Corporate Clients and the Progress of Women in U.S. Law Firms

Friday, June 24, 2016: 9:00 AM-10:30 AM
210 South Hall (South Hall)
Fiona Kay, Queen's University, Kingston, ON, Canada
Elizabeth Gorman, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
This paper examines the impact of major clients on the demographic composition of law firms, particularly the representation of women in law firm partnerships. Numerous studies have examined individual characteristics and structures of internal labor markets that may shape minority representation in organizational leadership. However, recent work suggests corporate clients may exert an influence on the demographic make-up of the firms that provide services to these clients. Drawing on institutional and structuralist perspectives, as well as bargaining power and homophily theories, this paper examines the impact of corporate clients on the representation of women among law firm partners. We use data on 1,718 law offices from the 2005 editions of the NALP Directory of Legal Employers and the National Law Journal client list to examine both attorneys’ client responsibilities as well as the attributes of law firm clients, such as type of business, fields of legal services, revenue, and ranking. Our analysis also examines women in key leadership positions in client organizations, including general (legal) counsel and the board of directors.