I'm quite jaded about those "best places to work" lists, particularly ones touting employers that purport to be good to women, children, and pets. But I do like Yale Law Women's annual "Top Ten Family-Friendly Firms" list.
Why? First, Yale Law Women is not a commercial venture, so there's no consulting arm that's tutoring firms on how to get on the list. Second, it's not dependent on employers' submissions (YLW weighs firm submissions against responses received from questionaires sent to its alums). Third, the Yalies seem awfully earnest and nerdy about the way they compile the list. "We have statisticians [who are students], and the survey is blind," says 2-L Carly Zubrycki, the chair of the list. "We assign random numbers to firms, so I don't even know their score during the process."
Now the official Yale's sixth annual list for 2011:
Arnold & Porter
Covington & Burling
Dorsey & Whitney
Kirkland & Ellis
Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman
Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr
Granted, it's a small, selective list that probably omits some worthy contenders--just like admission to Yale Law. Two firms on the list last year that got dropped are Debevoise & Plimpton and Steptoe & Johnson. But Zubrycki cautions against reading too much into it: It's "possible for a firm that made the list last year to have submitted similar numbers, or even improved numbers, this year but to have nonetheless been beaten by a firm who improved more."
Anyway, here's the good news from the survey:
Flexible and part-time work options are also becoming the norm: 100 percent of responding firms offer a part-time option, and 98 percent offer a flextime option, in which attorneys bill full-time hours while regularly working outside the office. More than 99 percent of part-time requests were granted on average at responding firms. On average, 7 percent of attorneys at these firms were working part-time in 2010.
The not-so-good news:
Although YLW found that, on average, 45 percent of associates at responding law firms are women, women make up only 17 percent of equity partners and 18 percent of firm executive management committees. Additionally, on average, women made up just 27 percent of newly promoted partners in 2010.
And the bad news:
Despite the greater availability of flexible work arrangements, part-time work may still limit one’s career. . . Women make up the vast majority (81 percent) of the 7 percent of attorneys working part-time. . . . Part-time work is rarely used by attorneys in leadership positions. Of the 7 percent of attorneys working part-time, only 11 percent were partners, a number that may also include partners approaching retirement. Only 5 percent of the partners promoted in 2010 had worked part-time in the past, on average, and only 4 percent were working part-time when they were promoted.
In other words, the study reinforces what we already know: Don't count on making it to the top as a part-timer. Yes, some women have done it--like Audra Cohen of Sullivan & Cromwell--but how many times have we heard the same names?
Which brings up another question: Do men really pay attention to this kind of list? "There are times when we’re frustrated that men are not as interested in this issue," says Zubrycki, though she adds, "A lot of men realize it's not just a woman's issue."
I also found this encouraging trend: This year, 85 percent of the men used the maximum parental leave offered, while only 51.4 percent did the year before. Frankly, I was floored by that jump.
So maybe there is a bit of movement on the equality front.
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