Coalition of Women’s Initiatives in Law Firms

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Representatives from 30+ law firms in Chicago have formed the Coalition of Women’s Initiatives in Law Firms:

The Coalition of Women’s Initiatives in Law Firms is a non-profit membership association bringing together women’s initiatives in law firms of all sizes across the Chicago area. Our goal is to promote a dialogue and support network among women in these programs, further their career advancement and professional development, and help fuel the continued growth of women’s initiatives.

The group’s website is here.   The member list includes big firms such as Baker & MacKenzie, McDermott Will & Emery, LLP and Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP and others (the full list is here). The group sponsors programs of interest to lawyers at the member firms, but operates through a delegate system:

There is at least one, if not more, special event per year that is open to all women attorneys at the member firms. Due to space considerations, however, regular programming events are open only to the main delegates or alternate delegates and occasionally an invited guest.

Delegates are the ones who “represent their law firm women’s initiative at Coalition events and meetings” and populate committees (see FAQs here).

I will confess that upon reading the group’s website, my first thought was, “Just another box to check or group to join so the firm can put the membership in the recruiting brochures.”   I am not proud of this cynical response on my part.   I want these women’s groups to raise awareness of diversity issues, provide women with opportunities for networking, have real impact on the legal profession. (And, hey, what’s the delegate system all about?   Replacing the boys’ club with the girls’ club?   Ho-hum.)

I can’t help thinking that the legal profession isn’t going to change very much very soon.   The model of success — Am Law 100-style — is profits per partner, which means hours billed (usually), which means 2200+ hours a year, which means it’s mighty darn hard to have a life outside of the firm (go grocery shopping, do laundry, walk pets, spend time with family or friends, care for children or aging parents, read a book, smell the flowers, etc.).   Can a coalition of women’s initiatives change the male model?   I hope so, but I’m not hopeful.

-Bridget Crawford

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