Breaking Barriers: Promoting and Retaining Women in the Legal Profession

This report outlines the benefits of advancing women lawyers and provides best practice and advice from leading experts on how to do so.

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For decades men and women have been graduating from law schools in almost equal numbers and yet this seems to be having little effect on the gender gap in the profession: only 9% of equity partners in the UK are women (20% in the US).

With so many talented female graduates leaving the profession or failing to achieve their potential to fill power positions, law firms and legal departments must ask themselves how they can provide an environment that enables all their lawyers with the best opportunity to advance.

What is more, women lawyers must work with each other – and with the men in their firms – to ensure that they earn their fair share of the credit for work done, and receive the pay rises and promotions they deserve.

Breaking Barriers: Promoting and Retaining Women in the Legal Profession draws on the considerable experience of successful female lawyers and law firm consultants who provide in-depth strategic guidance on the barriers to advancing women in the legal profession and the opportunities and benefits that a genuine culture of equality will have not only for individual lawyers but also for the overall success of the law firms and legal departments they work for.

Firms that can retain the best talent – regardless of gender – will outperform their competitors.


Chapter 1: She works hard for her money

Chapter 2: Plumbing solutions for the leaky pipeline

Chapter 3: Authentic leadership development for women lawyers

Chapter 4: Origination credit – Getting credit where credit is due

Chapter 5: Women counsel collaboration – How in-house and outside counsel can help advance each other’s careers

