In a survey of the 250 largest law firms by headcount in the nation, the National Law Review found a slow increase in the number of female partners at these firms.
According to the survey, from 2003 to 2011, the percentage of women at these firms who are partners increased from 16 percent to 18 percent, while the percentage of female equity partners has remained at 15 percent.
The review also reported three of the highest-earning large firms in the nation have more than 20 percent of their partner group represented by women, including New York firms Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; Willkie, Farr & Gallagher; and Davis, Polk & Wardwell.
Newark's McCarter & English has been recognized this year by the Women in Law Empowerment Forum for its inclusion of women in leadership ranks. Half of the firm's practice group leaders are female, and two women sit on the executive committee.
Sherilyn Pastor, partner at McCarter & English and head of the insurance coverage practice group, said the firm's culture, not any particular program, is what makes having women in leadership roles a non-event. Pastor also sits on the executive committee.
"Although we have initiatives, our ranking is more a product of the fact that we have a commitment to gender equality at the firm, and the firm has always been in the forefront of promoting women in the profession. We offer our young women strong role models, but role models who are in positions of authority," Pastor said. "They can see their development and advancement opportunities by seeing people in positions of authority."
"When it comes to diversity, some people say diversity is inviting people to the dance, but inclusion is asking them to get up and dance," Pastor said. "We've done a good job at McCarter of getting people up and dancing."