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Law firms 'must change to attract women'

Posted by: Laurence Simons 20/12/12

Top US law firms are still not doing enough to allow women to reach the top and need to introduce a number of measures to make it easier for this to happen, according to a new report.

The 50 Best Law Firms for Women named the businesses doing the best when it comes to this issue, but partner group Flex-Time Lawyers' president Deborah Epstein Henry warned that a change in mentality is needed if this issue is ever to be sorted out once and for all.

This is not because the predominantly male nature of law firm boardrooms isn't something that occurs because women don't go to the weekly five-a-side game or pee standing up, but instead a structural problem that sees female lawyers leave firms before they get enough experience to reach the top ranks, according to Ms Henry.

"Advancing more women and supporting work-life initiatives at the same time requires careful planning on the part of law firm and corporate leaders. Safeguards are needed to ensure that the power message is not diluted and women do not lose credibility," she added.

While most top firms in the US and the UK generally consider law a job where working long hours is crucial, it seems clear that the days of picking up two hours of sleep at your desk with beef chow mein on your tie and half a bottle of whisky in the desk drawer are over.

Authorities such as the Confederation of British Industry have stressed the importance of flexible working with regards to economic growth, and the need to ensure mothers can succeed in top legal careers is another driver when it comes to improving practices across the industry.