Retaining & Advancing Women in National Law Firms

50/30/18. These numbers represent a long-standing problem for U.S. law firms. For over 30 years, 50% of law school graduates have been women, yet only 18% of law firm equity partners are women. What’s more, that partnership number has remained relatively fixed for much of that time. In the National Association of Women Lawyers’ first annual survey in 2006, women constituted 15% of equity partners. Despite a recognition of and focus on this issue, law firms have not been able to move the needle. Conventional methods haven’t worked. The profession needs new ideas – creative and innovative ways to retain and advance women in private law firms. Students selected for this course will work together to produce a policy paper analyzing this issue. Research will focus on two major areas: (1) the possible reasons for the low retention rates and partnership percentage; and (2) innovative ideas both inside and outside the legal profession for retaining and advancing women.

The paper will be used to advise participants in the inaugural Women in Law Hackathon.  The Hackathon is a Shark-Tank style pitch competition co-created by Diversity Lab and SLS. 54 high-level partners from top U.S. law firms and nine SLS students will work together (virtually) in teams of seven from January to June 2016 to innovate new means of advancing and retaining women in the legal profession, particularly those in private sector law firms. The teams will then present their ideas in person to a panel of judges at a pitch event at SLS on June 24, 2016.  The top three winning teams will grant the prize money donated by Bloomberg Law (1st place $10,000, 2nd place $7,500, 3rd place $5,000) to their choice of a non-profit organization that is advancing women in the legal profession and beyond.   The winning ideas will be published on Diversity Lab’s and SLS’s websites and distributed to major news publications and top management at U.S. law firms.  Our hope is that some or all of these ideas will be adopted by firms across the U.S.

Students may also elect to participate as a team member in the Hackathon.  Time commitment of team members is approximately 2-3 hours per month (via phone) from January through June 2016, plus the 1.5-day in-person pitch competition June 23-24, 2016 at SLS.  Funding is available to cover domestic travel costs for students to return from summer internships to participate in the competition.

Maximum enrollment: 9. Preference will be given to those students who would like to participate in both the practicum and the Hackathon.

Students will receive 3 credits for this one-quarter “R” class. Elements used in grading: Class participation, qualitative and empirical research, written assignments, and final policy report

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