attorneys, as well as contract advisors and outside counsel. She previously served as Deputy General Counsel at Accenture where she held senior positions supporting Accenture's US, Europe, and Asia business, and prior to Accenture, she served in the Law Department at IBM Corporation.

Laben holds a BA degree in Government and East Asian studies, with honors, from Smith College, and a JD degree from Columbia University School of Law.;
About Booz Allen Hamilton

Booz Allen Hamilton is a leading provider of management consulting, technology, and engineering services to the U.S. government in defense, intelligence, and civil markets, and to major corporations, institutions, and not-for-profit organizations. Booz Allen is headquartered in McLean, Virginia, employs more than 23,000 people, and had revenue of $5.76 billion for the 12 months ended March 31, 2013.

NAWL Foundation Board Announces 2013-2014 Officers

(Chicago, IL) – The NAWL Foundation is pleased to announce the naming of Christine A. Amalfe as the President of the Foundation for 2013-2014.

Ms. Amalfe is a director and chair of the Employment & Labor Law Department at Gibbons PC in Newark, NJ and has been a member at large on the NAWL Foundation Board since 2008. She brings a great depth and understanding about issues related to women in the profession. Ms. Amalfe praised Past President, Stephanie A. Scharf , for her exceptional dedication and service to the Foundation. "Let me begin by thanking Stephanie for her dedication to the NAWL Foundation and the hard work it took to grow the Foundation over the past five years." "I look forward to continuing to grow the foundation and empower the board members as together we continue to promote the valuable mission of the NAWL Foundation.

Other Newly Elected Officers for 2013-2014 include:
Nancy Laben, Vice President
Barbara M. Flom, Secretary
Margaret Foster, Treasurer
Stephanie A. Scharf, Past President

NAWL Foundation President and Gibbons Director Christine Amalfe Elected At-Large Trustee Of The New Jersey State Bar Association

(Chicago, IL) – Christine A. Amalfe, NAWL Foundation President and Chair of the Employment & Labor Law Department at Gibbons P.C., has been elected At-Large Trustee of the New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA). In this position, which is designated for a woman by the NJSBA bylaws and Board of Trustees, Ms. Amalfe will advocate for the women lawyers of the state and work to increase the involvement of women in the organization. read more

Do Women’s Initiatives Work?

Once again the Foundation's research is used as the gold standard for benchmarking women's progress. In the ABA June Journal the NAWL Foundation Survey Report on Women's Initiatives in Law Firms is cited. Deborah Graham is author of the article, "Do Women's Initiatives Work?" To read the article click here

NAWL Foundation President Speaks at Women's Initiatives Webinar

Gender Bias Against Women in the Law
Where We Are and What We Can Do About It
April 18, 2013

Although women have been graduating from law school in large numbers for several decades, many fewer women than men have advanced into senior law firm positions and leadership roles. Since 2006, NAWL and the NAWL Foundation have surveyed law firms on their retention and promotion of women lawyers, and most recently on the role played by Women's Initiatives for advancing legal careers. The results offer surprises as well as recommendations for women lawyers and their firms. NAWL, the Coalition of Women's Initiatives in Law, the CBA Alliance, and Ms. JD have joined together to co-sponsor a presentation on the latest research into women's initiatives in law firms. Come learn more about this unique research, its implications for eliminating gender bias and the steps firms can take to advance women lawyers.

Jennifer K. Gust, Partner, Hinshaw and Culbertson LLP
Board Member, Coalition of Women's Initiatives in Law
Stephanie A. Scharf, Partner, Scharf Banks Marmor LLC
President, NAWL Foundation
Janet Wallace, Associate, Duggan Smith & Heath LLP
Vice President, Ms. JD

Leslie Richards-Yellen, Partner/Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer
Hinshaw and Culbertson LLP/Board Member, National Association of
Women Lawyers

To view the report on the National Survey of Women's Initiatives, please click here for the report.
We will be addressing questions about the survey and its results as part of the panel presentation. Please send your questions by April 10, 2013 to Sarretta McDonough, NAWL Board Member, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .
For more information visit

Sandberg's Lean In Movement

The 2012 National Survey on the Retention and Promotion of Women Report was referenced in the "The Am Law Daily" article  "Five Am Law 200 Firms Join Sandberg's "Lean In" Campaign.
To read the report and the article click on the titles.

