Women in the Law

Only one woman has made partner in 25 years at BigLaw firm's Miami office

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Linda Leali didn’t have a lot of role models during her 12 years as an associate at the Miami office of White & Case.

Only one woman has made partner in the firm’s Miami office in 25 years, the Daily Business Review reports. A magna cum laude law grad from the University of Miami, Leali had represented top clients and was active in the community. When she was not promoted to partner this year, Leali left to form her own law firm with a friend.

“While the firm’s women initiative has always been supportive, over the years I have had to look outside the firm in the local community for some role models and mentors,” Leali told the Daily Business Review.

A statement issued by White & Case says the firm is “committed to the success of our women lawyers around the world.” Eighteen percent of the firm’s new partners for 2013 are women, the statement says, though “we still have more to accomplish.”

According to the story, “Leali is not an anomaly. Increasingly, women, frustrated by unequal pay and opportunity for partnership, are leaving BigLaw, taking their chances with smaller firms or by going solo.”

The focus of women lawyers, the story says, has shifted from flex time and work-life balance to money issues such as equal pay, equity partnerships, leadership positions and training in rainmaking. The story cites some statistics showing why women are concerned: A 2010 Florida Bar survey found the median salary of women lawyers in the state is $70,000, compared to a median of $120,000 for male lawyers.

The American Lawyer has results from its own survey of the nation’s top 100 law firms. Almost 80 percent of 92 firms with one or more chief governing committees had two or fewer women on a committee. Eight firms had no women at all on at least one chief governing committee. The most popular explanation for the dismal numbers: It’s difficult to fill the committees with women because of the high rate of attrition of women lawyers.

“Women are largely getting stuck in lower middle management,” one female partner told the magazine, “There is still a moat around the top management, and that keeps the power to a small group of men.”

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