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Raising the Bar in Chicago

By Hanna Aronovich in News on Nov 30, 2006 3:18PM

Even though more women graduate from law school than men, the Sun-Times reports only 17 percent of the partners at top law firms are women. The reasons behind this are multi-faceted, we’re sure, and probably range from family responsibilities to workplace biases.

However, some law firms foster a more progressive work environment, and Chicago’s Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthan was ranked as the No. 1 firm where women can move up in the ranks.

scales.jpgThe study "Presumed Equal: What America’s Top Women Lawyers Really Think About Their Firms," by the Women’s Law Association at Harvard Law School, surveyed 16,000 female attorneys at the nation’s 105 largest law firms. The women were asked to rate their firms based on leadership and advancement opportunities, work-life balance, mentoring and diversity.

Sonnenschein received 90.34 out of 100 points — the highest score nationally. The firm’s commitment to diversity and equality is a top priority, and evidenced in its programs and initiatives. The female lawyers at Sonnenschein formed a women’s business development group to organize outings and networking opportunities geared toward women, such as trips to the zoo or ballet.

The firm’s diversity committee oversees recruitment and other diversity-related initiatives. Sonnenschein says “diverse attorneys” (including minorities, gay and lesbian attorneys, and attorneys with disabilities) make up 19.2 percent of its staff, 12.5 percent of partners and counsel, and 29 percent of associates. Women represent 35.4 percent of its attorneys, 26 percent of partners and of counsel, and 51.6 percent of associates.

According to the Sun-Times, 19 percent of partners in Chicago firms are female, which is slightly higher than the national average. That’s good, but we look forward to the day when the scales are equally balanced.