NAWL Foundation Board Members in the News

March 7, 2013 NAWL Foundation Board President Stephanie Scharf will speak at the ABA Midwest Regional Summit for Women General Counsel and Senior Women In-House Counsel, "Capture Your Power: Your Role in Advancing Yourself and Other Women in the Legal Profession," on the topic "The Power of the Purse: Who Has It and How Do You Get It." Ms. Scharf is a partner at the firm Scharf Banks Marmor LLC.

On March 1, 2013 NAWL Foundation Board President Stephanie Scharf spoke at the New York University School of Law Symposium "Breaking the Glass Ceciling" on the topic, "Gravel to the Class: Strategies for Reform."   She was joined by NAWL Foundation Board Member Roberta Liebenberg who spoke on a panel entitled "Bridging the Divide between Firm Expectations and Women's Choice."  Ms. Scharf is a partner at the firm Scharf Banks Marmor LLC. Ms. Liebenberg is a senior partner at the firm Fine Kaplan Black RPC.

In the February 23, 2013 edition of Crain's Chicago Business, NAWL Foundation Board Member Nancy Laben was interviewed for the article "Why the General Counsel's Job is Becoming Women's Work".  Click to read the article.  Ms. Laben is Senior Vice President and Legal General Counsel at AECOM.

Roberta Liebenberg Honored at Chambers Women in Law Awards Ceremony

Roberta Liebenberg, a partner at Fine, Kaplan and Black in Philadelphia, was the recipient of the inaugural award for "Outstanding Contributions to Gender Diversity and Equality" at the Chambers Women in Law Awards ceremony in New York City on January 15, 2013. Ms. Liebenberg currently serves as Chair of the American Bar Association's Gender Equity Task Force. She previously served as Chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession; Chair of the Pennsylvania Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession; and Co-Chair of the Philadelphia Bar Association Women in the Profession Committee.

Women’s Initiatives in BigLaw Are Abundant and ‘Woefully Underfunded,’ Report Says

ABA JOURNAL- Women’s Initiatives in BigLaw Are Abundant and ‘Woefully Underfunded'

First-Ever National Survey of Women's Initiatives In Law Firms-Released by NAWL Foundation

NAWL Foundation Women's Initiative Survey Report

(Chicago, IL) – Today, The NAWL Foundation®, the research and charitable arm of the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL), released the results of its National Survey of Women's Initiatives: The Strategy, Structure And Scope Of Women's Initiatives In Law Firms, the first-ever national survey of its kind. The Survey provides benchmark data about the types of activities that take place under the sponsorship of women's affinity groups in law firms, the funding, oversight and expectations for such groups, and the factors that enhance or impede the success of women's initiatives. Among the conclusions of the study are that women's initiatives need to take a more strategic approach to their goals and activities, and also that firms are not devoting enough resources to women's initiatives, especially in light of the positive business impact that strong women's affinity groups can provide.

NAWL Foundation President Stephanie Scharf, author of the study, expressed the Foundation's "excitement at sponsoring and bringing the results of this research to the legal profession. For the first time, law firms and women's initiatives will have objective data with which to assess their activities and make decisions going forward about how their women's initiatives can best work to advance women lawyers."

"In describing the strategy, financing, governance, structure and scope of activities of women's initiatives, the Survey provides a national context for assessing the impact of women's initiatives," said Barbara Flom, co-Chair of the NAWL National Survey Committee and Secretary of the NAWL Foundation. "An important message from the results is the need to focus more clearly on concrete strategies and techniques to enable women lawyers to advance in firms."

