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What Women Want: Partnership Details

Publication Date: 
February 24, 2010
The AmLaw Daily
Vivia Chen

Professor Michele Dauber is quoted in the AmLaw Daily on law firms denying NALP's request for details about partnership structures:

Women lawyers are furious, and the legal profession at large doesn't even know it. The reason for the fury: law firms dismissed a request made by the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) for details about partnership structures--namely, a breakdown of equity versus non-equity partners in their ranks. This year, NALP tried, and failed, to get those breakdowns, hoping to include the information in its annual Directory of Legal Employers.

Women and minority lawyers say there should be greater transparency about the number of equity and nonequity partners at law firms. It's the difference between having real power and the semblance of power, says Fernande Duffly, a judge on the Massachusetts Appeals Court and a former president of the National Association of Women Judges. Duffly, an advocate for achieving greater diversity in the profession, had pushed NALP to collect the information for the last two years. "If you're making a career selection, you want a place where you have opportunity for real leadership; I think law students want to be full partners," Duffly says in explaining why the breakdown is important. She adds that she has a personal stake in the issue: "Law firm partners are part of the pipeline for our judiciary."


So, the firms are holding back in order to protect their nonequity lawyers? Michele Dauber, a professor at Stanford Law School, doesn't buy it. "It's not about protecting women, it's more about protecting billing rates," Dauber says. "They don't want clients to know who's equity and who's not; ambiguity allows them to bill at higher rates."

Dauber, who also directs the Building a Better Legal Profession program at Stanford, won't let the firms off so easily, but she's also pointing the finger at NALP for failing to hang tough. "They caved in to firms that probably have shameful diversity statistics," she says.