Author: Colette McIntyre
Contrary to what Legally Blonde (the movie, not the musical, because I’m an adult) taught me, female lawyers don’t wake up to the joyful strains of Hoku every morning. They rarely have to fake their own deaths; and hallucinating a dancing, half-naked baby? Not the norm! In fact, the general consensus is that being a female lawyer is a pretty miserable, thankless existence, especially when said lawyer works in a large firm.
According to a 2012 study by the National Association of Women Lawyers, only four percent of the 200 firms surveyed had female managing partners. While seventy percent of staff lawyers were female, women only made up about fifteen percent of equity partnerships, a number that remained stagnant between 2009 and 2012. The NAWL study concluded that women lawyers are routinely, and disproportionately, disadvantaged.
Is being a large firm female lawyer all just one big bummer? Not necessarily; despite the gender discrepancy in firm leadership roles, some women are facing the challenging environment head on, reaching out to fellow women for assistance, advice, and camaraderie. Forbes interviewed young female lawyers at two AmLaw100 firms — Latham & Watkins and Proskauer, Rose — and they offered a different perspective from NAWL’s numbers.
Katherine Larkin-Wong, a second year lawyer at Latham & Watkins and the President of Ms. J.D, a non-profit geared to help women lawyers achieve parity in the legal world, found that working in BigLaw “means world-class training, cutting edge cases, the chance to quickly develop expertise, the support to do influential pro bono work, economic stability and, perhaps most importantly, the ability to leverage her firm’s resources to create a platform for her own personal leadership growth.”