Pat Gillette, co-Chair of the NAWL National Survey Committee and partner at Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe LLP, observed that "our hope is that law firms use the data from the Survey to enhance the impact of their women's initiatives – to understand how women's initiatives can be important to the business of the firm and provide the support that women's initiatives deserve."

Roberta Liebenberg, NAWL Foundation Board Member and a partner at Fine Kaplan and Black, said "Unfortunately, the pace of progress for women at most law firms has been unacceptably slow, and therefore the NAWL National Survey on Women Initiatives is vitally important because it shines a much-needed spotlight on innovative and effective strategies that law firms can utilize to empower their women lawyers and enable them to advance and succeed. Women's Initiatives can be an effective vehicle to make sure that women lawyers are being provided with fair and equitable assignments; are given appropriate origination credit; and are being groomed for succession and for leadership positions within the firm."

Findlaw: Troubling Statistics on the Progress of Women Lawyers

Findlaw: Troubling Statistics on the Progress of Women Lawyers

The Pay Gap - Forbes

Forbes: The Pay Gap

ABA Journal: Women in Big Law Firms Survey Report

ABA Journal: Women in Big Law Firms Survey Report

NAWL Foundation Announces the Appointment of Stephanie A. Scharf to the ABA Commission on Women In The Profession

(Chicago, IL) – The American Bar Association has appointed Stephanie A. Scharf, President of The NAWL Foundation and Partner at Scharf Banks Marmor LLP, to serve on the ABA’s Commission on Women in the Profession. The Commission is comprised of twelve members appointed by the ABA President. Its mission is to secure the full and equal participation of women in the ABA, the legal profession, and the justice system. Mary B. Cranston, Senior Partner and immediate past Chair of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, is the new chair of the ABA Commission. In 2005, Ms. Cranston was the recipient of the Margaret Brent Award, the American Bar Association’s highest award for women lawyers given for legal excellence and for paving the way for other women lawyers. “I have known Stephanie Scharf for many years and have the highest respect for her leadership and commitment to advancing women in the legal profession,” stated Ms. Cranston. “As a Past President of the National Association of Women Lawyers, Stephanie created many new platforms for the voice of women in the profession to be heard. She introduced cutting-edge research through her work at NAWL that has had massive impact on the legal profession. We are thrilled that she is joining the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession. She is a distinguished lawyer and a champion of women,” stated Ms. Cranston. In 2006 Ms. Scharf designed and launched the NAWL Annual Survey of Retention and Promotion of Women in Law firms. The survey, which has been conducted annually since 2006, is the only national study of the nation’s 200 largest law firms that annually tracks at all levels of private practice, including the most senior positions. Formed in 2008, The NAWL Foundation has become a leading center for innovative research and education about women in the law. Ms. Scharf joins two other NAWL Foundation Directors currently serving on the ABA Commission, Patricia Gillette, partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, and Lisa Horowitz, Director of Professional Development at McDermott Will & Emery LLP. NAWL Foundation Director Roberta D. Liebenberg, partner at Fine, Kaplan & Black, R.P.C., chaired the ABA Commission from 2008 to 2012. “I am honored and delighted to serve on the ABA Commission,” stated Ms. Scharf. “Since its founding, the ABA Commission has made significant contributions to the advancement of women in the law. I look forward to working with my fellow volunteers and incoming President Laurel Bellows to continue the important work being done,” she added. Ms. Scharf received a Ph.D. in Behavioral Sciences/Psychology and a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School. Prior to forming Scharf Banks Marmor, she was at partner at Schoeman, Updike & Kaufman LLP, Jenner & Block LLP and Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Ms. Scharf concentrates her legal practice on complex litigation. She has represented clients in federal and state courts nationwide. She has been named by Diversity & the Bar as a Top Women Lawyer, Law Dragon magazine as a Leading Litigator and has been listed in Illinois SuperLawyers every year since 2005. She received the Product Liability Advisory Council’s Presidents Award in 2011. Before practicing law, she was a University Harper Fellow and Senior Study Director at the National Opinion Research Center (NORC).