Chapter 6: Diversity – Means business

Chapter 7: Men – The key to advancing women

Chapter 8: Getting inclusive about inclusion – A talent management strategy

Chapter 9: Scaling the rainbow – The future for women and business development

Chapter 10: Feminism 2.0 – Stand with your men

Check our Executive Summary and full table of contents here


Dr Silvia Hodges Silverstein
Executive director, Buying Legal Council, New York. Former vice president, Strategic Market Development, Sky Analytics. Researcher and Lecturer, Columbia Law School, New York. Silvia can be reached via email or at her website.
Jenny Waters
Executive director, NAWL
Ellen Ostrow, Ph.D
Ellen Ostrow, Ph.D., PCC, CMC is a strategic talent advisor, psychologist, certified coach, and founding principal of Lawyers Life Coach LLC. Since starting her firm in 1998 she has provided executive, leadership, and career coaching to many hundreds of attorneys at all levels of seniority in private practice, corporate legal departments, government, the judiciary and non-profits. She also consults with practice groups, law firms, and corporate legal departments on strategic talent management and diversity and inclusion. Ellen is particularly known for her expertise on addressing barriers to the advancement of women in the profession and has spoken and written widely on these issues. She is the exclusive WILEF (Women in Law Empowerment Forum) endorsed leadership coach and serves as co-vice-chair of WILEF DC as well as on WILEF’s global board. She is the co-chair of the board of the ThirdPath Institute and serves on the District of Columbia Bar’s Board of Governors. Ellen is an advisor and coach for the DiversityLab’s OnRamp Fellowship and a consultant for its Women-in-Law Hackathon. Ellen’s deep understanding of the complexities of human behavior, motivation, emotion, and learning, derived from both her training in psychology and 30-plus years of experience working with individuals and organizations to facilitate change, combined with almost 20 years of working exclusively with attorneys and their employers, provides Ellen with a unique skill set among lawyer coaches and consultants. Ellen received her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Rochester and her coach training from MentorCoach©. She has served on the psychology faculties of three universities as well as teaching several master classes for MentorCoach
Marianne Trost
The Women Lawyers Coach
Ann-Marie McGaughey
Partner, McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP
Cathy Fleming
Cathy Fleming is a refugee from Big Law and a name partner in a nine-lawyer firm with offices in New York City and the Meadowlands, New Jersey. Previously she served as chair of a White Collar Group, Chair of Tax Investigations Group, and as managing partner of a New York City Office of several AmLaw 200 firms. Cathy is a former federal prosecutor, including serving as chief of special prosecutions as an assistant united states attorney in the District of New Jersey. Cathy focuses her practice on complex civil litigation and white-collar criminal cases. She has extensive experience in commercial, securities, employment, tax, antitrust, health care law, and international extraditions. Cathy has tried more than 60 cases to verdict, most of which have been in federal courts, including in New York, New Jersey, Florida, Texas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and California. She conducts internal integrity audits and investigations for corporations and public bodies. She also provides counsel to corporate management and committees and has represented members of special committees in defense against shareholder complaints in federal and state tender offer litigation. Cathy represents companies and its executives and employees in criminal, tax, SEC, and other federal and state investigations. A significant portion of Cathy’s work cannot be disclosed, since the matters were never made public. Cathy is a past president of the National Association of Women Lawyers. She has been named a Super Lawyer in New York each year since its inception in 2006. Cathy has been married to Steven John Abrams since 1980. They have two grown children and a very spoiled cavalier king charles spaniel.
Ida Abbott
Ida Abbott Consulting LLC
Lisa B. Horowitz
Founder and principal advisor, Attorney Talent Strategy Group, LLC
Carol Frohlinger
Carol Frohlinger is the president of Negotiating Women Inc., an advisory firm committed to helping organizations to advance talented women into leadership positions. Coauthor of Her Place at the Table: A Woman’s Guide to Negotiating Five Key Challenges to Leadership Success, Carol has over 15 years’ experience in designing, developing, and delivering highly customized programs for executive women. Using social science research about the systemic factors that impact female leaders as the context, Carol’s approach emphasizes practical skills that equip women to position themselves to best advantage. Among the topics she focuses on are leadership, communication, personal branding, strategic networking, and of course negotiation. Her current research is focused on the systemic issues that women in professional services firms must negotiate to succeed, particularly those related to business development. Her recent white paper, “Business Development in the ‘New Normal’” was published by Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute and included recommendations for actions professional services firms can take to improve results for both men and women. On the organizational change side of the gender parity challenge, Carol consults with senior leaders, designs diagnostic surveys, conducts focus groups with women at all levels, and advises firms about how to launch and support women’s initiatives that deliver a solid return on investment. Carol recently served as an advisor to a team comprising six law firm partners that won third place in the Women in Law Hackathon (a “shark tank” style competition) intended to create innovative solutions to the gender equity problem in the legal profession. She is also the “practitioner in residence” at the Women, Leadership and Equality Program at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. Carol is an affiliated faculty member of the Simmons School of Management and teaches at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Formerly, Carol served on the faculty of the University of California, Hastings College of the Law Leadership Academy for Women. Her advice has been featured by The Today Show, CBS MoneyWatch, NPR, and the New York Times, among other mainstream media. Frequently called upon to provide expert input by publications serving professional services firms, Carol also contributes articles to specialty journals such as Managing Partner and the ALM Law Journal’s Marketing the Law Firm. Carol serves on the Women in the Legal Profession Committee of the New York City Bar Association and formerly co-chaired its Business and Leadership sub-committee. She co-authored “What You Need to Know About Negotiating Compensation”, a publication of the American Bar Association’s Presidential Task Force on Gender Equity and also served on the New York State Bar Association’s Task Force on the Future of the Legal Profession. Carol volunteers with The Thirty Percent Coalition, an organization with a mission to increase the number of women on the boards of America’s publicly held companies. She has been honored by The International Alliance for Women with its “World of Difference Award” and was named to the Top 50 Most Influential Women List by the Irish Voice. Carol holds a J.D. from Fordham University School of Law. 
Margot B. Schonholtz
Partner, Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP
Patricia K. Gillette
Patricia K. Gillette is one of the country’s leading experts and most sought-after speakers on gender diversity and equality. She was a top-rated employment lawyer and litigator for 40 years as well as a major rainmaker in her firms. In 2015 she resigned as a law firm partner to pursue her passion for changing the legal profession as an author and keynote speaker. Patricia was also invited to join JAMS and now spends some of her time mediating employment-related cases.

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