Thoughts on ways to improve the management of professional services firms

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

How Law Firms Woo Women

In my last post I returned in part to one of my constant themes, the strategic challenge posed by demographic change to all professional services firms. This links to another theme, the changing gender balance in professional training (here) because of the growing dominance of women in university numbers.

Last Friday's Australian Financial Review (15 December) carried a story by Matthew Drummond that exactly that illustrates some of the points I have been trying to make. While the story focuses on law, its conclusions are more broadly relevant.

Drummond begins by noting that while law schools have been turning out more female lawyers than ever before (the female proportion is now over 50 per cent), women still make up fewer than 20 per cent of partners in commercial law firms. However, this is now changing as rising recruitment costs and cut throat competition forces firms to adopt family friendly policies in order to retain women.

Firms are now offering flexible working arrangements for lawyers with young families including improved maternity leave arrangements to compete for talent, especially among partners. Many have recently revised their policies, increasing the industry average to 10 weeks' paid maternity leave for lawyers, 16 for partners.

According to Janean Richards, President of Australian Women Lawyers, keeping women within the firm has become a greater priority in part because real recruitment costs have become so high. This is reflected in the stats - over the last six months women have made up 34.3 per cent of new partners, up from 28.4 per cent in the preceding six months.

This trend must increase if you look at the numbers I have provided in some of my previous posts.

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